Christmas is coming!

Cat in window looking at snowChristmas is coming!  Everyone wants a safe, happy Christmas for people and pets, so here are some tips to make sure your cat enjoys Christmas as much as you do … and avoid that Christmas morning trip to the vet!

Don’t let this list depress you – your cat may not be at all bothered about a lot of the things on the list.  Only you know your cat and which things to be careful of.  Most of all have a happy time with all those you love – including your cat!

Most of this advice is the same as for houses with young children so taking a few precautions is safer and happier for the whole family.

Christmas Trees and Decorations
Turkey Time!
Gifts, Wrapping and Ribbons
Candles
Pot Plants
Visitors and Visiting

Christmas Trees and Decorations

Some cats regard Christmas trees as a delightful playground.  Others are pretty much uninterested.  One of my cats, not the sharpest tool in the box, never noticed the tree was there till around 12th Night!  A nimble, careful cat may climb the tree in perfect safety, but just to be on the safe side, think carefully about where you put your tree and what you put on it.

  1.  Choose somewhere that you can secure the tree to the wall or ceiling, so a climbing cat will not cause it to overbalance.  You can use clear fishing line to secure the tree – it’s almost invisible but very strong.  Small cup hooks or ring hooks can be permanently placed in the ceiling or walls – most of the year they will not be noticeable but will be invaluable at Christmas.
  2. Make sure the tree base is sturdy and stable.  If your tree is real, don’t use any chemicals in the water – cats WILL drink out of it in preference to their nicely presented fresh water bowl, and tree preservatives are toxic.  Alternatively, cover the top of the pot securely so the cat can’t get to the water.
  3. If you can’t secure your tree, think about putting a play pen round it, so if it falls, it falls safely!
  4. Pine needles are not toxic, and most cats would not try to eat them, but if you suspect yours might do so, sweep or vacuum them up as soon as you see them.  If a needle is swallowed, it can lodge in the cat’s intestines and cause irritation or even a blockage.
  5. Use ribbon or twine rather than hooks to put your decorations on the tree.  Hooks can snag on an ear or tail, or get swallowed. 
  6. Keep breakable ornaments for the top of the tree, out of easy reach of your cat.  Many baubles are made of glass and if broken will cut paws and noses.   Do not use edible ornaments – edible for humans can be toxic to cats, and a cat may leap up a tree to get at the attractive smell. 
  7. Tinsel is dangerous!  Many cats can’t resist the shiny stuff, and if they chew it, it can easily form a blockage in the intestines.  Even if your cat is not a climber, be careful when actually decorating as tinsel and so on around on the floor or on the table is just as attractive to a cat as it is when it is on the tree.

Turkey Time!
Cats love cat food best!Who can resist giving a good and deserving cat some of the good things around?  A little treat does not harm but cats are creatures of routine, and too many tasty extras can quickly lead to upset stomachs!
If you truss your turkey with string, carefully put it straight into your (cat-proof) dustbin!  If a cat starts to swallow something, it can’t stop because of the structure of its throat and tongue, so if your pet starts sucking the tasty turkey-soaked string, the whole lot will go down his gullet – never try to pull it out but rush him to the vet as soon as possible or a life-threatening situation will develop.

Gifts, Wrapping and Ribbons
Although your cat probably strongly disagrees, he is not very helpful when you are trying to wrap presents while he is sitting on the paper, getting stuck to the sellotape etc. 
Obviously gifts left under the tree will be investigated by your cat, and the same dangers lurk as with tree decorations.  It’s better to keep them all somewhere else till Christmas morning when you will be there to supervise.  Have a big bag for everyone to bundle their wrapping paper etc straight into to remove temptation.  Your cat doesn’t really understand presents – he won’t mind you opening his for him!

Candles ...
...burn paws and curious noses, fall over when brushed against, set fire to waving tails and so on.  Keep them out of cat-range and never leave them lighted when you aren’t in the room (which is good avice whether you have a cat or not).
Also be careful of liquid potpouri as it is caustic and poisonous to people and cats alike.

Pot Plants
All parts of lilies are toxic to catsMany cats can’t resist nibbling plants in the home.  Most plants are perfectly safe, but there are a few traditional Christmas gift plants that are dangerous for cats.  If you are given one of these, either keep them in a cat-proof room or regift them to a pet free home.
Amaryllis, daffodils, hyacinths, iris, mistletoe and ALL LILIES are very poisonous to cats.  If you think your cat has chewed on any of these, take him to the vet IMMEDIATELY. 
Poinsettias are less dangerous but some cats are sensitive to them and can have upset stomachs and vomit if they eat them.

Visitors and Visiting
If you are thinking of taking your cat with you to visit – don’t do it.  There are very, very few cats that enjoy this.  Your cat will be much happier in her own home with a friendly face coming a couple of times a day to feed and check up on her.  Even boarding in a cattery is better than stressing your cat out travelling and then meeting lots of new humans and maybe their pets too.

Cat in window looking at snow If you have visitors coming for Christmas, try to keep your cat’s routine as normal as possible.  Make sure he has a quiet place to retreat to at all times with his bed, blanket, toys, and wate and food bowls.  Train your visitors in cat etiquette!  - “Don’t chase the cat – let the cat come to you”.  Most dogs enjoy meeting new people – most cats hate it.  Don’t scold your cat because she isn’t a dog or an ornament – or because you dropped the turkey and need someone to shout at!  And remember that a party popper is a gun as far as your cat is concerned.

The secret of a happy cat-loving home at Christmas is routine, routine, routine!  And a safe room is a refuge not just for your cat, but for you when it all gets too much and you need some quality quiet time with your furry friend. 

We hope you and your cats have a happy, peaceful and relaxed Christmas