It’s that time of year again! With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget how hazardous the holidays can be for your cat. From decorations to fattening foods, here’s a review of the most common holiday hazards and how to avoid them.
Christmas decorations can look like a jungle gym to our feline friends. There’s something to get in to in every corner of the house! Cats are especially tempted by Christmas trees – the branches that are begging to be climbed, the shiny ornaments that need to be whacked- there’s no end to how much fun a Christmas tree looks to cats. To make your tree safer and less tempting, try creating a perimeter around your tree – you can try baby gates, putting it in a room that’s easy to shut off when you’re not home or asleep, or you can try using aluminum foil around the base. Most cats hate the feeling and sound aluminum foil makes so it can be a helpful deterrent. Additionally make sure to anchor your tree either to the ceiling or the wall so in the event they can’t resist the temptation to climb, it won’t fall over and injure them further.
When it comes to other types of decorations, make sure to avoid all kinds of tinsel. If ingested it can get tangled up in their intestines and require surgical removal. Electrical cords and lights also pose a threat. Cats can become entangled or even get shocked. Avoid breakable glass ornaments to minimize the risk of cuts or ingestion if they fall and break. Always avoid open flames from candles – not only could your cat burn themselves but they could tip them over and cause a fire.
Photo courtesy of ASPCA.org
Winter holiday plants also pose a hazard to your cats. Mistletoe ingestion can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea and even hypotension in more serious cases. Poinsettia sap generally causes skin irritation, while ingestion most commonly causes hypersalivation and/or vomiting. Holly ingestion causes hypersalivation, vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea, head shaking, and lip smacking. Amaryllis bulbs, a popular Christmas time plant, can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, and excessive salivation with the most severe symptoms associated with how much of the actual bulb was consumed. Though more of a traditional holiday decoration and not as common today, rosemary plants pose a serious risk to cats and dogs. Small amounts can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, while large ingested amounts can result in hypotension, weakness, pale mucous membranes, renal injury, and even neurological signs. No matter the plant, if your cat ingests any amount of any plant in your holiday spread, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 1-888-426-4435.
Another holiday hazard that most people don’t think about is their guests! Yes that’s right – your guests can pose a potential hazard to your cat. New and unfamiliar people can make your cat feel insecure and scared. Make sure you have a quiet separate space for your cat complete with food, water, litter box and bedding. That way they have a place to get away from everyone if they feel they need to. Additionally, guests that don’t have pets at home may not be as careful with their medications leaving them on a bathroom counter or open in their bag. Make sure you talk to your guests ahead of time to avoid any harmful prescription ingestion. Guests may also not be as careful with the doors and could accidentally let your cat outside. Make sure you keep a collar and tag with your information on your cat at all times and microchip them if you haven’t already.
Food is probably the most common holiday hazard and the one we all think of. Make sure your cat doesn’t get into anything that contains artificial sweetners, chocolate, alcohol, garlic, onions, raisins or bones. Keep cats off countertops and tables so they aren’t tempted to take a nibble. Additionally make sure guests don’t slip them food under the table. Even food like turkey or roasts can be hazardous due to the herbs used in preparation or just the change in diet. Often cats and dogs can’t handle the abrupt change in diet and particularly fatty foods can cause bouts of pancreatitis or other GI distress. If you cat exhibits any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or hiding, contact your veterinarian immediately to have your pet seen.