The holiday season should be a time of comfort and joy but requires thoughtful preparation to avoid stress, anxiety, and an unexpected trip to the veterinary emergency room. To help ensure your cat’s Thanksgiving celebration is one of peace and calmnot despairthe Just Cats Clinic team has assembled their top cat-safety tips for a happy and healthy harvest holiday. 

#1: Anticipate and minimize your cat’s stress triggers

Your cat doesn’t have to cook a turkey or shop for the perfect gift, but that doesn’t mean they don’t experience holiday stress. This busy season is filled with environmental changes that can upset your cat’s sense of safety and routine. The most common stress triggers for cats include:

  • Unfamiliar guests
  • Visiting dogs or cats
  • Loud or sudden noises (i.e., noise aversion)
  • Strange decorations 
  • Schedule disruption (e.g., changes in feeding times, social interactions, or reduced litter box cleaning)

Although all cats can be affected by stress, cats who are normally anxious or nervous are most vulnerable and their elevated stress can cause negative health changes. The effects can include urinary issues, decreased appetite, hair loss, upper respiratory infections, digestive upset, and problematic behavior changes (e.g., inappropriate elimination or scratching, spraying, hiding, and aggression).

If you know your cat is fearful around strangers, noises, or other changes in their environment, try stress-reduction strategies (e.g., a safe hiding place where your cat can escape the action, Feliway diffusers throughout the home, and your guests’ respect for your cat’s space). If your cat is severely anxious, ask your Just Cats Clinic veterinarian about prescription medication that will ease their problem.

#2: Keep your cat indoors and minimize escape risk

Nothing is more heart wrenching than a missing cat. Sadly, during the holiday hustle and bustle, our nimble-footed friends can easily slip through an open door or gate, while others will bolt through sheer panic. 

Whether your cat is curious or careful, they’re all at risk for panicking and becoming lost. Protect your cat with preventive measures, such as:

  • Ensuring your cat is microchipped, and that the chip is registered with the manufacturer’s database
  • Informing all visitors that a cat lives in the home
  • Keeping doors, gates, and windows closed, and ensuring guests follow this rule

#3: Don’t share these harmful foods with your cat

Although you may be tempted to share your Thanksgiving feast, many festive foods are harmful or toxic to cats. As little as a pinch of some ingredients can cause serious or life-threatening internal changes, so err on the side of caution and keep your cat on their regular diet.

Harmful foods for cats include:

  • Turkey skin, fat, and grease
  • Raw or undercooked meat
  • Meat bones
  • Garlic, onion, and leeks
  • Yeast dough
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine and alcohol
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Sugary, salty, or high-fat foods

Trash often contains the smells and flavors of your holiday feast, so keep waste cans secure and empty them frequently. You do not want your cat to choke or have an intestinal blockage, so ensure they cannot swallow:

  • Kitchen twine
  • Foil and plastic wrappers
  • Paper towels
  • Twist ties

#4: Get a cat’s eye view of your holiday decor

Fall flowers, candles, and a hint of spice in the air create a harvest feel, but popular decorations can spell trouble for cats.

Because accidents happen, the Just Cats Clinic team recommends replacing potentially hazardous items with cat-friendly alternatives. Dangerous decorations include:

  • Ribbon, string, and yarn — Cats naturally love to bat and play with hanging or dangling decor, but linear items can be trapped under their tongue, becoming a choking hazard, or cause an accordion-like obstruction in their intestines. 
  • Candles — Flickering flames attract a cat’s eyes, and paws, and can result in singed whiskers, burns, or accidental fires.
  • String lights — Cats who chew string or fairy lights can be shocked or their mouths burned. 
  • Essential oils and potpourri — Inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact with some essential oils can be toxic to cats, whose respiratory system can be irritated by certain fragrances, so we recommend avoiding scented decor items.
  • Toxic plants — Ensure your fall floral arrangements and centerpieces do not include true lilies, chrysanthemums, azaleas, rhododendrons, autumn crocus, and cyclamen, which are toxic to cats. However, non-toxic flowers and plants can also cause nausea, hypersalivation, and digestive upset, so if your cat likes to nibble on greenery or flowers, keep fall plants out of reach.

#5: Know how to respond to a cat emergency

Despite your best intentions and efforts, cats can be unpredictable. If the unexpected does happen and your cat ingests something toxic, becomes ill, or otherwise needs veterinary care, knowing how to respond can help you stay calm and ensure your cat receives prompt treatment. Important resources for holiday and after-hours emergency resources include:

  • For non-emergent careJust Cats Clinic Urgent Care is available seven days per week. Follow our social media to ensure you don’t miss any holiday schedule changes. 
  • For when you’re unsure Just Cats Clinic teletriage provides 24-hour virtual support.
  • For toxin ingestion — The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Hotline offers phone consultations with veterinary toxicologists and can help you determine if your cat needs in-person care.
  • For serious accidents, illness, and emergencies — Print or bookmark our list of nearby 24/7/365 veterinary emergency centers.

If your pre-Thanksgiving preparations include enough medication or food refills at Just Cats Clinic, don’t wait—contact our team to ensure you have everything you need to keep your feline feeling fine this holiday season.