Your cat brings you joy and entertainment all year long. It’s only fair to consider how he will be affected by the holiday season. This time of year, is filled with festivities, guests, dinners and shiny ornaments hanging from the trees. While these are beautiful and a traditional part of the holiday season, they bring some added dangers for your household pets. With just a few extra precautions, you can help to make the holidays a safe and less traumatic experience for your kitty and protect him from the stress and hassle that the season can bring. Here are twenty essential holiday safety tips for cats.
1. Avoid poisonous holiday plants
Some of the more popular holiday plants including holly, mistletoe and Poinsettias are poisonous. If your cat ingests them, the results could range from mild gastric issues to more serious conditions that could result in extreme illness or even death. Instead of bringing potentially harmful live plants into your home, consider going with a silk version that still looks real, but doesn’t represent a threat to your beloved pets. It is better to be safe than sorry, so if you do receive a plant that is dangerous as a gift, make sure that it is placed in a location that will be out of your kitty’s reach. Also, be vigilant to pick up any leaves that may fall to the ground and dispose of them in a place where your cat can’t get to them.
2. Stabilize your Christmas tree
If you put up a Christmas tree this holiday season, your cat is going to be fascinated with all the bright and shiny baubles that are hanging from its branches. There have been countless stories shared of cats who bravely investigated the Christmas tree, only to have it fall to the ground, with them inside. Your cat could become injured if the Christmas tree falls on him. In addition to this, the kids would be very disappointed if the cat ruined the tree. You can solve this problem by making certain that you use the proper size of stand with longer legs and a heavy base to add stability. If your Christmas tree is properly anchored in place, the chances of it being tipped over are less than if it is precariously propped up.
3. Say no to tree preservatives
The chemicals that are used in the water additives used to keep cut trees fresh could be harmful to your cat. It is difficult for any house pet to resist taking a drink out of an open water source. You can keep the tree fresh for longer by foregoing to the chemical solutions and sticking with fresh, clean water. By doing so, you are protecting your cat from accidental poisoning.
4. Keep glass balls out of reach
Any ornaments that are shiny and beautiful will be potential play things for your cat. They are fascinated by all things shiny or different. If possible, it’s better to go with plastic ornaments on the lower levels of the tree, versus glass. Your cat will be tempted to swat and bat at the pretty decorations and if he can knock them down, he may try to chew on them. He can be cut badly by broken glass shards. If he swallows them, he could sustain internal injuries which may lead to bleeding and infection. Putting the glass or more breakable ornaments up higher is a good idea. You may also want to consider placing a type of barrier around the tree to keep your cat away from the watering trough and the lower branches.
5. Keep Christmas lights out of your kitty’s reach
Christmas lights are a temptation that can be deadly. Cats are intrigued by lights that shine brightly on the Christmas tree or on windows. They will find it difficult to resist the temptation to bat them down and chew on the bulbs. Most Christmas lights are glass and your cat could cut his mouth and throat by chewing on light bulbs. If he swallows the glass, there could be even worse problems requiring a trip to the vet and possibly, costly hospitalization and surgical procedures.
6. Electrical cords are a major threat to safety
All electrical cords should be made inaccessible to your household pets. There is a significant risk of electrocution as well as the start of a house fire. Your cat doesn’t realize that a household electrical cord could be deadly. To him it is just something new to play with. You can protect your cat and your home by covering the exposed part of the cords with pvc or some other hard casing or placing barriers that prevent your cat from having access to the cord. It’s a good idea to follow protective measures all the way to the outlet.
7. Cats and burning candles don’t mix
The holidays are a time when people bring out their best china and set the table with candles to enhance the mood. Some people light candles throughout their homes, but a word of advice…cat’s also love candles! You should never leave your kitty alone or unsupervised in a room with a burning candle. Doing so is just asking for trouble. He is very likely to knock it over trying to play with the flame, or at least investigate this curiosity. If you do use candles, keep them in a place that is totally inaccessible to your cat, or extinguish them when you leave the room, even if it’s for a moment. It doesn’t take long for tragedy to strike. Another solution is to use battery operated candles that simulate the flicker of a real flame. You’ll also want to keep these out of kitty’s reach or he may try to eat them.
8. Keep the driveway clear of chemicals
The holidays often bring droves of guests to your home and this means that there will be more cars coming and going in your driveway. Frequently, vehicles leak small amounts of antifreeze, which is deadly for dogs and cats. This dangerous poison is deceptive and animals like to lap it up because of the sweet taste. Even small amounts when ingested, can be fatal. To keep your cat safe from poisoning, periodically inspect your driveway and if you find any pools of antifreeze, clean them up and dispose of the waste in an area that your cat won’t be able to get to.
9. Winter brings out the predators
Winter can bring harsh temperatures and a scarcity of food. It tends to bring out predatory animals and birds that prey on smaller creatures for their next meal. This is especially a big concern if you live in a rural area. Coyotes, cougar, eagles and other predators are hungry and in search of an easy target to fill their bellies. Some birds of prey are larger than a medium sized cat and have been known to swoop down and carry off helpless household pets. When you let your cat out to do his business, make sure that you stay with him and bring him in when he’s finished. It’s not worth taking the chance when there is the potential for danger to your pet.
10. Ice melt can harm your cat
Antifreeze is not the only chemical that can present a threat to your cat. When the temperatures are below freezing, many homeowners and businesses sprinkle the porches and sidewalks with ice melt. The chemicals found in these formulas can make your cat sick or even cause death. When your cat goes outside, he may eat any un-melted pellets. In addition to this, he will pick it up on his paws and the fur on his legs as he walks through. When your cat comes back in the house, make sure to wipe down his paws and legs and make sure that there is no residue left. There is always the chance that he will eat some of the chemicals when he cleans his legs and paws. If left on the fur, it can go through to the skin below and cause irritation, redness and rashes on the sensitive pads of his paws.
11. Never leave your cat in the car in the winter
You may need to take your cat to a veterinary appointment for a checkup for vaccinations during the holidays. If you do, make this a single purpose trip. Combining shopping excursions with vet visits is never a good idea. Even if your cat is secured in a kennel, leaving him in a car in the winter time can expose him to extremely cold temperatures. The interior of a car cools down very quickly in extreme weather. While his fur will provide some level of protection from the cold, a house cat will not be acclimated to the cold and he could develop hypothermia. It’s an even worse idea to leave the car running while you’re gone because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s best to make sure that your cat is never left alone in a vehicle.
12. Keep your cat indoors during extreme cold
When the temperatures are well below freezing, it’s not a good idea to leave your pet outside. Even if your cat has done well during the summer months, extreme temperatures are at a minimum miserable, and in some cases, deadly. This is especially true when the wind blows and wind chill factors make the temperature outside plummet rapidly. Bring your cat in the house and provide him with a warm and comfortable place to sleep. Make sure that it is elevated off the floor and away from drafty doors and windows so he will be comfortable and warm during the holidays and the winter weather that’s raging outside.
13. Make a private area for your cat to escape to
When the house fills with new people, the noises level usually goes up as well. This could have a negative impact on your cat, especially if he is not used to strangers, small children or a higher energy level in the home. It’s important for him to have a quiet and private place where he can go to get away from the hustle and bustle. It’s okay to let your guests know that this is a place that you’ve designated as his quiet place and you can ask them to avoid using this area. This can help your cat to take the break that he so badly needs. If there are small children who like to bother him, he can escape to a refuge where nobody else is allowed to invade. Cats are odd creatures who can be highly social, but in the same regard, they value their privacy. When a cat wants to be left alone, it’s best to allow this to happen.
14. Pick up wrapping supplies
Holiday gift wrapping can be a lot of fun and you’re probably going to have a little four-legged helper getting in your way. Cats love to play with bright and shiny bows and ribbons. They especially love to tear up any wrapping paper or tissue that is left out. While it’s fun for a while, it can become dangerous if your pet chews on the wrapping supplies or worse yet, swallows them. Ribbon is made of a plastic type material and it can present a choking hazard for your cat. If he does manage to ingest it without choking, holiday ribbon can cause blockages in the intestinal track. This could result in a trip to the veterinary and the possibility of emergency surgery to find the blockage and remove it. Keep all wrapping supplies put in a safe place so your cat won’t be tempted to play with it.
15. Keep scraps out of reach
There are certain foods that are extremely healthy for people, but deadly for cats and dogs. Since there is an endless stream of foods and snacks flowing during the holidays, it’s important to keep all scraps well out of the reach of your cat. Foods that contain garlic or onions are toxic to cats. If your cat does eat them, he can develop a type of body anemia which will make him sick and could eventually kill him. Onions and garlic contain a substance that kills the red blood cells in cats as well as dogs. This also goes for baked goods. Uncooked yeast dough is also a health hazard for household pets. If ingested, the yeast will cause a rising action in the warm and moist environment of the stomach. This could lead to a blockage that could require treatment by a veterinary and it could include the need for surgery.
16. Skip the angel hair and tree flocking
If you go all out and deck your tree out with the works, your cat will enjoy the beauty, but it could be a problem waiting to happen. Avoid using angel hair on your tree because there are a few associated dangers. Choking is the main concern because angel hair segments out and elongates when pulled, making it a high-risk material for choking. The second danger is that the material is very sharp and can cut your cat’s mouth, throat and cause internal damage as well. Angel hair and tree flocking are both mildly toxic, so if you can’t keep your cat away from the tree, skip the angel hair and the tree flocking to keep him safe from harm.
17. Lay down ground rules for guests
Your guests may not be aware of the special needs and considerations that must be made when you are a pet parent. It’s your responsibility to make sure that they know the house rules so your cat will be safe from accidents. Let them know that all the doors and windows are to remain closed. This will prevent kitty from escaping outside and getting lost. Make sure that all children are supervised so they are not left alone with the cat. Many animals have either been injured by young children, or have caused injury to the children out of fear. There should always be an adult present and keeping an eye on the interactions. Everyone needs to know that it is against the rules to feed the kitty table scraps or to share treats with them. Their own specially formulated cat food is safe and the best source of nutrition for them. Adult guests should keep all medications firmly sealed in their containers and keep them in a zipped container that is stored in a drawer or high shelf that cannot be reached by the cat. Laying down the rules ahead of time will help to make everyone’s holiday safer and more enjoyable.
18. Keep all alcoholic beverage out of your cat’s reach
It’s common for both cats and dogs to nose around an alcoholic beverage that is left down low. Don’t kid yourself, your cat would consume an entire alcoholic beverage if it tastes good to him. While some people may think that it’s funny to get an animal intoxicated, it’s actually very dangerous for your pet. Alcohol is toxic for your cat and it could make him very sick. It is known to cause a loss of coordination, diarrhea, vomiting and difficulty breathing. It can interfere with the normal functioning of his body and can result in tremors and even death. When it comes to your beloved household pet, alcohol is no laughing matter and it needs to be kept out of the reach of your kitty. Any spilled beverages should be cleaned up immediately.
19. Caffeine and chocolate can make your cat sick
Any foods or beverages that contain caffeine or chocolate pose a risk to the health of your cat. They contain compounds that are called Methylxanthines. These are known to cause diarrhea, vomiting, abnormal heart rhythms and even seizures in cats when higher amounts are ingested. Even if your chocolate candy and desserts are really yummy, you’re not doing your pet a favor by giving him a taste. The same is true for coffee. Don’t allow him to drink out of your cup because it could make him very ill.
20. Choose appropriate gifts for your cat
Many pet owners feel the need to buy their furry friends gifts for the holidays along with everyone else. While a high-quality toy is an excellent idea, it pays to do a little research before you settle on the best one for your pet. Not all cat toys are made with high quality materials. Some may even contain toxic paints. Before making your final choice, inspect the item to make sure that it is built from sturdy materials that will not give way under the rough play that your cat is capable of dishing out. Avoid any toys that could present a choking hazard and avoid any toys that are made of flimsy plastic that could fracture and break off. By following these few simple recommendations, your cat will be safer through the holiday season.