Break out the eggnog! Lay on the latkes! Christmas and Chanukah are coming! We all know how stressful preparing can be, but we often don’t think how this affects our cats. What risks can we avoid so the festivities are derailed by a sick kitty or an emergency visit to the veterinarian?
Cats are curious and they like predictability: changes can be threatening. Here are some tips to reduce kitty’s stress.
- Visitors: delightful and disruptive. Some may even stay for days or weeks. Make sure that kitty still has ready access to his/her food, water and safe quiet place to sleep and use the litter box. Cats don’t appreciate being handled, picked up or stroked unless they initiate the contact. This is especially important when there are boisterous children, nosy strangers or dogs. Be sure doors are open to allow your furry friend the chance to get away and hide. (Some of us may even want to hide after a while even though they are our friends and family.) And most cats don’t appreciate doggie love; keep enthusiastic Fido away from Felix. Give guests safe treats and toys to help make a positive first impression. Feliway plug-ins may help reduce stress. And, if you are relocating crucial resources (litter box, etc.), start the process a least a week before company arrives.
- Scary sounds. We can let them choose their degree of involvement by keeping a door open to a place to hide, but that won’t be enough when it comes to sudden, loud noises. Avoid Christmas and New Year’s crackers, and fireworks, and keep the volume muted as much as possible.
- Delectable but dangerous. Plants and foods that we enjoy over the holidays can be troublesome for cats. Poinsettia has the reputation of being poisonous, but this is, actually unwarranted. Nibbling on this plant or on dried Christmas tree needles can cause mild signs of an upset tummy or make some cats feel under the weather. It is more dangerous for any cat to ingest berries (from mistletoe, holly, ivy, yew, Jerusalem cherry), amaryllis, other lilies, cyclamen, autumn crocus. Good thing to think about whether you are receiving or gifting these beauties!
- The tree. Eating dried needles (or drinking tree water) can also be poisonous for a curious cat but most tree hazards have to do with toppling (of tree or climbing cat) or dangling, shiny glowing ornaments. Tinsel is never okay in a house with cats. It is too tempting and even one strand can result in painful intestinal problem called a linear foreign body. Eating tinsel, cooking string, wool, craft string, ribbon can cause the bowel to crawl/pleat over the foreign body and can even slice through the bowel. Signs can initially be subtle but let’s just prevent potential pain and surgery. Something shiny! Ornaments are so tempting. Broken baubles are hazardous as are exposed light cords. Electrocution or burns can result from spills (or urine) on cords or chewing on cords. Keep an eye on the open fire, menorahs and other candles away from tails and whiskers.
- Holiday goodies. Mostly unfamiliar food just causes an upset tummy but some things can be downright dangerous. Grapes, raisins (mince pie, anyone?) and chocolate are more toxic for dogs but they aren’t good for cats, either. Onions cause a toxic anemia. Poultry bones can perforate the digestive tract if a cat gets into the kitchen garbage or compost bucket.
Don’t let this take the fun out of the holidays! These potential risks and problems can easily be avoided so that you, Fluffy and your whole family have a wonderful Christmas and Chanukah!
For more about poisonous plants and foods, check out: Toxic & Non-Toxic Plants for Cats and People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets.