Decorating for the Holidays. One of the best parts of preparing for the holidays is decorating. There’s just something magical about sparkling ornaments, twinkling lights, and holiday wreaths adorning doorways. Not to mention the special edition, holiday scented candles and the deep red of a poinsettia plant! As much as you may love decorating for the holidays, there are some extra steps to assuring your holiday decor is not only beautiful but safe for your cat. It may not be something that is at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts while setting up for the holidays but some plants and holiday decor can be harmful, and even toxic, to your cat’s health.
When you think of toxic plants, you more than likely think of the poinsettia plant. Truth be told, poinsettia plants are only the beginning of a cat parent’s concerns. While they can be harmful to cats that nibble on their leaves, poinsettia plants are only mildly toxic. The real danger lies in holiday plants like lilies, holly, and mistletoe. There are many varieties of lilies, such as Stargazer, tiger, and Easter, but each variety poses a deadly threat to our furry friends. Eating even one petal of a lily plant can result in a cat experiencing sudden kidney failure. Holly plants and mistletoe are also a cause for concern as they can cause serious gastrointestinal issues when ingested.
Tinsel and Ornaments
Decor items such as tinsel and holiday ornaments also pose a risk to your cat’s safety. The shiny strands of tinsel are like a beacon to a cat and they may find it hard to resist the desire to bat it around and chew on it. Though tinsel isn’t poisonous to cats, it still poses a risk to their health if it is ingested. Swallowing the stands can lead to severe damage to a cat’s intestinal tract by causing the tract to rupture.
Likewise, holiday lights can be risky as there is the potential of your cat experience an electrical shock should she chew on them. Ornaments can contain potentially toxic chemicals such as methylene chloride, which is found inside of snow globes and bubble lights. If your cat is exposed to this type of chemical, she can experience eye and skin irritation and gastrointestinal issues. Another risk associated with exposure to this chemical is your cat developing aspiration pneumonia, which is when a cat’s lungs become inflamed.
A decorated fir tree may the star of the show for most holiday lovers and while they aren’t poisonous to cats, they can still be problematic. Cats by nature love to climb, so having a tree inside of their kingdom might prove too tempting to resist. Your cat may love it, but chances are you don’t.
Keep her from climbing (and potentially knocking over) the tree by hiding a spray deterrent like PetSafe’s SSSCat Spray around the tree. The spray is motion activated, so when your cat gets too close to the tree, it will emit a quick burst of odorless air to repel her away from the tree. The motion detector works within a three-foot radius so keeping her at bay is easy to manage.
Holiday Snacks and Alcohol
Most people are aware some foods and drinks are harmful to an animal’s health, but exposure to these items increases during the holidays. This increase is the result of food left unattended or holiday guests feeding leftover food and treats to pets. It’s important to keep a watchful eye on any food that is left out and remind guests not to feed unwanted food to your cat.
Alcohol is obviously a big no-no for pets and should your cat ingest alcohol in any amount, there is cause for concern due to a drop in blood pressure, body temperature, and blood sugar. If a cat ingests a large amount of alcohol and becomes intoxicated, she could experience seizures and respiratory failure. Likewise, holiday treats containing alcohol or unbaked dough made with yeast can be harmful. Those side effects include alcohol toxicity, vomiting, disorientation, and a bloated stomach.
Other harmful foods that can negatively impact your cat’s health include:
- Fatty meats
- Raisins, grapes, and currants
- Onions and garlic (especially in concentrated forms like dry mix packets)
If you have any concerns your cat may have gotten into any of these hazardous things, call the Pet Poison Helpline and your vet for immediate assistance!
Preparing for Holiday Guests
Are you having guests stay with you or hosting any parties for the holidays? Here’s what to consider.
Exposure to large groups of people, especially new people, can be overwhelming for your cat. Noise levels increase, people want to pet her, and kids want to chase her. She’ll probably spend most of her time hiding out in a quiet place away from the chaos, but there are steps you can take to reduce some of the anxiety she may feel.
The easiest fix is to keep your cat away from the crowd by securing her in a familiar room, like a bedroom, that’s off limits to guests. Not having people coming in and out will help to keep her calm and ideally, the noise levels won’t be as high. Using calming sprays or a diffuser will also help to take the edge off and if your cat has a history of anxiety, think about investing in a ThunderShirt to help her nerves.
Preparing for Holiday Travel
With the holidays often comes the need to travel to spend time with loved ones. When the holidays come around, those that travel have to decide whether they’ll bring their cat with them or find someone to look after her.
Holiday Travel With Your Cat
Traveling can be extremely stressful for your cat, especially if it isn’t a common occurrence. Luckily, there are some steps cat parents can take to make the process a little easier for their furry family member (and on themselves).
First, pick a traveling crate that will keep her comfortable during long trips. For airplane travel invest in an expandable cat carrier. These carriers have pockets that can be unzipped to give her more room while traveling. Another option includes a large carrier that can be buckled into the seat to keep it from sliding around while in the car. Cat carriers like this are great for long trips and often have the option put a portable litter box inside.
Next, give your cat time to get used to her traveling crate. The easiest way to do this is to leave her crate sitting out for a week or two before the trip. Doing so allows her to explore the crate on her own terms, which includes spending some time inside of it. If she doesn’t seem interested in it, put a few of her favorite toys or even a treat or two inside to entice her to investigate.
When it comes time to load her into the crate, she might be hesitant or nervous. Before putting her in her crate, spray a cat calming spray like Feliway or Sentry inside to ease her nerves. Spraying a small amount on your hands and petting her can also work wonders in reducing her anxiety. Another traveling tip to keep your cat comfortable and calm is to put an article of clothing or a blanket that smells like you in the bottom of her crate.
Holiday Travel Without Your Cat
As much as we’d all love to bring our kitty along during the holidays, it might just not be possible. Whether traveling with your cat isn’t an option or the trip is too short for such a fuss, there are times your cat will have to hold down the fort at home. If someone is able to check in on her while you’re gone, all the better, but the holidays can make it difficult to find someone who is available. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to ensure your cat is well taken care of.
Most cat parents have their cat on a fixed feeding schedule and your cat most likely voices her unhappiness when her food is late. To avoid getting on her bad side while you’re gone, invest in an automatic cat food dispenser. These types of feeders are designed to dispense her allotted portion of food at a predetermined mind. This automatic feeder even lets you record yourself for ten seconds to call her to her food bowl!
It’s also important to leave your cat plenty of water while you’re gone for the holidays. Using a water fountain is a great way to keep her water fresh and it encourages her to drink. A continuous flow of water is more enticing to cats than still water, so cat parents can rest assured knowing their cat is drinking enough water while they’re away.
Keeping her calm while you’re gone should be a priority, too. It may not seem like a big deal to leave your cat alone in an empty house, but all that quiet can cause her to get anxious. Leave the TV or a radio on at a low volume to drown out strange noises and keep her company.
Lastly, make sure the temperature in the house is comfortable. It may be tempting to turn the thermostat down while you’re gone, but taking your cat into consideration is a must. She’ll be comfortable at a lower setting thanks to her fur coat, but keep it reasonable. You don’t want to return home to find your cat has turned into a purr-sicle!
Keep Calm and Enjoy the Holidays
Taking steps to ensure your cat doesn’t get too overwhelmed this holiday season is just another part of caring for your cat. With a little extra thought and consideration, both of you will have a happy holiday season!