—Feline Behavior Specialist 🇺🇸
Oh, the holidays: Delicious food, sparkling decorations, and … wait … why is my cat in the Christmas tree?!
Cats, curiosity, and holidays go together like green, gifts, and gingerbread, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a beautiful holiday and keep your kitty safe.
We’ll take you through how to protect your cat and celebrate the holiday season in style!
Christmas Tree 🎄
First, let’s start with the Christmas tree itself. It’s safe to say an artificial tree is a safer option if you have cats, but if you opt for a live tree, make sure to cover the water, which many contain fertilizer, pesticides, or other chemicals.
Also, soil can make an attractive toilet for cats, so eliminate (pun intended) access by covering the top soil with pebbles.
The oils produced by fir Christmas trees are mildly toxic and if consumed, your cat may have GI issues like vomiting or drooling.
To make things more complicated, if your cat eats the needles, there is a small chance of internal damage, so consider getting a tree of the no-drop variety.
You can also spray the tree with scents your cat doesn’t enjoy like something citrus or even a pet deterrent.
A few other tips:
Tree Placement - Avoid placing your tree near shelves or tall furniture to prevent your cat from easily jumping on or climbing the tree.
Secure the Tree - Whether your tree is live or artificial, you’ll want to prevent it from toppling to the ground. Invest in a heavy base or consider adding weights to it. You could also use a wire or fishing line along with wall hooks and secure the tree to the wall or ceiling.
Keep It Empty to Start - Leave the tree undecorated for a short time so your cat can get used to it without it covered in cat-toy-like objects.
Lighting - This is a danger not everyone considers, but cats chewing on wires is extremely problematic. Cover any exposed wiring leading to your tree, or go with a safer option: battery powered LED lights.
Ornament Placement - When decorating the tree, put the bulk of your ornaments along with any ornate or sentimental ornaments on the upper two-thirds of the tree. Ornaments near the bottom are more likely to be knocked off and possibly damaged or broken. You can put sturdier ornaments near the bottom to help weigh the tree down.
Tinsel, Snow Globes & Glass Items 🎉⛄
No tinsel. Just don’t do it. The risk of your cat playing with it, consuming it, and getting a GI obstruction is simply too great. Also, avoid any snow globe-type ornaments or decorations, as some contain antifreeze, which is toxic.
And while there are many beautiful glass ornaments and decorations, if your cat knocks them over and breaks them, there is a risk they could cut themselves by walking onto the pieces or batting around the shards.
I always advise people to be careful with how they decorate presents that go under the tree. I personally avoid any ribbon because my cats love to pull it off presents, bite it, and play with it.
There is a risk of them swallowing a piece, which could cause an obstruction. Larger premade bows work well with my cats, but use your judgement. If your cat is pulling anything off presents to play with, consider not using that decoration or keep your presents in a closet until gift-giving time.
In addition to making great holiday gifts, lit candles add a beautiful aroma to any home. Some cats are drawn to the flame and may inadvertently lean against a candle and burn their fur or hurt themselves in some other way. If you want to light candles, put them out of reach or use flameless candles.
What are the holidays without poinsettias, mistletoes and hollies? A safe holiday for your cats. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are mildly toxic and will cause your cat to vomit and have mild stomach upset.
The berries from mistletoe and hollies are much more dangerous. Amaryllis is also toxic, and lilies still hold the award for the most toxic plant to cats. Stick to fake plants so you can still bring the cheer but keep your cats healthy.
When you think of the holidays, you probably think of some favorite dishes that are part of your family’s traditions. Be very careful when preparing food, and keep your cats away from any burners or flames. Beware of the strings wrapped around meat. If swallowed they could cause an obstruction.
As far as actual food, chocolate, onion, garlic, grapes, and raisins are toxic to cats. Do everything you can to keep these items away from your cat. If they consume them, call your vet immediately and be prepared that you may need to take your cat for treatment.
With parties, hustle and bustle and loud aunts and uncles, your cat may feel a lot of stress around the holidays. Do your best to be understanding, because a change in routine is stressful for your fur baby.
Having a party? Consider putting your cat in your bedroom or a quiet room that’s farthest away from the main event so they can relax. Want to put them in a Santa hat? A cat with a chill personality may be okay with it, but others will feel stressed.
If you’re going away, hire a pet sitter to check on your cat. Taking your cat with you on your trip? Be sure to bring their favorite toys, bed, and blankets so they have a little piece of home.
You can use cat pheromone sprays and diffusers, calming collars, or even meds prescribed by your vet to help your cat deal with anxiety.
Follow our tips, and you’ll be well on your way to fun, and memorable winter holidays for you and your cats! If you have any questions on whether an item is hazardous or not, it’s usually best to err on the side of caution and not use it, but you can always check with your vet.
The best policy is usually to secure items and keep them out of reach from your cat, but we all know they somehow find a way to touch things they shouldn’t, even when we think they can’t get to them.
From everyone at My Lovely Feline, have a safe and wonderful holiday season.
Angie Bailey, Catster, Cats and Christmas Trees: 10 Ways to Maximize Safety & Minimize Mayhem.
Blue Cross for Pets, Keep Your Cat Safe at Christmas.
I Iz Cat, 10 Easy Steps on How to Cat Proof Your Christmas Tree.
Purina, Christmas Safety for Cats.
Article by Elizabeth Italia 🙋♀️
Cat Behavior & Fostering Specialist