Caring for cats at Christmas

Cat at Christmas.v1Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without our cats getting involved. Cats seem to love the time it comes to wrap presents. For them it’s all part of the fun.

Then there’s the interest they show in the Christmas tree. We would love help with the festive decorating, but Christmas trees aren’t cat friendly and in some instances for cats at Christmas they can even be dangerous.

One way to think about removing any danger is to give the cat a Christmas tree all of its  own. You never know, it may even distract them from your tree entirely!

Grotto 61JY9xKmqPL._AC_SL1000_Building on the theme, you could also treat your cats at Christmas to their own grotto: somewhere it can escape to when the house fills up with friends and relatives over Yule. The grotto can of course be either inside your home (see picture left) or outside in the garden.

There are some impressive outdoor cat kennels that are designed to withstand the elements.

One way of distracting your cat from your delicate decorations is with some fresh cat grass and cat nip plants. Plant the greenery in a cat bed or use pots if these are preferable. Be sure to place the plants where a little bit of soil won’t be a problem.

So the fun is not destroyed it is important to keep cats out of trouble at Christmas.

Christmas trees

Christmas trees and decorations can be hazardous for cats. Cats and kittens love climbing and are intrigued by things new, sparkly and bright so the tree with its sparkling baubles and other decorations is a no-brainer.

However, trees can pose health hazards for your pet.  Real trees produce oils that are mildly toxic when consumed. These oils cause minor irritations to both a pet’s mouth and its stomach.

It’s wise not to use any fertilisers or plant food on the tree. These can be toxic to cats and you don’t want any seeping into watering trays that your cats may use.

The pine needles also pose a risk. They are sharp and if swallowed can cause internal damage. They can also get into a pet’s eyes and ears. If you really must have a real Christmas tree, consider buying one that doesn’t drop its needles.

To a cat, tinsel and other decorations you hang look like tempting toys with which to play. However, be aware that these may be swallowed or broken, which can cause injury. Angel hair and tinsel are particularly dangerous because they cause blockages that can lead to serious illness – in some cases this can even lead to fatalities.

Cats are fascinated by electrical wiring which means that Christmas lights can pose a real danger. Make sure any exposed wires leading to the tree are protected with cardboard or plastic tubes, and ensure lights are switched off at the mains when you’re not around. Battery powered LED lights are a better option.

Snow globes are popular festive ornaments but they can contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol), which is extremely toxic to pets. If one of these ornaments breaks and liquid is spilled, there’s a high risk of the pet licking it up or swallowing it. So your cat does not become ill check what chemicals the snow globe contains and keep it well out of the reach.

To cat-proof a Christmas tree

  • Secure decorations as tightly as possible

  • Invest in a quality, heavy base to prevent the tree toppling over

  • Consider tethering your tree to wall or ceiling

  • Hang decorations high up the tree

Festive plants can be fatal to cats

When it comes to floral arrangements and festive plants at Christmas, be aware that a large number can be poisonous to cats.

The majority of cats pay them little if any attention, but young cats, especially ones that stay indoors, may get curios and try chewing them.

Although Poinsettias are often feared by cat owners it is one of the plants that is only mildly toxic .

Far more dangerous are berries from holly and mistletoe and amaryllis plants. In addition, even very small quantities of pollen or lily leaf are dangerous. Dumb cane or leopard lily cause mouth irritations and plants like Easter lily, tiger lily or Oriental lilies are toxic.

If your cat eats any poisonous plants don’t hesitate to contact your vet.

Cooking dangers to cats

Be careful with your cat when you’re cooking at Christmas. Not only are they at risk of burns in the kitchen, but there are foods they will find toxic.

Onions and garlic are known to be poisonous, whether raw or cooked, but chocolate, raisins and grapes are also a threat. Alcohol is also dangerous even in small quantities.

Human medicines are dangerous to cats

Remember to keep pills and medication well out of reach of your cats as these can be very dangerous. Pills should be kept in secure drawers or cupboards and open packets must never be left lying around.

If your cat has been poisoned?

Contact the vet immediately. All veterinary practices have an emergency service far cats at Christmas – but you may need to drive. Have any relevant packaging to hand so you can inform the vet what the cat has imbibed. Alternatively take samples. Do not try to make your pet sick prior to checking with the vet. If your animal staggers or has a fit, clear any obstacles and darken the room.

Remember that many conditions can look like poisoning, including kidney disease and severe gastroenteritis.

Stress and anxiety for cats at Christmas

For cats at Christmas the time can be stressful, particularly if they are nervous. It’s important they have hiding places, litter trays in peaceful areas, and plenty of water.

Sprays or diffusers that release comforting pheromones may help. And if your cat is being visited by Cats, Dogs & Peace of Mind, make sure we have up-to-date contact details. Your cat is also bound to find comfort in familiar items like blankets or toys.

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