Forget “silent night” – for cats, the festive season can be wrought with potential dangers and ever-mounting stress. Here we will give you plenty of advice on how to care for your cat this Christmas and how to avoid dangerous situations from the outset. If you follow these five simple tips and tricks, you are guaranteed to spend a safe and relaxed Christmas with your cat.
Sparkling fairy lights, glittering Christmas baubles, colourful tinsel and twirly ribbon everywhere – no other time of year is as exciting and tempting for a cat as Christmas! However, the festive season is also the most dangerous time of the year for felines, as shown by the accident statistics of various veterinary clinics! In the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle, between baking mince pies, setting up candles, decorating the tree and sending out cards and gifts, many overlook the fact that all of these changes can be unsettling for our feline friends. However, with a little care and consideration, you can get your cat just as exciting for the festive season, as we explain with these handy tips.
1. Escape stress: create a retreat
A colourfully decorated tree in the living room, sparkling lights in all the windows, the sweet smell of mince pies from the oven, loud Christmas music from the stereo and lots of overexcited guests – at Christmas, our four-legged friends no longer understand the world! Cats are creatures of habit and can struggle to adapt to changes in their home environment. Therefore, it is particularly important to consider our pets’ needs and take them into account despite the madness of the build-up to Christmas. This does not, of course, mean that you should avoid celebrating the festive season, just that you should keep in mind that the noise and commotion can all get a bit much for cats. Those that roam freely outdoors will generally so goodbye and make their escape, but indoor cats are at the mercy of the hectic hustle and bustle inside the house.
Therefore, it is vital that you create a cosy, quiet space inside your home where the cat can hide itself away when it wants to. For example, this could be the bedroom, the box room or just a small “den” under the bed or in a cupboard. A cat den or even an old box, darkened and kitted out with thick blankets, can act as the perfect retreat. Most cats love to lie hidden away under cat blankets or in cat scratching dens and will gladly accept the offer of a hideaway during the festive season. It is important that your cat can easily find and access this hiding place whenever it chooses, and that it is free to leave when it wants – you should not force it to stay with your guests, nor should you lock it away from the party! To make your cat feel comfortable, you should also place a litter box, food and a favourite blanket in this hideaway. If you want to take it to the next level, you could even invest in a special diffuser to help relax your cat using synthetic pheromones that are known to have a calming, stress-relieving effect, such as our range of Feliway products.
Cat owners wanting to escape the stress of Christmas or visit distant friends and family should make plans for their cats in plenty of time. Taking your cat on a journey over the festive season is not generally advised, as the travelling itself and the new environment will pile on the stress. A local cat sitter who can care for your cat in its usual home and surroundings is often the better alternative for your feline.
2. Paws away: keep lit candles and fairy lights out of reach
Candles and fairy lights are a great way to make your home cosy in these dark winter months, but for cats that are a frequently underestimated hazard. As your cat pulls on a table runner under an Advent wreath, how is it to know that the lit candles will be hot and could cause a fire? The funny flickering flame will be too enticing for a feline to ignore, and will particularly attract inquisitive young cats who want to investigate this strange object just a little bit closer. Many cats have suffered painful experiences with candles at Christmas, resulting in severe burns on their paws or fur. Whether candles are on a wreath, tree or simply in holders, they should always be kept out of reach of your cat. How about hanging your Advent wreath over the dining table, attached securely to the ceiling? Even in these circumstances, you should never leave candles burning unattended if your cat can enter the room. Cats are skilled climbers and once their curiosity is grabbed, they will find their way almost anywhere.
A good alternative nowadays is to use LED lights that artificially imitate candlelight and are completely harmless to cats. However, if you are using strings of Christmas lights that plug into the mains, these can again prove dangerous to felines. When playing with these exciting fairy lights, your cat can easily become tangled in the cable and strangle itself. There is also the danger of life-threatening electric shocks if your cat bites into the cable on its tour of the new additions to the home. Attach any fairy lights to the top of the Christmas tree and do not leave long cables hanging down in lower areas that could entice your cat to play. Even when attaching lights to the window or banister, make sure they are securely fastened so that your cat cannot pull on the cable with its paw. Only plug the lights in when you are there and do not leave your cat unattended with the lit Christmas tree.
3. When the Christmas tree becomes a climbing tree…
Cats are real climbing and balancing experts, be it outside on a narrow fence or indoors on a cat tree. No wonder many cats see the Christmas tree with its glowing candles, sparkling baubles and rustling tinsel as their own personal paradise for climbing and scratching! However, unlike real scratching and climbing trees, a Christmas tree can offer real dangers for a curious cat.
A broken bauble can be particularly hazardous, cutting the paws or even the mouth. If your cat inadvertently swallows a shard of broken bauble, there is even the risk of life-threatening internal injuries. Tinsel and Christmas present ribbons are just as dangerous, as they can cause intestinal obstruction leading to death if ingested. Other hazards of Christmas trees include fallen pine needles that your cat cannot digest and can cause intestinal perforation, as well as drinking the tree water or licking the tree resin, both of which could lead to poisoning. There is also the risk that the tree may fall over completely if your cat decides to use it as a climbing frame or pulls on the lights.
To reduce the many risks associated with the Christmas tree, you should pay attention to the following points when setting up and decorating your tree:
- Make sure the tree is stable and secure. The stand needs to be high-quality and should be equipped with a child safety device so that your cat cannot easily open the fastenings and cause the tree to fall. It can also be helpful to fasten the tree to the wall with string.
- The best materials with which to decorate your tree are wood, straw or hard plastic. If you do not want to go without glass baubles, hang them out of reach and ensure they are securely fastened to the branches. Cat lovers really should do without tinsel, for safety’s sake!
- Make sure fairy lights are snugly attached to the branches and that there are no loose hanging cables in which your cat could get tangled. For safety’s sake, you should do without real candles on the tree. A good alternative to strings of lights can be cordless LED lights, which can be turned on and off by remote control.
- If the water in the Christmas tree stand is easily accessible, cover it securely to stop your cat from drinking the water.
- Clear up any fallen pine needles as soon as possible to prevent your cat from swallowing them.
Don’t forget that there can be potential hazards for your cat under the tree as well. Gift ribbons and colourful wrapping paper exert a magical attraction on playful young kittens! Make sure you clear up any ribbons, paper or wrapping as soon as possible, as your cat could easily be strangled by ribbons or swallow pieces of tape or paper. Of course, you may wish to allow your cat to play with gift ribbons, but this should only be done under your close supervision and your cat should not put the ribbon in its mouth. If your cat does swallow anything, visit the nearest vets immediately. Do not try to remove the ribbon yourself. Even if you can see it sticking out of your cat’s mouth, you should never pull it, as it could lead to serious internal injuries.
4. Caution: refrain from using the following toxic plants and scents
Poinsettia, mistletoe and Christmas roses form a traditional part of festive celebrations but are toxic to cats. If your cat is prone to chewing on any greenery around the house, these festive plants are best left outside! Serious symptoms of poisoning include diarrhoea, vomiting, severe cramps and serious kidney damage, and can occur if your cat bits a poinsettia leaf or some mistletoe in a careless moment.
Fragrance oils can be similarly dangerous to your cat, although they may make your home smell delightfully festive. To be on the safe side, you should banish both fragrance oils and Christmas plants from your cat household. Incidentally, there are other houseplants and flowers, including lilies, that are toxic to cats, so you should always double-check all year round before bringing any new plants into your home.
5. Chocolate and Christmas dinner are not for felines
Colourful Christmas plates groaning with chocolate, sweets, mince pies and gingerbread are a common occurrence this time of year, with people enjoying these treats without really thinking. Whilst we are all for some festive indulgence, cat owners should not forget about their felines around such tasty treats. Your cat must never get its paws on chocolate, as it contains theobromine that is highly toxic to cats and can lead to life-threatening issues such as cramping, vomiting, diarrhoea and high blood pressure. Depending on how much chocolate has been consumed, it can even lead to death. Never leave chocolate open and immediately clear away plates of treats before allowing your cat unsupervised access to the room.
Leftovers from the Christmas roast dinner can be just as indigestible and dangerous for your cat. Even if you mean well by filling your cat’s bowl with some tasty treats from your own festive dinner, keep in mind that our food is generally too greasy, rich and salty for cats. These moments of “kindness” can lead to digestive problems, increased stress on the pancreas and liver, and eventual obesity. Do not leave any leftover poultry bones in your cat’s reach, as these thin bones can easily splinter and cause serious internal injuries. If you really do want to treat your cat this Christmas, get some special cat treats that are a novelty for this time of year, so that you can offer a feline-friendly culinary delight! You could even bake some festive treats yourself.
If you are well-prepared, there is no need to fear Christmas as a cat owner! Despite the increased risk of danger, the festive season can still be a pleasant experience for you and your cat. By following the above safety instructions and taking time out of baking and decorating to give your cat a little attention and care, you will both be able to enjoy this time of year carefree! As well as purchasing gifts for your loved ones, you should also stock up on cat food and emergency medication before the holidays. It is also vital to make sure you have the contact details of an emergency veterinary clinic in the local area that will be staying open over the festive season, so that if anything does go wrong you are completely prepared. If you keep all of this in mind, nothing can go wrong!
We wish you and your cat a merry and relaxed Christmas!