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Holiday Cat Safety Guide

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The malls are getting busier and chestnuts are roasting on open fires – yes, the holidays have arrived. For many it’s a time to reconnect with loved ones while carefully avoiding topics like politics and religion. It’s also a time when we fill our houses with things like presents and trees and trays of delicious treats. While these items are great at sparking holiday cheer, they also contain hidden dangers for your cats. And because an impromptu trip to the veterinarian is nobody’s idea of a good time, we’ve compiled a list of holiday hazards that your furry friends should avoid.

1. Christmas Tree
Don’t worry, nobody is suggesting you get rid of your tree. BUT there are certainly some precautions you can take to protect kitty from harm. First, it’s no secret that cats love climbing trees so it’s important that you invest in a stable base and secure your tree to the wall or window to prevent it from falling down and squishing your cat (and your presents). Your cat should also be stopped from eating tree needles as they could be toxic and cause mouth and stomach irritation. Similarly, the water contained in the tree stand should not be ingested because it may contain fertilizers, insecticides or flame retardants.

Decorations should also be selected carefully, with extra care taken with those placed near the bottom of the tree. Shiny, breakable ornaments, such as glass bulbs, are highly attractive to cats and beg to be swatted by curious paws. Broken pieces could result in cut paws and damage to a kitty’s digestive tract if swallowed. Food ornaments should be avoided as well, as your cat will be lured in by the appealing smell and be inclined to have a taste. Artificial snow is also mildly toxic and could cause serious problems if ingested in large quantities. Finally, cats sometimes like to chew on electrical cords, which can become quite hot. Potential Injuries range from burned mouths to electrical shock to death. Cords should be unplugged when you’re not there and covered when possible. As innocuous and beautiful as a Christmas tree may appear, it’s important to be mindful of its dangers and to keep an eye on your kitty’s interactions with it.

2. Tinsel, Ribbons and other stringy things
Cats love chewing on ribbons and tinsel although it’s certainly not in their best interest. Ingesting these long, stringy offenders could cause intestinal blockages and necessitate a trip to the vet. Be sparing with ribbons on presents left under the tree and avoid tinsel altogether.

3. Holiday Plants
Yes they’re beautiful and festive but they make a terrible snack. Holiday plants such as holly, mistletoe and poinsettias can cause symptoms ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to organ failure and death. Keep them out of reach or opt for fakes.

4. Gifts Under the Tree
Food is clearly a no-no, as are sharp, breakable things. Less obvious are things like perfumes and aftershaves that contain ethanol (alcohol) and essential oils which can be very toxic to cats if ingested. Batteries can also be extremely toxic and cause intestinal obstruction, so it’s important to remove them from toys and gadgets until they’re ready to be inserted.

5. Candles
Candles add to the ambiance and create a cozy feel that brings people together. However, they can be knocked off shelves by curious paws and waving tails, the results of which may be problematic. Even if you’re lucky and your house doesn’t burn down, your kitty could get burned. Consider keeping them up high and out of reach or avoiding them altogether. There are lovely flameless candles available these days.

6. Visitors
Chances are you’ll have more visitors than usual over the holidays. Some cats love the extra commotion and others become skittish and scared. Even if your cat is social, consider creating a safe space that she can retreat to if she becomes overwhelmed. Make sure the room is relatively quiet and contains all the necessities such as food, water and a litter box. Visitors should also be informed of any household “rules” such as not leaving the door open or feeding kitty snacks.

7. Food
Rich, delicious food is the hallmark of every holiday and cats love the potpourri of smells that go along with it. Unfortunately, there are many foods a cat should avoid eating. Among the culprits that pop up over the holidays are chocolate, alcohol, cookie dough, turkey skin and bones, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and nuts. Symptoms range from mild to severe but none are pleasant and all can ruin the spirit of holiday cheer. Make sure to dispose of wrappers and keep countertops clear of food until it’s ready to be served. If you’re having visitors, feed kitty in advance to reduce her urge of sneaking a taste of that delicious smelling thing you’re serving.

The holidays contain hidden hazards for your cats but with a little careful planning you and your feline companions should emerge unscathed. Happy holidays cat lovers – be safe out there!

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