If I love two things in this world, it’s my cats and Christmas (OK, OK, and my husband and family). But I recognize that the two aren’t always compatible. I mean, every cat guardian has suffered at the hands of a kitty who got caught in the tree. So in efforts to make the holiday season a little easier on your cat (and you), I’ve got a few tips from personal experience on how to keep your kits (and, to a lesser extent, your dogs, rabbits and parakeets) safe.
- Set up a basecamp. I can’t stress this one enough. The holidays are crazy stressful even for the most social of cats. I find it best to set up a place as far away from company as possible for the cats to retreat to. That means I fluff up the kitties’ favorite blankets on our bed and keep the bedroom door cracked open for them to have some alone time if they need it. For Zara, our tabby that is not really a big fan of strangers, I try and encourage her to hang out in our room before the party even starts.
- Prep your guests. On that same note, let your guests know if you’ve got a finicky feline. I’ve got a script that I use all the time: Zara is a cranky cat. Please, just ignore her. This will help preserve your cat the stress of having visitors go searching for them all the damn time.
- No plants. Pretty much all the Christmas-y plants are toxic to cats, dogs, rabbits, birds – pretty much any critter. Poinsettias, mistletoe and holly are all bad news for pets and their intestinal track. As for pine trees, they’re not that great for your pets either. The needles are super hard to digest, and whatever plant compounds are in them can lead to some serious stomach upset. Also, tree water: It likely has some pesticides from the tree (and sap) in it. Try to keep that covered. While I’ve never run into tree-eating issues with my cats, it’s probably best to monitor how your pet interacts with the tree (and cross your fingers that they aren’t too curious).
- Just say no to ribbon. Ribbon, string, twine, tinsel – you name it and our cats love to chew on it. While they’ve never ingested any of these things, you can never be too safe (it can get pretty gnarly if your cat swallows ribbon). I’ve cut down on my ribbon usage and I’m sure to keep it any festooned gifts and garlands put away or far out of their reach.
- No people food. We don’t feed our cats much people food. Around the holidays, though, it can be tempting to want to share a little something special with your pet. I’d draw the line at a small, skin-free piece of turkey or ham. Any greasy foods can cause stomach upset (and its friends vomiting and diarrhea), and other foods – raisins, currants, chocolate, onions – are straight-up poisonous.
- Have updated tags. There’s a lot of hustle and bustle around the holidays with people coming and going. Visitors that aren’t used to pets in the house might not be as mindful of the door as you, so your cat (or dog) could slip out by accident. In case, I’d make sure their tags have your current contact information on them (and make sure those kitty collars are break-away!).
- Avoid the vet. Not in general of course, just right before Christmas and New Year’s. A few years ago, I took my cat to the vet a few days before Christmas for her checkup and vaccinations. That year she had a really terrible reaction to the shots, lost a lot of weight and became really lethargic. I was on the phone with the vet on Christmas Eve begging to bring her in. Luckily, I was able to get her an appointment and pumped with some fluids (and Christmas was saved!). To avoid anything like this happening, I say just push that appointment up to the first part of December or postpone until January. You never know.
OK, I’m off my cat lady soap box! Now go enjoy the holidays with your pets. And if you need a DIY gift idea for your kitties, I’ve got one!