(with thanks to Pawprints, Howls, & Purrs for inspiration and information)
While we're all doing our feasting and reveling in the holiday cheer, we can make it a great occasion for Kitty as well....or it can be a time of deadly dangers. Before you start firing up the stove, unbagging the goodies, or decorating the house, take a look at these precautions and keep Kitty happy and bright in the season of light!
Food and Drink
- It may seem cute if Kitty laps at your eggnog or other alcoholic drinks - but the effects are toxic and potentially deadly. Ditto with cookies (chocolate again!), fruitcake, plum pudding, and other holiday treats. If you want to offer special treats, make sure they're designed for cats.
- Keep shiny wrapped candies - especially chocolate - out of reach. The wrapping can cut a cat's digestive tract if it is swallowed, and the chocolate itself is poisonous to cats.
- When the kitchen is going at full tilt, with delectable smells coming from every burner, any self-respecting cat is going to come and check it out…and get underfoot. Close the kitchen door if you can, or keep Kitty in another room away from hot liquids and heavy pans.
- Don't leave lit candles burning unattended - this is such an obvious point, but those dancing flames in a darkened room are just sooo attractive! Protect your pet from serious burns and your house from a devastating fire by keeping Kitty and candles strictly separated.
- Ever seen a cat and a tree? They go together like...well, firefighters and ladders. To keep your tree vertical, run a cord around its midpoint from two bolts in the wall (if you can). Keep the tree undecorated for several days before you start hanging ornaments, so Kitty has a chance to get acquainted with it.
- All those gorgeous glass ornaments - hate to say this, but it's time to give a whole new meaning to "upwardly mobile." Keep the fragile, glistening, breakable things at the top of the tree, out of Kitty's sight and reach, or else hang them as suncatchers in the upper panes of your windows. Fill up the empty space with unbreakable ornaments of wood, resin, or metal on the lower branches. Shards on the floor, wounded kitty feet, or (worse) internal bleeding, can turn a holiday into a nightmare.
- Metal ornament hooks are irresistible toys – and can cut a cat’s mouth nastily if caught. Instead, use fabric ribbon or bias tape (not curling or Mylar ribbon), binders’ twine or thick raffia to slip easily over the branches of the tree.
- If your twinkly-light collection adds up to spaghetti behind the tree, tame the chaos with a cord catcher (or make one out of a piece of PVC pipe, with a slit down the side for easy threading). Cords can be as tempting as the strings that Kitty loves to chase!
- Be especially careful of bubbling lights - they use methylene chloride, which can be lethally toxic.
- A white Christmas is a beautiful thing, but when you start recreating it indoors with chemical substitutes, you put Kitty at risk. Angelhair or spun glass can irritate Kitty’s eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract. Artifical snow and snow flock is toxic if ingested. Tinsel isn't toxic, but it can choke your cat or obstruct the intestines, so it’s equally dangerous.
- Those beautiful fireplace colors that you love to watch on a cold evening? If you’re using fire salts, keep Kitty well away from them – they can cause gastrointestinal irritation with vomiting and other symptoms, including convulsions.
- A number of Christmas season plants are poisonous to cats if nibbled or eaten. For a complete listing of toxic plants, click here and for a listing of non-toxic plants, click here. If you must have toxic plants, put them up high and make sure that Kitty can’t reach them by jumping!
Gifts and Giftwrap
- Kitty isn’t a gift (or shouldn’t be – see the next section for the reasons why!)…so don’t dress her up with a neck ribbon for the holidays. The ribbon can be accidentally tightened and cause choking or strangulation, or worse, get caught on an object in mid-romp and break your pet’s neck
- Ribbons and bows aren’t good for Kitty to chew, either – they can cause deadly obstructions or cut the digestive tract with their sharp edges. Tell Santa to leave the fancy stuff off the boxes under the tree on Christmas Eve - they'll stack better that way, anyway!
General Safety and Health
- You may love New Year’s fireworks, but they can be scary and dangerous to pets – both the noise and the explosives (if you’re setting off your own). Keep your pets indoors during the display – it’s safer and less nervewracking for them and for you!
- Choosing a pet is a deeply personal lifetime commitment that involves connection between the adopter and adoptee, and a delicate period of getting acquainted. Even if you know a loved one wants an animal, do not choose one for him or her as a holiday gift…for a number of reasons. Not only do you not know whether the pet will bond well with your loved one, but being uprooted from one environment and transplanted to another can be very traumatic, especially to an older pet. Now imagine this trauma compounded by the noise and excitement of an average holiday! Where the new family member needs a quiet place to adjust, there is likely to be uproar, loud voices, and confusion…a recipe for terror! Instead, set your loved one up with pet food, supplies and accessories. Then, after the holidays are over, your loved one can select and bond with the perfect pet in a quiet environment.