Many cat owners will attest that simply moving a chair entices their cats to climb on it immediately. Maybe the cats are just testing out a new vantage point; perhaps they’re asserting that everything in your home belongs to them. During the Christmas season, people adorn their homes with a variety of new things. Plants, colorful decorations, unusual foods — all of these present a series of irresistible temptations for our cats.
While you’re out practicing with your handbell choir, joining friends at holiday parties, or fighting crowds at the mall for the perfect gift, your cats and kittens are getting into their usual feline mischief in the winter wonderland that is your home. We’ve compiled some of the most common yuletide dangers in and around the home for cat owners. Safety first this Christmas season means keeping your cat, your home, and visitors in mind.
1. Cats and Christmas decorations
The major distractions to cats are the wealth of new decorations we roll out right after Thanksgiving. Your cat has the best part of a month to paw at, chew on, pull down, and get tangled up in everything, including the Christmas tree. Whether your tree is artificial or real, secure it firmly — put it in a corner and anchor it to hooks in the wall if needs must — so that the whole thing doesn’t fall over during one of your cat’s climbing expeditions.
If you keep a fresh-cut tree in water, or use chemicals to maintain the tree’s freshness, cover the fluid reservoir so the cat isn’t tempted to drink her way to an upset stomach or poisoning. Avoid low-hanging tree ornaments and tinsel that might intrigue your cat’s wandering claws, as well as scented garlands or edible popcorn strings. I would suggest displaying them out of a cat’s reach, but Is anything really ever completely out of a cat’s reach?
Holiday-themed plants and flowers, such as the poinsettia and the Christmas lily (or any lily, for that matter), are poisonous to cats. Ask your vet or search for a pet-poison helpline on the web if you’re in doubt.
2. Candles and fireplace hazards
Because a cat is a wily and adventurous beast, it’s critical to be wary of lighting a fireplace or candles during the Christmas holidays. A sturdy screen for the fireplace will keep cats from getting to close and potentially singeing their fur. Where candles are concerned, it might be better to leave them in storage. Hanging decorations in the vicinity of lit candles is tempting fate if you live with cats. If you must have fire of any kind, always extinguish flames before leaving home.
3. Kitchen safety during the holidays
Preparing a Christmas feast often means tending to three or four recipes at once, and a cluttered kitchen can be a minefield of dangers for your cats. If your attention is divided, try keeping cats out of the kitchen. When you’re not looking, they may be tempted to leap upon the table or counter, licking raw meats or completed meal items. If the cat is around as you cook or bake, maintain a line of sight with any sharp utensils or fragile dishware.
4. Cats dressed up for Christmas
We all delight in cute pictures of cats and kittens wearing elaborate Christmas costumes. The look of complete discomfort on their faces alone makes us giggle. If you are dressing your cat for inclusion in family Christmas photos, there are some important considerations to keep in mind. Cats do not take to little clothes or costumes with the same ease as dogs. Simplicity and freedom of movement are key to selecting a costume that your cat will tolerate.
That tolerance must be of short duration. Any kind of clothing that restricts a cat or kitten’s range of movement should be worn briefly to minimize the risk of them becoming caught up, tangled, or turning a costume into a choking hazard. Avoid any costume or accessory that covers their ears or eyes. These can quickly cause a cat to become disoriented.
5. A kitten is not a present
By all means, you should get your cat a gift for Christmas, but by no means should you give a kitten or any other small animal as a Christmas present. A very different kind of holiday spirit rises in me when I see articles about how to wrap a cat for Christmas, or how to keep a kitten a surprise from children for Christmas morning. Owning a cat should be an informed choice and never a surprise.
A kitten’s needs for attention and affection are not things that can be delayed or kept hidden. That kitten is going to need food, water, and a litter box at minimum. Unless you’re also planning to hide the scent of cat urine and feces, it’s better to discuss and confirm the recipient’s desire for a cat before saddling them with one unilaterally.
6. Keep guests and visitors in mind
If you are hosting a holiday party during the Christmas season, keep your guests and your cats in mind. You may want to alert people who might have allergies in your invitations. Party prep should include vacuuming carpets and furniture for cat hair, and restricting your cats to a particular room for the evening. If you’re serving alcohol in the egg nog, detaining your cat for a night can keep her from tasting beverages abandoned around the home.
Practicing Christmas safety with cats involves not only safeguarding your home and protecting your cat, but also looking out for the needs of your friends and family. If someone is coming to town for the week and has a cat allergy, it’s only civil and polite to remind them that your cats have the run of the house. That way, they can make other lodging arrangements as needed, and everyone’s Christmas celebrations will be that much merrier.