6 December 2020

Keeping Your Cat Safe at Christmas

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Claire Smith, Vet

The Christmas period has arrived and its brilliant to see all the decorations going up around Sandwich and Deal. With all the festivities, lights, decorations, food and guests (maybe not so many this year) it’s an exciting time of year. However, for our feline friends, it can be a time of stress and potential injury. Cats are incredibly sensitive to change, they enjoy routine. Christmas brings enjoyment for the family but also brings many temporary changes, sounds and smells, such as furniture being moved, the addition of a Christmas tree and decorations, loud music and unfamiliar guests, which can all be very distressing for a cat. 

How to keep your cat safe at Christmas

Poinsettia is a very common plant within the house during the Christmas season, however this plant can be potentially poisonous to cats. Mild signs include sickness, hypersalivation, inappetence and lethargy. Although not commonly life-threatening, if you plan to have one in your house this Christmas, it is a good idea to keep it out of reach of your cat. Additionally, Mistletoe, Holly, Ivy and Christmas Cherry can also cause sickness and should be kept out of reach of curious cats.

Chocolate is well known to be toxic to dogs, but did you know that it is also toxic to cats? Chocolate poisoning signs in cats include sickness and diarrhoea, polydipsia (drinking lots), disorientation, trembling and seizures. If you find that your cat has ingested chocolate then please contact us immediately. 

Keep your cat safe this Christmas

The Christmas tree, as all cat owners will know, poses an element of fun for a cat. Many of us will have experienced our cat climbing up the tree, knocking off decorations or bringing the tree down completely. Care should be taken if decorations are fragile which may smash when they fall posing the risk of broken glass or sharp shards. Ingestion of Christmas tree needles and trees flocked with fake snow can cause sickness if ingested, and other decorations which may an obstruction in the gut. The most common items seen around this time of year, causing stomach obstruction in cats are string-like material such as tinsel, decorative ribbon and string (used to wrap meat or hang decorations).

Lights can also be appealing to cats, and especially chewing of the cables which can result in an electric shock. The electric current can cause them to seizure, burn their mouth and even kill them. It is also important to be aware of young cats and kittens climbing the tree and becoming entangled in the lights or tinsel.

Cat in a Christmas tree
Lights can be dangerous for cats.

So, how can we keep our cats safe and minimise stress during the Christmas season?

Ensure you have provided your cat with several “safe spaces” around the house where they can hide away from all the noise and festivities. A cardboard box, for example, on top of the wardrobe, or a cosy bed underneath the bed helps provide a comfortable and secure place.

Let visitors coming to the house know not to approach your cat if it is sleeping or hiding away, and only to stroke them if the cat initiates first. Any attention received should be on your cat’s terms. Always ensure that your cat has an escape route so that they can get away from a situation and move to a quieter area of the house if they become uncomfortable. 

It is worth considering purchasing a ‘Feliway’ plug-in diffuser to use during the Christmas season, and plugging this in a few days before the festivities begin. This can be left on continually to help make your cat feel more comfortable.

If your cat’s resources are in an area that will experience a higher volume of “traffic” or noise during this season, it is worth considering moving these to a quieter area of the home. 

These simple changes can help your cat to feel more safe during the Christmas season and allow you to relax and enjoy all the festivities!

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