Holiday Hazards for Cats


If you ever wonder why there is an up surge of emergency veterinary visits for cats over the holiday season, just watch the Temptations “Keep them Busy” Christmas commercial for this year. The video shows cats of all ages playing, destroying and chewing on a beautiful Christmas display.

Cats are naturally curious animals, so our holiday decorations, foods, and gatherings can pose a danger when cats decide to investigate and partake of the goodies!

Share these ten tips from the National CATalyst Council to keep your cats safe and healthy this holiday season.

  1. Dangerous wrapping—Brightly coloured bows and ribbons are a festive and enjoyable part of the holiday season, but remember that ribbon can be extremely dangerous for cats. If ingested, it can cause a cat’s intestines to bunch and get twisted, and in many cases, this will need to be remedied with surgery. If left untreated, this can be fatal.
  2. Hanging ornaments—From a cat’s perspective, low-hanging ornaments on a tree are just begging to be swatted at and then played with on the floor. If there are any low-hanging ornaments on your client’s tree, be sure that they are made of materials that a cat can’t chew or otherwise destroy and ingest.
  3. Poisonous plants—While poinsettias have long been believed to be extremely dangerous for cats, the danger they pose when ingested by a cat (stomach upset) is not as bad as some other common holiday plants, such as mistletoe, pine tree needles, amaryllis lilies, red azaleas and paperwhites. If your client has festive plants, make sure they are somewhere a cat won’t be tempted to chew on them. If you are unsure if a plant is poisonous or are concerned that your cat may have eaten something dangerous, have your client call you or the ASPCA’s animal poison control centre (888-426-4435) for more information.
  4. Candles—A cat probably isn’t going to be too intrigued by the candle itself, but a wayward swishing tail can easily knock a candle over, causing a host of problems. Clients should keep candles out of reach and make sure they stay vigilant around lit candles. The last thing they need over the holidays is an injured cat or fire damage to their home.
  5. Holiday foods—While it may be tempting to give a cat just a nibble of turkey or other holiday food, encourage your clients to resist the urge. Rich foods can upset a cat’s digestive system, which could produce unpleasant effects. Also, cats should never be given any type of bone, as they can splinter and cause internal injuries to a cat.
  6. Stress—Cats like routine and predictability, so when their schedules or environments change, they can become upset. If your client is planning on having holiday guests and their cat isn’t used to entertaining, create a safe, quiet space away from the action where the cat can have some peace and quiet. Dr. Brunt, CATalyst Council’s executive director and a feline veterinarian for more than 20 years, adds, “Be sure to have food, water and a litter box available in this secluded area so your cat can be comfortable away from your gathering.”
  7. Tinsel—Like ribbon, tinsel is almost irresistible to cats and, if ingested, it can require surgery to extract. Which would your client rather live without tinsel or a night at the veterinary emergency clinic?
  8. Cats given as gifts— Every companion animal deserves a home where it will be wanted and well taken care of. Shelters nationwide report an uptick in new arrivals right after the holidays, when people surrender the “gift pet” that they may not have wanted.
  9. Christmas tree water—The water that keeps a tree fresh is frequently treated with chemicals that can make cats sick. Be sure that cats can’t access the tree water.
  10. Travel dangers—If your client is travelling with their cat during the holidays, be sure that their cat is properly secured in a carrier and that he or she has adequate identification, including a microchip. That way, if they get separated, their cat has a way to be reunited with them. Also, prior to leaving home, encourage your client to find contact information for a veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian in the area they’re visiting, so that, if their cat gets injured or becomes ill, they know where to go to get their cat the care and attention it requires.

CATalyst Council is a national initiative comprised of animal health and welfare organizations and corporations to champion the cat in light of troubling statistics released by the American Veterinary Medical Association that show an increase in the cat population coupled with a decline in veterinary visits for cats. 

More information about the CATalyst Council is available at

Written by Tiffany Lennox, DVM