The Christmas Season and Your Cat

Christmas is coming up and this usually means the coming together of family and friends. This is the time of year when the snow is falling and everyone is getting out their skis and skates! It can be a wonderful time for us; however, this time of year can bring many risks to our furry feline family members.

Christmas dinner is an essential part of the holidays. The turkey with all the trimmings is always appreciated by guests. These delicious things can also hold hidden dangers to our cats. Just like dogs, cats run the risk of choking on cooked turkey bones. When bones are cooked, they become brittle and can shatter when chewed; creating sharp obstructions that can cause serious and sometimes irreversible damage to their digestive system. Our cats are also accustomed to a very specific diet they get from their regular food. These diets include all of the necessary elements required for nourishment. Suddenly adding rich foods, like turkey or buttered vegetables, can cause vomiting and diarrhea or even a serious condition called pancreatitis. Many of our Christmas recipes include ingredients that are toxic to cats. These foods include onions, garlic, and leeks. Also, alcohol and chocolate are just as toxic to cats as they are to dogs.

Apart from the turkey dinner, there are other hazards that come with the holidays. A beautiful Christmas tree is usually the center of everyone’s attention. Those of us with cats know it is also the greatest new toy our cats have ever seen! A tree to climb with customized dangling toys! Sounds like a dream come true! I’ve spent many mornings picking my own Christmas tree off the floor with my three cats looking innocently from a distance, as if to say “Oh my, whatever could have happened to your tree?”   Although it may be very difficult to prevent our cats from accessing the tree completely, there are ways to make it safer for them. Tinsel seems like a great treat to a cat, but it is easily swallowed and can cause serious blockages in a cat’s digestive system that may require surgical removal or can even be fatal. Not using tinsel at all is the best option. If deciding to have a real tree, make sure the water basin is covered, as this water can be toxic to cats if they drink it. If you have any particularly sentimental or fragile ornaments, it is probably best to keep these closer to the top of the tree. To prevent your cats from knocking the tree over in its entirety, anchoring the tree to a wall is probably a good idea. Always supervising candles is also a great way to prevent any inadvertent accidents, as we all know our cats can be tremendously curious about the bright flickering flame.

Perhaps the greatest risk to our feline friends is the stress of having company in their home. This can create an abrupt change to our cat’s highly cherished routine. This can manifest itself in cats hiding and not eating well or even not wanting to use their litter boxes. There are ways to help decrease this stress. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that helps cats feel more safe and relaxed. It comes in a diffuser or a spray. This product has no detectable smell to humans or other animals. Designating a quiet area for your cat can also help with this anxiety. For example, a favorite bedroom or even a top or bottom floor of a home. You can keep your cat’s bed, litter box, food and water, along with some Feliway in this cat-only quiet place. This way, your cat can relax but may come out to visit and explore if they choose. Also don’t forget to give them their normal amount of love and attention. If you regularly play with your cat around bedtime, keeping this routine during busy times can make a huge difference to your cat.