Strings of bright lights and fuzzy tinsel lining tables and stair rails, shiny ornaments hanging tantalizingly from tree branches, bouncy ribbons temptingly tied to gift boxes—for many cats, these are irresistible invitations to explore and play.

But though cats knocking over the Christmas tree, batting at the menorah, or stealing scraps of the holiday feast are often the subject of festive jokes on film and TV, in reality all can pose a serious risk to cats’ health and safety.

Alley Cat Allies has tips to cat-proof your holiday decorations and ensure you and your feline family members have a safe and happy season.

IMPORTANT: If you suspect your cat ingested a substance or food that could be poisonous to them, contact the Pet Poison Helpline immediately at 855-764-7661.

  1. Cat-proof your Christmas tree. Christmas trees look like a lot of fun to cats, who have been known to climb them and try to play with the dangling ornaments and shiny lights. Keep your tree and your cats safe by securing the tree to the wall (hooks and fishing line work well). Hang ornaments up high where cats can’t get them. If you have a live tree, don’t put fertilizer in the water in case your cats drink it.
  2. Avoid tinsel. It is irresistible to many cats, and they are at high risk of choking or serious intestinal blockage if they ingest it.
  3. Securely tape down holiday lights. Or put them completely out of paws’ reach so your cats can’t play with them. This will reduce risk of electrical accidents or fragile lights breaking in cats’ paws.
  4. Supervise your cat around candles. Or better yet, use fake ones instead. Cats can burn themselves on the open flame or knock candles over.
  5. Decorate with fake plants. This is another way to make sure you have cat-friendly Christmas decorations. Poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, and fir trees are all holiday staples, but can cause nausea or vomiting in cats if ingested.
  6. Don’t feed your cat your leftovers. It might be tempting to give your cat a special snack for the holidays, but human food—especially cooked bones, chocolate, or fake sugars—can be harmful or poisonous for her. Stick to cat treats—you can find special holiday treats in most pet stores!
  7. Watch your gift wrappings. Ribbons can be harmful for cats if swallowed. If your cat is interested in your gift decorations, give her an unadorned box—you know she’ll love it! Consider keeping ribbon wrapped presents out of reach and only putting them underneath the tree on Christmas morning, when you can keep an eye on them.
  8. Guests over? Set up a separate room for cats. Holiday guests in their home can stress cats out, so make sure they have a comfortable room they can escape to and feel safe. Make sure the room is stocked with all the cats need—food, water, toys, and a litter box.
  9. Microchip your cats and update your information. No safety measures are foolproof, and indoor cats have plenty of opportunity to slip out of the front door during the holiday season (when guests arrive, packages are delivered, carolers stop by, etc.) Having your cats microchipped (even indoor-outdoor cats) helps ensure they can be reunited with you if they get lost.
  10. Avoid traveling with cats. Have a sitter check in on your cats if you’re going away instead of bringing them with you. They’ll most likely be less stressed if they stay in their own home, and you avoid any mishaps on the road or at the airport.

See our complete list of holiday safety tips for cats. Happy holiday season from all of us at Alley Cat Allies!