The winter holidays are the most wonderful time of the year and we want to make sure they’re also the safest. While we revel in the good food and family fun, it’s important make sure the traditions we love don’t pose risks to our cats and other animals.
Alley Cat Allies has tips and advice to help keep your furry family members safe and sound during the holiday season.
Please note: Some of the tips in this resource address substances that are harmful to cats. If you believe your cat or dog has ingested a toxin, immediately call your veterinarian, the nearest animal hospital, or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661.
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For the most part, our holiday favorites belong on our plates, not in our cats’ bowls.
Human food can be harmful to cats
- Chocolates, candies, and alcohol of all kinds (yes, including your favorite eggnog) should be kept out of reach of cats and other animals.
- Raw poultry and cow’s milk can also upset cats’ stomachs.
- Do NOT give cats bones. Cooked bones can splinter and choke cats and cause lethal harm when ingested.
In general, too much rich, fatty food can do damage to cats’ health and wellbeing. Resist the urge to slip your kitten treats from the table and ask your guests to do the same. Make sure no pets can jump on a table or counter while food is laid out.
Keep cats away from the cooking zone
As you hustle to prepare the holiday feast, it’s easy to lose track of cats and kittens who like to be part of the action. But cats in the cooking area are at risk of suffering burns or other injuries.
If you have a cat who enjoys hopping up on the counter to join you, make sure they are closed away in a room where they feel safe until the cooking is finished.
Be careful with scraps from your holiday meal
Throw away food waste in a sturdy trash can that can’t be tipped over, preferably with a lid.
Give cats their own special treats!
It’s natural to want all of your family members to join in on the festivities, so plan ahead to include your cats. Keep their favorite cat treats on hand for the occasion. If you’re eager to share your spoils, some small pieces of boneless, cooked, lean turkey also make for a healthy and delicious treat.
Some favorite holiday decorations can pose a risk to cats and other animals, so use best judgment while decking the halls.
Know which holiday plants are toxic to cats
- Plants such as lilies, poinsettias, holly, and mistletoe are poisonous to cats.
- Fall favorites like acorns and autumn crocus can also be toxic if ingested.
- Indoor trees can pose multiple problems for pets. Cats may try to climb the trees or chew on sharp needles. Especially dangerous are live trees sitting in a bowl of water and fertilizer your pet could think that water is for them to drink! Don’t add chemicals to the water for a live tree.
If you have a cat with a habit of gnawing on plants, consider artificial plants instead. There are plenty of artificial options for Christmas trees, wreaths, and more.
Some holiday favorites can pose a risk to cats
- Ornaments seem like toys to cats, but may break easily in their paws and cause injury. If you know your cats like to bat at the ornaments on your Christmas tree, hang them higher and out of reach.
- Ribbons, tinsel, and confetti can be very dangerous to pets. If eaten, these items can become entangled in the digestive tract and require life-saving surgery. Make sure these items are out of reach of cats.
- Strings of lights can pose a hazard both for cats getting tangled in the strings and burning themselves by chewing the wires. Look for options like LED lights instead. Tape down all lights so they aren’t dangling and tempting cats to play with them.
- If not set up properly, a Christmas tree can come crashing down if a cat climbs into it. Secure Christmas trees to a wall with hooks and fishing line to prevent kitty from knocking it over.
- Be careful with open flames. Cats can burn themselves on candles, or even knock them over and start a fire. If you choose to use real candles, make sure the candleholder is safe and sturdy–or look into flameless candles. Make sure fireplaces are properly closed off.
- Fake snow can be made of chemicals that can cause fatal liver damage in cats, or risk a blockage if ingested. We recommend not decorating with it.
Having friends, family and other visitors crowding into your home for the holidays can overwhelm some cats. Fireworks and poppers can also cause cats a lot of stress.
- To ensure their mental and physical wellbeing, make sure there is a quiet, private room for your cats to stay in with their litter box, water, and food until the festivities are finished.
- Make sure your cats are microchipped! If your cat slips out the door and becomes lost when guests arrive, packages are delivered, or carolers stop by, a microchip can help ensure she can return home.
- Batteries are used to power many gifts from toys to watches, but they are corrosive if your pet eats them. Be careful not to drop batteries.
- If you’re going away, have a cat sitter check in on your cats rather than bringing them with you or having them boarded. Cats will be far less stressed if they stay in their own home.
Don’t forget to take some time out of your holiday celebrations to play with and comfort your cat. You’ll feel less stressed out, too!
Yes, You CAN Adopt for the Holidays
As long as the receiver is aware of, prepared for, and wants the responsibilities of a new family member, there is nothing wrong with adopting a cat as a holiday gift. It is a great way to ensure cats and kittens do not have to remain in shelters, which are inherently stressful to them.
If a shelter does not have humane programs in place, this could even save a cat’s life.
Adoption is an incredible, rewarding, and lifesaving experienceand there is nothing more exemplary of the holiday spirit. With these tips in mind, every member of your family can have a safe and happy holiday season!
You can also help community cats remain safe and comfortable during the winter in frigid temperatures, snow, and other challenging conditions. Check out our winter weather tips to help community cats in your region.