The holidays are traditionally a time to gather with friends and family. If your family includes one or more felines, no doubt they will be included to some extent in the holiday festivities. However, many holiday decorations, foods, and customs that are fun and harmless to the human members of the family can spell trouble for curious kitties. Here are a few tips to cat-proof your home and help everyone enjoy the season without cat-astrophe.
Deck the halls with meows of holly – or not
What cat can resist shiny ornaments, twinkly tinsel, flickering lights, and pretty plants? Still, if you decorate with your cat in mind you can avoid the risk of serious injury.
First things first: cat-proof your Christmas tree. Make sure that your tree is well anchored and has a sturdy base to avoid the risk of tipping over. Place it in an area away from furniture, such as bookcases or tables, that could make an easy launching pad for a feline intent on climbing. Some cat parents use elevated bases to make the tree less accessible to acrobatic kitties.
Hang breakable or valuable ornaments higher up on the tree, and use plastic hooks, which are safer than metal ones. As much as you may love the look of a garland made of tinsel or string, they are a serious temptation to most kitties and can become tangled in their intestines if they are swallowed, so it’s best to avoid them.
If your kitty is especially persistent, it may be necessary to keep your tree in a room that can be closed off. Or you may want to designate a room in your house as a “cat room” for the holiday season. Deck it out with scratching posts and lots of toys to keep kitty entertained, and confine him there when you can’t be around to supervise.
Open flames can be extremely hazardous. Use battery-operated candles whenever possible, and, if you have to have the real thing, never leave a cat unattended in a room with a lit candle. Get more tips for using candles with pets at home.
An especially important reason to cat-proof your home? Many traditional holiday plants, such as mistletoe and holly (and to a lesser extent, poinsettia) are toxic to cats. Keep plants out of reach or choose non-toxic or artificial alternatives. Learn more about houseplants that are safe for cats.
Food faux paws
Don’t give your cat table scraps, no matter how hard he tries to convince you. Many of the fatty meats, sauces, and gravies that we typically serve around the holidays are too rich for kitty’s tummy. Other holiday treats, scraps, and ingredients can be toxic—even fatal. Here are the worst offenders:
- Garlic or onions
- Grapes or raisins
- Raw meat or fish
- Raw or cooked bones
Keep holiday delicacies out of the reach of foraging felines. Avoid leaving that dish of candy out on the coffee table, or even on the kitchen counter if your cat may be inclined to jump up and help himself. If you’re giving food as a gift, don’t leave it under the tree. You may not be able to smell it through the packaging, but your cat can! And you might be surprised at how skilled he can be at unwrapping!
Good etiquette for party animals
Planning a party? Think carefully about how to meet the needs of your cat. Many kitties become frightened by loud noises or unfamiliar people. You may want to shut Fluffy in a quiet room where he can avoid the commotion.
If, however, you have a social butterfly on your hands, there are still a few ways to cat-proof your home. Remind your guests not to feed your cat. And, although you may think it’s adorable when Fluffy jumps up on you for attention, realize that your guests might not appreciate claws or fur on their holiday attire. Make sure kitty minds his manners!
Finally, if your cat is indoor-only (recommended, especially in the winter!), make sure that guests are aware of that fact. Kitty might try to sneak outside while guests filter in and out of your home, and it’s everyone’s job to be vigilant.
No business like snow business
In many areas of the country, the holiday season brings with it colder weather, snow, and ice. In the event your cat slips outside for a jaunt, check his paws for ice balls which could cause frostbite. Clear the snow from your porch and walkway using just a broom, shovel, or snow blower whenever possible. If you have to use an ice melt product, choose one that is labeled “pet friendly.”
Any time you start your car, make sure that you tap on the hood before starting the engine. Neighborhood or stray kitties love to climb up inside the hood of a car where it’s warm. And after any parties or gatherings, check the driveway and street for any toxic antifreeze that may have leaked from your guests’ cars.
The holidays are the purr-fect time to make happy memories with friends and family. With a little bit of planning, you can cat-proof your home and keep your feline family members safe and happy. And when it’s all over, don’t forget to save a few boxes and some crumpled-up paper—it’s a great way to make up for any inconvenience kitty has had to endure for the sake of safety!
A previous iteration of this post was written by Kristen Levine Pet Living.