Cats are very curious creatures, and it's their inquisitive nature and quest for adventure that could land them in a heap of trouble, especially during the holidays. Although you might like to believe your cat has nine lives, feline mortality due to accidents is a genuine threat. Fortunately, holiday accidents can be avoided with a little foresight and caution. Here are three ways to keep your feline friend out of harm's way this holiday season:
1. Create a "Cat Friendly" Christmas Tree
That term might have you shaking your head in confusion, but there are some ways to outsmart your clever kitty. While the Christmas tree might be a feline temptation and invitation to disaster, you might avoid a cat calamity with a few simple measures.
You can start by securing or anchoring the tree. Your Christmas tree stand should be made of heavy metal for extra security, just in case the cat decides to pounce. A cheap plastic stand is not as sturdy and might not withstand a hard swipe from your cat's probing paw. If possible, anchor your Christmas tree to the wall. If your cat decides to use the bark as a scratching post, this will prevent the tree from toppling over and causing potential injury to your feline friend.
If you are not inclined to anchor your tree to the wall, there is such as thing as a "wall-mounted Christmas tree". Basically, this is half a tree that simply hangs on the wall, much like a wall decoration. Using a heavy weighted picture hanging hook which becomes your anchor, you'll simply hang it on the wall. This type of tree often comes pre-assembled with lights and ornaments, and it plugs into a standard electrical outlet.
You should also place ornaments high on the branches. If you're using a traditional Christmas tree, it's not a good idea to leave ornaments dangling low at cat-level. You curious kitty might grab one and get cut on a sharp edge or ingest a loose part. Also, never leave electrical wires from tree lights within your cat's reach.
2. Be Aware of Food Hazards
Your holiday meals and tempting treats need to be off-limits to your pet. Although some table food is perfectly safe, there are several food items that could cause digestive upset or more serious issues if your cat consumes them. Some of the forbidden foods you should not offer your cat include:
- Chocolate: During the holidays, you're more likely to have chocolate in the house, and this must be off limits to your pet, as chocolate may cause serious health issues if consumed. The main culprit in chocolate is a chemical called theobromine. When consumed, even in small amounts, it may cause digestive upset, such as diarrhea and vomiting. In larger amounts, it may be toxic and damage the nervous system and heart.
- Grapes and raisins: Those holiday raisin cookies may seem harmless enough, but raisins and grapes contain toxins that may cause kidney damage in cats and dogs.
- Mushrooms: A common ingredient in many holiday dishes, this is another forbidden food for your cat, due to toxicity that is found in many varieties.
- Onions and garlic: Consuming either, in raw or powdered form, may damage red blood cells and cause feline anemia.
3. Avoid Lighted Candles and Holiday Plants
If you must use scented candles, be sure your cat does not have access to the room they are in. One swipe from the paw may cause a painful burn that might warrant a visit to the animal emergency hospital. A smart alternative to a lighted candle would be the electric candle or candle warmer.
As for holidays plants, be aware of those that are toxic to pets, including poinsettias, holly, mistletoe and tiger lilies. Keep these out of your cat's reach, as even nibbling on the leaves may cause health issues.
Although even the most diligent cat owner needs to be prepared in the event of an accident. It's better to be safe than sorry. Determine the holiday hours of your local animal hospital, so you'll be prepared should the need arise, and keep the telephone number of the emergency clinic like Metzger Animal Hospital on hand.