By Stacey Frazier Christmas can be a magical time for all of us with decorations, the food, the tree. But if you have pets, especially cats and Christmas trees don’t mix and it can be a bit of an ordeal. A member of our staff is about to experience her first Christmas with not just a cat, but a kitten. Once we all quit laughing, we realized she might need a little help surviving the holiday with a 2-pound tornado in her house, and she might not be the only one. So, hopefully, the following suggestions will help her and you, with making this Christmas safe, fun, and memorable.
The Christmas tree is usually a focal point in the home. We tend to want to make it as shiny and sparkly and eye-catching as possible. The problem is that makes it a giant cat toy in the eyes of your kitties. Heck, put enough stuff on there, and even I want to bat it around. Until your kitten is a little older, consider a smaller tree. It will do less damage if tipped over. Also, remember that live trees can be dangerous to cats. Their needles are toxic and can poke and become embedded in the skin. If you do get a live tree, make sure your cat can NOT get to the water supply. It can be toxic as well.
How to keep cats and Christmas trees safe:
Bring your tree in and set it up. Weight it down or anchor it to the floor. Don’t immediately decorate it. Allow your cat to investigate, but have a spray bottle filled with water handy. Consider wrapping the lower trunk in tin foil; cats don’t like the sensation of foil, and it might deter them from climbing. Make sure the tree is away from anything the cat might use as a launch pad for the higher branches. Use the spray bottle with whatever trigger word you have chosen to correct your cat, such as “NO!” or “AH!” Just make sure you have the spray bottle on stream and not mist! Allow the cat enough time to either get bored with sniffing about the tree or to get tired of being corrected. Now you are ready to move on to decorations.
Don’t hang ornaments on the lower branches and expect them to survive. You are just setting your cat up for failure. Don’t hang breakable ornaments period. If your kitten is still in a chewing phase, consider NOT putting lights on the tree this first year. Tinsel? Absolutely NOT. It’s shiny and stringy and blows with the slightest air movement and one of the biggest contributors to feline intestinal obstructions this time of year. Just say NO to tinsel!
Presents can be tricky. Some cats could care less; others will feel the need for Christmas to come early and unwrap every single one. Stay away from ribbon, especially the stringy ones. It can be just as dangerous as tinsel. Speaking of presents, don’t give cats or kittens as presents! The recipient and cat both deserve the chance to select each other.
General decorations in the home should follow the basic guidelines of the tree with nothing tempting to the playful nature of a cat. Holiday plants such as poinsettia, lilies, and holly can make your pet extremely sick. Keep them out of reach or get artificial ones.
Cats (and dogs) should never be given turkey or chicken bones, as they can splinter and become lodged in the digestive system. Keep the chocolate away from them as well, and watch for them under foot in the kitchen while busy cooking. There will be lots of new smells for your kitten to experience and investigate!
While all this sounds a little bah humbug, you can still have a fun Christmas with your cat. Try letting your kitten run through all the wrapping paper after gifts have been opened, or make a tower out of the empty boxes. Just remember that if this is your cat’s first Christmas, it will probably be a little stressful. Extra guests will raise the noise level in the home, new people will have new smells, and routines go out the window. Make sure your cat or kitten has a safe hiding spot with water to get away from the chaos if needed and everyone should survive Christmas just fine.
Quick Christmas Tips for People with Cats
- Don’t put your cat in the Christmas tree to take a fun picture. It won’t end well for you, the cat, or the tree.
- Don’t let the kids wrap the cat for Christmas. It won’t end well for you, the cat, or the kids.
- Don’t take a family photo with both the cat and the dog unless they absolutely get along. It won’t end well for you, the cat, or the dog.
- Once everyone is through bonking each other with empty wrapping paper tubes, cut them up for cat toys.
- Cats do not like riding in wagons, wearing pajamas, or having bows stuck on their heads. Ever.
Merry Christmas from the staff at Guthrie Pet Hospital!