Keeping cats safe at Christmas

Tips to keep curious cats safe during Christmas.
Tips to keep curious cats safe during Christmas. Photo: Getty

Cats are curious creatures by nature. Throw in the extra stimulation that Christmas brings and you end up with the perfect storm for cat shenanigans. Want to make sure that everyone in the family, especially felines, have a safe and happy Christmas? Keep these five tips in mind.

Christmas tree and decorations

Anyone who has a young cat or kitten knows the pain that is decorating the Christmas tree. Young cats love all things shiny and sparkly. The problem is that cat toys often resemble the baubles we put on the tree. It's hardly surprising that they want to play with these decorations.

Dr James Crowley has a few suggestions about keeping kitty away from the tree. If you're still in the market for a Christmas tree, he suggests choosing a smaller one, preferably with a solid base. "If you're using a real tree, however, wrap foil around the trunk," he says. "Cats don't like the feel of the foil on their nails and will be less inclined to climb it."

If you've gone the artificial tree route, avoid decorations that dangle, especially around the base and lower parts of the tree. "Attach ornaments onto the tree securely so that they can't be removed easily," Dr Crowley suggests.

Christmas lights

Christmas lights that we drape around the tree can be very dangerous, especially for young cats. Kittens will chew cords as they explore the world around them, while other cats may chew cords because of dietary insufficiencies or enjoyment of the chewing sensation. Regardless of the reason, it's important to put a stop to the behaviour as soon as you can.

"If you have lights around your tree, be sure to tape down the excess wire and make it difficult for the cat to reach the power point and cord," says Dr Crowley. "Don't leave any lights, wires or cords dangling. Wrap wires around the base or tree rather than having them hanging.

"Plug the tree lights into a short indoor extension cord and tape the plug into the socket with electrical tape," he suggests. "Simply unplug the lights from the extension cord to turn off. You may also want to consider using cords that shut off if damaged and turning off Christmas tree lights when unattended."

Christmas blooms

Christmas floral arrangements may be beautiful, but some of the flowers used in them may be toxic for cats. The RSPCA says to be cautious of poinsettias, amaryllis, mistletoe and holly in particular. These plants can kill cats, so it's important to keep them out of reach.

Clinical signs of ingestion will vary depending on the plant or flower and the bodily organs it affects. If you notice that your cat is drooling, vomiting and/or experiencing diarrhoea, is lethargic, has difficulty breathing or is excessively thirsty, get her to a vet immediately.

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Cooked bones and people food

Just as is the case for dogs, cats should never be fed cooked bones. These bones can shatter and become lodged in the throat or snagged in the intestines. While raw bones may be fine for some breeds on occasion, consult your vet before feeding any raw bones, raw meat or raw seafood to your cat.

You may be inclined to give your cat human food as a special treat on Christmas, but any food that isn't formulated for cats can cause serious digestive problems. Steer clear of:

  • onions, garlic and chives
  • grapes and raisins
  • milk and dairy products
  • alcohol
  • chocolate
  • fat trimmings
  • meat covered in rich gravy or marinades

Too much noise and stimulation

Most cats aren't fans of big groups of people and excessive noise. If you're going to have family and friends over during the festive period, it's important to give your cat somewhere safe that he can go. "It's a good idea to confine them to a different room, equipped with bedding, toys and a scratching post," says Dr Crowley. "You may also want to try Feliway pheromone spray in this area to help keep them calm. Catnip also helps."

Try to stick to your regular feeding routine and check on your cat to ensure he is safe and comfortable.

Four signs that something may be wrong with your cat

Cats are notoriously good at hiding how sick they are. It's up to you to monitor subtle changes in your cat's behaviour and seek medical treatment if you're unsure about anything. The four most important signs of sickness include:

1. Changes to food or water intake. If your cat eats or drinks more or less than is regular for her, it may indicate a problem. Monitor her over a period of a few days. If her behaviour concerns you, contact your vet.

2. Lethargy or excessive sleepiness. Cats sleep about 15 to 16 hours a day when they are well. If your cat is sleeping through play or dinner times, it may be cause for concern.

3. Changes in bodily fluids. Monitor your cat's litterbox usage (especially if he is eliminating outside of the litterbox) and keep watch for runny noses, goopy eyes, vomiting or diarrhoea.

4. Sudden changes to behaviour. If your cat isn't usually vocal and she starts talking more, it may indicate a problem, as can increased aggression and seeking solitude.

Keep an eye on your furry friend over the Christmas period. A false alarm is way more preferable to a very sick kitty.

Christmas-time provides a great opportunity to reconnect with the people and furry creatures around us. By providing a safe environment for your cat, you'll be ensuring that he or she is happy and healthy over the holidays.

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