Seasonal Care

Making the Holiday Season Safe for Your Cat

Cat Holiday Box

Think about how your cat loves to ambush a feather or a toy mouse with a long tail. Now imagine how she'll react to a real pine tree with all sorts of tempting things dangling from it.

Ah, the holidaze. It's a time of excess—food, friends, family, and gifts. While you may be caught up in a whirlwind of activity, it's important to remember that your cat needs attention during the holidays, too. The season can be stressful for her, or even dangerous if she gets into some mischief. With a few precautions, you can make the season safe and  fun for you and your cat.

Make holiday meals off limits

Though roasted turkey, ham, cheese balls, dips and other holiday fare may be a treat for humans, the high fat and salt content aren't good for cats (they're not so good for you, either). Here are some other tips:

  • Make sure that garbage cans are firmly sealed and that your cat is out of the kitchen while you make and serve food.
  • Keep the turkey in the refrigerator or on a shelf that your cat can't reach, so she can't help herself to some while you're distracted.
  • If you must give your cat a special treat, give her a little skinless turkey or chicken, without onions or garlic (which are bad for cats). And make sure there are no bones in it—poultry bones can splinter, causing internal injuries.
  • Chocolate and coffee contain a substance called theobromine, which is toxic to cats. Put all chocolate cookies and cakes away or cover them when you're not in the room.
  • Alcohol is an absolute no-no for kitties. Your cat probably won,t be attracted to wine (unless you have a very strange cat), but eggnog might be more tempting, so keep it out of her reach.

A cat-friendly Christmas tree

Think about how your cat loves to ambush a feather or a toy mouse with a long tail. Now imagine how she'll react to a real pine tree with all sorts of tempting things dangling from it. You don't have to give up having a decorated tree, but you need to take precautions:

  • Tinsel, angel hair and other stringy-type decorations are bad—very bad—for your kitty. She'll play with the strands, then chew on them, then eat them and the next thing you know you're off to the veterinarian for a very expensive tinsel-extraction operation. No tinsel.
  • Hang your non-breakable ornaments high (and hang grandma's antique glass decorations very high) and leave the lower branches bare.
  • Make sure your tree is on a sturdy base and that its water container is covered. The tree's water could contain fertilizers or bacteria, so don't let your cat lap up any of it.
  • Keep extra wiring for Christmas lights protected so that your kitty can't chew them.
  • Keep lit candles far away from where your cat could knock them over.
  • Keep holiday arrangements where your cat can't reach them. Many holiday plants aren't good for cats. These include mistletoe, poinsettias, lilies and holly berries.

Safe havens for your cat

The holidays mean lots and lots and lots of socializing—you'll probably be going out to parties or even having a few yourself. Out-of-town guests may stay with you or maybe you'll have family over for dinner.

From your cat's point of view, noisy strangers are invading her home or her owner is disappearing for long periods of time, making her anxious about when dinner is going to be served or when she'll have some playtime with you. Keeping your cat's schedule consistent will help keep her stress levels down. Incorporate an extra ten minutes of playtime daily to help her burn off some holiday anxiety.

Make sure her litter box is out of the way of foot traffic and that she has easy access to it, even while guests are staying over. Ditto for her water and food bowls. If your cat is shy around strangers, you may want to put her in your bedroom with some of her favorite toys and soft music playing while people are over. Leave her space to hide—open closet doors or make room under your bed. Also make sure you know where she is at all times—many cats run out of open doors while guests are coming in and out. Holiday time is a good time to make sure she's microchipped and wearing an up-to-date ID tag.

How to wrap presents (with your cat's help)

Most cats love to "help" wrap gifts. After all, rustling wrapping paper, ribbons and empty boxes are some of their very favorite things! It's fun to play, but don't let anything get where it shouldn't—that is, inside your cat's mouth or stomach. And that goes for unwrapping, too. Watch your cat carefully on Christmas morning or put her away in a quiet room during the excitement of opening gifts. Of course, it's undeniably fun to see how fast your cat can rip through wrapping to get to her new catnip toy. That's right—don't forget to get your cat a holiday gift, too.

Marcella Durand's articles on pet health and behavior have appeared in Dog World Magazine,, and Cats Magazine. She is the recipient of a Muse Medallion and a Certificate of Excellence from the Cat Writers, Association. She lives in New York.