By Becky Reape
Do an online search for “cats” and “Christmas” and you will find an endless supply of adorable pictures to make your heart swell with cuteness but can cats and this winter holiday truly mesh into a happy pairing? In addition to playful frolicking kitties who are drawn to shiny ornaments there so many hidden dangers to your beloved cat lurking with the season. And, trust me, cats have a way of finding trouble in large part due to their inquisitive natures.
I have 3 cats myself. All boys, all uniquely independent and sassy. Smitty, the oldest of the trio, is my regal-looking black cat. He is largely disinterested in Christmas decorations and pays no attention to them. My middle cat, a fluffy tuxedo names Bugsy, is an even-keel, mostly jolly little lad and always puts me in mind of a fat little man from an Irish fable or something of the sort. He largely behaves but he does enjoy laying sort of half under, half behind our living room tree (I do two large trees with the other being in the family room). This makes me nervous because he has occasionally been caught chewing on phone cords or running his mouth on electric cords. He also occasionally likes to pull on the wire ribbon I like to wrap around presents. But, overall, Bugsy leaves the trees, ornaments and other Christmas items alone.
That leaves our youngest cat, Riley. Riley is a half-white, half-brown tabby. He is 6 years old but acts like he is 6 weeks old. If there is something he can get into that he should not, he is all over it. Possessed of a curious (some might say nosy) nature, he gets into anything and everything. We have gone through several stages with Riley regarding Christmas decorations. For the first couple of years (we have had him since I rescued him from a parking garage at 8 weeks old) he was obsessed with climbing the living room tree and perching amidst the branches. It was disconcerting to say the least to walk by and look over and see eyes staring back at you from the tree, not to mention all the ornaments that he knocked down on his quest. Thankfully he only knocked the full tree down twice.
After this, he switched to an obsession with the ornaments themselves and developed a particular fondness for the shiny round ones. I can’t tell you how many of those suckers I would still be cleaning up come St. Patrick’s Day. He would squirrel them away in hiding places that I still probably have not discovered and then randomly bring one or two out every month or so. I am relieved to say that this year he actually seems to be acting like a bit more of an adult and has not messed with the decorations at all. He has been pretty cute, actually and takes to sleeping under the tree.
So, if you have a cat that is more Bugsy or Riley than Smitty, how do you keep them safe and preserve your decorations and sanity at the same time? Here are some tips on how to have the best ever Christmas with your kitty.
- If you have a real Christmas tree be very careful about the water. This can contain pesticides and fertilizer as well as potentially harmful germs and can be fatal to curious and thirsty kitties. Keep it covered (you can purchase a special container or use aluminum foil) so that your cat(s) cannot get into the water.
- Christmas décor is all about the sparkle. Unfortunately, nothing says deadly bowel obstruction like ingested tinsel or ribbon, especially the skinny plastic curling kind. Both of these things look too much like cat toys and are too tempting for most felines to avoid. If you own a cat, do not use tinsel. Period. It’s not worth the risk. You can still use ribbon but stick to paper ribbon or thick, wide cloth ribbon (honestly, I use this and I think it makes packages look prettier and more posh anyway).
- Plants such as holly, mistletoe and poinsettias can also be fatal to cats, especially the former two. It is best to avoid these if you have cats or to place them where they cannot get to them, such as your outside front steps.
- Electric cords. Christmas lights are one of my favorite things about the season but their cords can also resemble toys to cats. Keep cords hidden as much as you can (out of sight, out of kitty mind), prevent them from dangling temptingly and always turn the switch off and/or unplug the cord when you are not around to supervise.
- Human food can be a real tempting Devil around the holidays especially if you have a beggar (Bugsy, I’m looking at you). While some experts say that a tiny bit of a lean protein such as chicken or tune is okay (tiny means tiny not a bowlful), be very wary of feeding your kitty human food. Fatty foods can lead to vomiting or diarrhea and foods such as onions, avocados and chocolate can be extremely toxic if not fatal to cats. There so many treats out there that are actually made for cats that it really doesn’t make sense to risk this. Buy them some catnip laced treats (my three are OBSESSED) and they won’t think twice about begging for a piece of your ham.
So, there you have it. Follow these tips and you and your feline friends will have a wonderful, happy and safe Christmas together. Just don’t forget to drop a couple of presents in their stocking, too.