How to keep your feline companions safe and content during the holiday season

by cherylone

Felines (cats) are great companions at any time (as long as you like them) but they can be a larger handful than toddling children at times.

During the holidays, your felines will want to be involved in every aspect of the decorating, cooking, and cleaning (not because they enjoy it, but because there may be something they can eat or play with). Keeping your cats out of the picture will only increase their curiosity and cause bigger problems. I find that if I give them something or make allowances for them right up front, they are less curious and keep themselves occupied with other things (especially if I have gotten them a new toy to attack). With these things in mind, I thought I would give you some ideas on how to keep your felines (and your decorations and gifts) safe during the Holidays.

I find that involvement is the key when it comes to my kitties.

I let them smell the items as I put them up and they are less inclined to want to check them out later.

© Cheryl Simonds

Let your cats play with things that won’t hurt them, like plastic ornaments, and they won’t (or at least might not) be so interested in playing with them after they are on the tree or walls.  Make allowances for their curiosity ahead of time and there will be less catastrophes after everything is up and the holiday is in full swing.  All they want to do is check things out and play so why not give them that opportunity right up front?  One note of caution:  I have let my cat play with the thick ribbon which is too large for them to eat (usually); however, the thinner ribbon, like the curly ribbon can be eaten and then may get stuck in their intestines.   Click here at WV Cats for more information on cats and ribbons, as well as other items that might be dangerous (or beneficial) to your cats.

When it comes to decorating, a few easy steps can help to keep everything running smoothly.

PublicDomainPicturesWhen putting up your decorations, be sure all wires and dangling items are well out of reach of the felines.  Be sure to let them smell the items first and they won’t be as attracted to them once they are up.  If the items do dangle, be sure to anchor them well and try to keep them well above feline level.  While the lights are on, keep an eye on the cats (especially kittens) to be sure they don’t chew on the live wires.  Keep all Christmas flowers (especially poinsettias) out of the reach of the cats because the flowers are poisonous to the cats.  Try using fake flowers instead, but be prepared for your feline to nibble a time or two until they realize that the flowers are plastic.

Click here for a complete list of plants that are poisonous to cats via the ASPCA.  If your cat should ingest a plant that is poisonous to them, call your local vet immediately!

When it comes time to put up the tree, keep a few of these thoughts in mind

Anchor the tree to the wall in several places, just in case your feline decides to climb to the top to see what is there.  By anchoring the tree, you will prevent damage to the tree and ornaments as well as (and this is even more important) damage to the cat.  Cats are extremely curious and don’t always realize the danger until it is too late.  Be sure to put plastic ornaments on the lower branches so that when the cats play with them (and they might because they dangle) they can’t break the ornaments. 

Avoid putting the tinsel strands on the tree.  They look gorgeous, I admit, but the cats love the taste and tinsel will block and/or twist their intestines, especially since their barbed tongue won't let them spit it out so all they can do is swallow it.  

Once the gifts are under the tree, cats will have a ball playing with the ribbons and wrapping.  To avoid this, try putting a circle of baby gates around the tree for the night and be sure to have lots of new toys to attract the cats away from the tree and presents.  Catnip is also a good distracter, especially if you put it far from the tree.  If you get your catnip from an herb farm it will be much stronger and more distracting to the cats (just thought you would like to know that).

Holiday parties are a great holiday activity, however they can be dangerous for cats

hansIf you have large parties during the holidays, be aware that the cats will be curious about the drinks, food, and new people at the party.  Try to keep them in a secure place during such events with plenty of food, water, toys and litter boxes.  Also, try to ensure that all containers are covered, secured, dumped, etc. once the party is over to avoid the cats licking items that could be dangerous to them or spilling items on the floor or on your nice decorations.  Be sure things that are dangerous to the animals are put safely away (chocolate and alcohol are good examples) so the animals won’t get sick from tasting them.

The ASPCA can help you with a list of foods that cats should never ingest.  Click here for more information.

Christmas morning is exciting, rushed, busy, and distracting

During the Christmas morning rush of opening gifts and tossing ribbons and wrapping away, try balling up the wrapping paper and tossing it towards the cats.  The bright colors will attract the cat who will have a ball tossing the ‘ball’ of paper around (sorry, couldn’t help the pun).  Just be sure that all ribbons have been removed and placed out of reach first.  Also, the pre-made ribbons give the felines hours of exciting fun because they are large, bright, and move about.  However, be sure to take the paper and ribbon away once the feline begins to tear it up and or chew it apart so they don't swallow any of it.

Large boxes and containers are great fun for the cats so let them play in the empty ones until it is time to clean up.  They will hide, climb, jump and scratch a box to death (so to speak).  If you wish to keep the containers, however, I would suggest you put them away immediately because there won’t be much left if the cats play with them.   Also, be careful to check inside a box before throwing it away or storing it.  Cats love to climb into the boxes and go to sleep.

Gifts for the little fur-balls are a great idea

© Cheryl SimondsHowever, you might want to be careful about how and what you choose.  For instance: bright red, sparkly and glittery items will attract them faster than other items (and you will need to attract them from all the excitement and color of the holiday activities).  Also be sure the items are non-toxic and won’t fall apart easily.  I found a trick that my cats have always loved and it keeps them busy for hours.  Take a clean sparkly pipe cleaner (red is best-the one pictured here is red and green) and wrap it loosely around your finger.  Toss the wrapped cleaner on the floor in front of your cat.  The cat will go crazy with the pipe cleaner and it will keep him/her busy and out of your hair.  Just one note of caution, though, be sure to check the cleaner now and then and toss it out once the cat begins removing the outer covering and exposing the wire inside.  

Another is the red sparkle balls you get at craft stores (I have one pictured up above).  These items come in multiple packs and are relatively cheap but will occupy the cats for a long time (at least until they get buried under the stove or something).

Once you get used to anticipating what your cat will do, the holidays can be a wonderful and exciting time for both of you.

Just a few more quick ideas that could help you:  give your cats plenty of water so they don’t go after the water in the bucket of a live tree; make sure the cats have plenty to occupy them by digging under the stove, refrigerator, bureaus and such to find all the toys that the cats buried over time; keep your holiday nut assortment covered (cats think they are balls and will knock them on the floor and chase them everywhere); keep tape out of the cats reach because they will become tangled in it if they can reach it; and watch burning candles because the moving flame will attract those darn curious cats. 

I truly believe the following:

Why does a cat have nine lives?  Because curiosity killed the cat and cats are definitely curious.” 


Snow flakes and ribbons
Snow flakes and rib...
© Cheryl Simonds
© Cheryl Simonds
© Cheryl Simonds
Wrapping and tape
Christmas Hat fun
Christmas Hat fun
© Cheryl Simonds
Christmas Hat curiosity
Christmas Hat curio...
© Cheryl Simonds

For more information, please see below:

If you are not sure about anything that might endanger your cats, please contact your local vet, your local vet hospital, the National Humane Society, or the ASPCA for more information.  Also, many cat shelters can answer questions or put you in touch with someone who can.

Updated: 11/10/2012, cherylone
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