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How to Make Christmas Safe for Your Cat

Tom Lohr is an avid home improvement enthusiast. He prefers to spend the money he saves on new tools and gardening supplies.


Is Your Cat in a Bad Mood? It's Probably Christmastime

Cats are renowned for letting their curiosity get them into all sorts of jams and problems. Your house is its playground, and while keeping it mouse-free your kitty loves to explore. Just place anything new in your house—be it a new sofa or a cardboard box—and your cat will spend an hour checking it out. Most of the year, little changes in your home, and there is little new to explore, or few events to stress anyone out. Then Christmastime comes along and all of a sudden your social calendar shifts into high gear and all sorts of strange new decorations spring up. Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year for humans, but for cats, it is a stress bomb coupled with a strange new world to explore.

Christmas is supposed to be a joyous time. Nothing will mar the holiday season like the injury, illness, or death of your beloved pet. Just as there are special precautions for children during Halloween, a cat's human needs to ensure it has a safe environment during Christmas. As the tree goes up, so should your feline safety diligence. Here are some tips to keep your cat's Yuletide experience safe and somewhat stress-free.


You Cat Is Not a Lumberjack

A Christmas tree is probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of holiday cat safety. There is a reason it pops into your head first; cats and Christmas trees have history. Cats are climbers, and for a cat that spends the majority of its time indoors, nothing is more enticing than a tree that magically appears in the living room. Not only is it a great tree for climbing, but it is also full of dangling, shiny objects that cats love to bat around. There is a ton of information on how to cat-proof your Christmas tree, you can find out how to make your cat safe here.


The Flower That Kills

Poinsettias are the quintessential Christmas décor. It's wintertime and it would be nice to have at least a few live plants in the house. With their red blossoms, a few poinsettias can really add some cheer. Unfortunately, part of exploring for cats is often nibbling on things, and some cats are known to eat and destroy plants.

Despite its allure, poinsettias are the one flower you should never have in your home if you have a cat. The plant is extremely toxic to felines and can make them ill or outright kill them. If you absolutely have to have poinsettia or two, buy a nice fake one. Not only are fake poinsettias safe for your cat, but you can also use them again year after year. Ditto for mistletoe.


Fire and Fur

Candles are also a typical Yuletide fixture, as well as a fire in the hearth. Cats are usually smart enough to keep from jumping into your fireplace when it is burning, but after it is out, cats love to scurry through the ashes. Sometimes, those ashes are covering up red hot embers. Even if the fire is completely out, there is nothing like a bunch of ash-laden paw prints to clean up. If you have a fireplace and intend to use it, get a screen for the front that your cat cannot penetrate.

Candles, another source of open flames, are the perfect source for singed fur and whiskers. Cats love to push the boundaries of safety and will walk far too close to a burning candle. Skip the real candles (they are also a common source of house fires) and get some battery-operated electric candles; they look just as good and are much safer for cats and humans.


Shocking But True

Cats are chewers. Nothing is more tempting to chewers than a plastic cord, particularly when it is attached to mesmerizing Christmas lights. After being bedazzled by your Griswold-like display, your cat will eventually find the cord that powers it. If kitty begins chewing on the cord, she is in for either a rude shock or possible electrocution.

It's hard to not put up Christmas lights. They are the one thing that screams Christmas. It's not that hard to keep an eye on your cat during the early evening, but after you turn in, that is when cats love to prowl. Cats are nocturnal, and leaving your lights on all night provides an extra opportunity for a cat/electricity mishap. Skipping lights altogether would be ideal, but if you can't, set all of your lights (including your tree) on timers and have them shut off at your regular bedtime. You can use mechanical timers, or if your home is wired to be smart, some smart plugs


Christmas Clothes for Kitty

I know you love that ugly Christmas sweater. Holiday-themed apparel is a great way to express your Christmas joy. You know who doesn't like to wear an ugly Christmas sweater or any clothes for that matter? Your cat. Cats already have a coat, and capturing them and forcing on some miniature human clothing is NOT its idea of a good time. Keep your cat's stress level low and skip the silly costumes.


Santa Claws

Pets having their picture taken with Santa is a thing. It is kind of cute, and most dogs don't really mind. But dogs don't mind car rides either, something most cats hate. To get the cute Christmas memento of your cat and kris Kringle, you have to take your cat for a drive, place it in the lap of a stranger that is dressed up in crazy clothes and a beard, and have flashes go off in front of it. Your cat's stress level will skyrocket and will likely leave Saint Nick looking for the first-aid kit.

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Giving a Cat as a Gift

Unless your child has specifically asked for one, don't do it. If someone wants a cat, they will make a trip to the local shelter.


Keep the Guest List to a Minimum

Cats hate strangers, and someone they don't know entering the house scares the bejesus out of them, often sending them scurrying under the couch. Small children are especially stressful to cats, as kids love to try and catch the kitty so they can pet it.

You can actually use your cat as an excuse to not have guests over, a debt to your cat that you can never repay. If you must have guests, put a litter box, cat bed, and some toys in a bedroom and keep the door shut. Your cat will be grateful.


Skip the Ribbons

I will never figure out how to neatly wrap a Christmas present. Some people are masters at it and produce a flawless package. When I wrap a present, it looks like I left it at a campsite in Yosemite, and bears got into it. I eventually figured out the stick-on bows, but I can't use ribbon...and neither should you. People love to dangle strands of yarn for their cat to attack and play with, and those ribbon ends look just like the yarn to a cat. Not only will attacking the ribbon strands destroy your gift wrapping, cats like to eat things they kill. Eating a gift ribbon your cat just killed can cause all sorts of intestinal issues, some of which may require surgery.


Forget the Milk and Cookies

It's cute to leave some milk and cookies out for Santa, but you shouldn't. Firstly, Santa could stand to drop a few pounds. More importantly, that milk left out all night is a nice treat for your cat. Unfortunately, cats are lactose intolerant and all that traditional milk and cookies will get you is a cat with diarrhea on Christmas morning.


Be Jubilant and Jolly, Not Careless

It is easy to get caught up in all of the festiveness of Christmas. There is 24/7 Christmas-related advertising (starting in October), songs about Christmas on the radio, and kids making their lists of expectations. It's a stressful time for all.

With so much focus on children, feasts, gifts, company, decorations, and parties, it's easy to forget how your feline friend feels about the holidays. If you haven't figured it out, they don't like it. Give your cat the Christmas gift they most want this season: peace, quiet, and lap time.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 27, 2021:

You have a lot of good advice for cat owners at Christmas, Tom. I love all the pictures as well. Thanks for sharing this excellent information.

Srushti Gamit on September 27, 2021:

Omg all those pictures of cats are so adorable!!!

Quite an interesting and helpful article about how to keep your furry little friends safe during Christmas.

Thanks for sharing it with us.

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