TFrazao is a registered Veterinary Practitioner for ten years and a Comp. Science Master recent grad. She believes in the fusion of things.
Christmas is coming
Christmas is near. As with other times in the year, this is another festive time that requires Christmas decorations in the walls, a Christmas tree, gifts with ribbons...and lots of Christmas spirit.
Problems with cats and Christmas decorations
Why are Christmas decorations so problematic for cats?
The decorations are like a playground for cats. The baubles glitter, hanging objects, with their lights and movement, attract cats.
Examples of items include:
- Fabric strip
- Christmas tree tinsel
These are examples of deadly temptations. The decorations are especially problematic if cats ingest some parts of these items that can lead to esophageal, stomach, and intestinal obstructions.
What are intestinal obstructions?
Intestinal obstructions are a veterinary emergency that often requires surgery. They may be suspected from the history: missing objects or destroyed toys. The cat can present clinical signs of obstruction like dehydration, vomiting, anorexia, weight loss, lethargy, and sometimes abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Normally the surgeries tend to go well but can occur some complications. Not to forget that it is necessary hospitalization after surgery and follow-ups.
Timing is also essential. Suppose perforations arise because the owner didn't take the cat to the veterinary hospital quickly enough because he did not recognize the clinical signs mentioned. In that case, the prognosis depends on the severity of the perforation and the abdominal wall's inflammation.
How can you keep your cat safe at this time of the year?
Keep decorations in a separate room
If the cat is young and not familiar with Christmas decorations, you can have a room decorated with everything you want but do not allow access to the cat to this room if this room is like the dining room, where the family eats. This approach is the safest one.
Decorations that are cat friendly
Just like with kids, you can try to choose decorations that are safer. Try to choose simple decorations without strings, ribbons, everything that can be linear or similar to a cat toy, since cats tend to play with string toys. Remember that linear foreign bodies are the common foreign bodies in cats comparing with dogs.
Involve other people
You can advise your family members not to let the cat enter the room and keep an eye on the cat not to let the cat play with the Christmas tree, decorations, or ribbons from opened gifts. It is essential to involve everyone in the training process for consistency.
Train the cat to avoid the objects - use a reward system
The best way to train your cat is to reward your behaviors and ignore what you don't like or try to distract your cat from the decorations. You can buy new toys for your cat, for example, recent scratching posts, for the cat to interact and be distracted. If the cat enjoys time with the latest toys, you can reinforce this behavior by giving him a treat. You can reward the cat with small kibbles. The ones I use at home are from Hills Science Diet. But you can use others, like little slices of chicken or turkey ham.
Instead of trying to teach your cat no to play with Christmas decorations, teach him to play with the new toys. This way, you can redirect its behavior.
But what happens if positive training does not help? What other options do you have?
It would be best if you never used any violence towards your cat (or any animal) since it does not work, and the cat may become fearful of you. And the worst scenario, there is what veterinarians call "aggression redirected." This behavior occurs when a cat is aroused by a person (for example, owner) but cannot direct aggression toward the stimulus (the owner). Then the cat shows aggressive body posture, hiss, or growls to other person or animal in the family, and ultimately they may be the recipients of an aggressive attack. We don't want this. Just let me tell you if this happens, you should avoid the cat until it calms down. And the best way to calm an agitated cat is to put the cat in a silent, darkened room.
The options owners have to keep away the cat from the Christmas decorations are using a:
- citronella spray,
- water spray (my favorite option),
- noise deterrent device to chase the cat away from the decorations.
The water spray is easy and economical to use. You can put a bottle spray in each room where there are the decorations, and if the cat gets near the decorations, you spray a little bit of water, and the cat will run off away.
Keeping everyone safe at this time of the year can be a challenge but is possible. Following some of these steps, you can actually be calm and confident that you can reduce risks.
DVM MSc Tania Frazao (author) from Lisbon on December 15, 2020:
Thank you so much for your appreciation. Merry Christmas.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 15, 2020:
Good advice! We have some friends whose cats are now enjoying their first Christmas in their home. They were raised as kittens together. She is having some success using the water bottle spray.