Cats and the Holidays: Common Health Hazards & Safety Tips

Be careful with chocolate, it is very dangerous to cats and dogs

In this article, our vet Joanna discusses some of the most common health hazards that are easily overlooked by cat owners during Christmas and New Year.

1. What hazards to pets do owners overlook?
Everyone knows that chocolate is poisonous to pets, but year after year we vets still see dogs (and sometimes cats!) getting into chocolate. Please remember to place all chocolate-containing gifts (and even those that look or smell suspicious) out of your dog’s reach.

You should be especially cautious if you have a new dog or your dog is on steroids or similar medication that increases their appetite, as they might reach for food they haven’t bothered with before.

2. Which decorations pose the most hazard?
Of course, cats like to climb Christmas trees, and on the whole, this isn’t dangerous. But please be aware that they can get tangled in the Christmas lights and cause themselves damage. They can also topple a Christmas tree- so if your cat insists on climbing one, it can be a good idea to secure it from above as well as in a good, wide stand at the base.

Tip: Struggeling to keep your cat out of the Christmas tree? Try this: go to a craft store and pick up a few artificial pine garlands. Back home, wrap them around the bottom layer of the tree and extend them out towards the outer edge of the branches (essentially making a thick, impenetrable pine platform on the bottom). Done!

Ribbons are also a danger to cats, especially curious kittens. They are fun to play with, and many cats will bat them about and chew on them. However, if they’re swallowed, they can cause serious gastric problems very quickly. Clear up dropped ribbons promptly and encourage your cat to play with toys, not wool or ribbons.

Cats love Christmas trees, but they can topple. Do not let them play with decorations while unsupervised, either, as they can easily swallow a ribbon.

3. How to help pets cope with stress during the holiday season?
Cats in particular can find changes around the house scary at Christmas. New people in the house, changes to furniture layout, and new smells can all cause stress. Try to keep at least one room of the house (ideally your cat’s favourite room) the same as it usually is. Make sure they have a litter tray and food and water in this room too, so it’s their choice whether they come out and join in the festivities.

Straight after Christmas is New Year, and with it comes fireworks. To keep your pet’s stress to a minimum, make them a safe bed, close the curtains, and turn on the radio to drown out the fireworks. Some pets may need medication- please talk to your vet about this ahead of time so that you can be prepared.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments

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