- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Holiday festivities can brings a lot of unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells, people, and things into your home.
Many of these, like drunk Uncle Bob, are relatively harmless to be around. Others, especially common holiday plants, decor, and foods, can be both tempting and dangerous to the most important people we share our homes with–cats.
There’s no shame in showing off your holiday spirit, but do a quick double-check to make sure you’re not introducing new danger to your home. Here are some of the most common things to keep an eye out for, ensuring your furry family enjoys safe and happy holidays, too.
Holiday Plants to Keep Away From Cats
While the arrival of poinsettias at local grocery checkouts is a sure sign that the holidays are upon us, if you’re a cat owner you likely don’t give them a second glance. Though it’s true poinsettias are poisonous to cats, the reality is your kitty would have to ingest massive quantities of the leaves for them to be truly dangerous.
Because they don’t taste good, it’s unlikely that will happen. Instead, most experts point more to the dangers of the pesticides (and even sparkle spray) these bright plants are frequently doused with—ingestion of this residue can be more dangerous to your kitty so…best to keep on passing them by.
Mistletoe and Holly
The leaves and berries (both fresh and dried) of holly and mistletoe contain various substances that are toxic to cats. Depending on the size of the cat and how much is ingested, these can cause anything from severe intestinal distress and breathing problems to seizures and death. Perhaps it’s best to leave the garlands and mistletoe hanging outside your home.
Lilies and Daffodils
These cut flowers may be pretty and bright, but they’re also downright poisonous to cats. Just a few bites of either flower can be deadly to kitties so if you receive them you’ll want to put them somewhere absolutely out of reach of your cat. If your only option is outside, you might go straight for the garbage bin to ensure the safety of any outdoor kitties that may pay you a visit. Keep in mind that both lilies and daffodils frequently come in mixed flower bouquets—you may have to spend some time picking through that gift after saying thank you.
Amaryllis and Paperwhites
These plants, which flower from an exposed bulb, are extremely popular holiday gifts: easy to care for, delicately perfumed, and pretty—pretty dangerous, that is. Both the flowers and bulbs of these stunners contain noxious substances that can give kitties anything from a bellyache to tremors. Nature’s beauties sure can be beasts!
Aside from the fact that cats are famous for their Christmas tree antics, more annoying than anything else, there are some real dangers to Christmas trees. If eaten, tree needles can cause blockages and internal punctures; their oils can cause vomiting and gastrointestinal upset. Even worse is that water keeping your tree lively. Because it’s not fresh, usually just refreshed, it’s a petri dish of bad bacteria–keep it covered so kitty isn’t tempted.
Holiday Decorations to Keep Away From Cats
Let’s call a spade a spade here: everything about tinsel is a mess. It is impossible to clean up, non-recyclable and gets absolutely everywhere–including into the bellies of kitties who can’t help but be attracted to its sparkly crinkly-ness. Instead of buying presents, one piece of ingested tinsel can have you buying your kitty an obstruction surgery.
Candles lend that certain holiday glow to a festive home. But in a home with nature’s most talented “knocker-over-ers”, i.e. cats, they can be a recipe for disaster.
Get a multi-pack of different-sized LED candles instead of the real thing. Amazing because they’re reusable. Also amazing because they won’t set anything on fire.
Electronics and Cords
Sparkly things! Noise! Movement! Get the picture? Many fun decorations, from twinkle lights to train sets, require cords that are usually somewhat thin and very easy for a kitty to get his formidable fangs on. Chewing on electric chords can lead to burns and even heart problems.
Holiday Foods to Keep Away From Cats
Okay, yes: most cat food has turkey in it. But most cat food turkey also hasn’t been basted, braised, rubbed with garlic, stuffed with butter and sprinkled with herbs and spices. There are just too many variables here to safely give your cat scraps. Opt for a special, kitty-specific treat if they absolutely must partake in family dinner. This goes the same for ham—it’s too salty for cats!
Garlic and Onions
Alliums are toxic to cats, and alliums include onions, scallions, garlic, chives, shallots, and leeks. Eating these foods damages red blood cells in cats and leads to anemia, not to mention vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.
Bad news: It’s pretty much guaranteed that these are in the foods on your holiday table, from stuffing and green bean casserole to mashed potatoes and gravy. Just another reason to keep cats off the table.
Some cats really like sweets–from fruit to frosting–but just as for most of us, sweets really aren’t the best to ingest. While things like pumpkin, yams and sweet potato frequently appear in the ingredients list of your kitty’s favorite food, they’re not slathered in butter, soaked in sugar, or melted with marshmallows first. And they also don’t contain artificial sugars such as xylitol, or spices like nutmeg, both of which are highly toxic to cats.