Things to Consider
Christmas is one of the most dangerous holidays for companion cats, for a number of reasons. Whether a cat is young or old, there is a good chance that it will try to climb up the Christmas tree. This behavior is normal for cats, which tend to treat the tree as their own private playground. It is also normal for cats to bat at the tempting ornaments dangling from the tree branches. Here are some suggestions to make the Christmas holiday safe for your feline friend.
Anchor The Tree
Cats find Christmas trees irresistible. Whether the tree is artificial or real, cats rarely can contain themselves from scratching on its bark and shimmying up its trunk. This, of course, can cause the Christmas tree to tip over. If the tree lights are on, this creates a potentially life-threatening fire hazard for everyone in the household. Many Christmas tree stands are flimsy and too small for the height and weight of the tree. It makes sense for cat owners to invest in a heavy, sturdy, stable tree stand. The legs of the stand can be secured with duct tape to an uncarpeted floor, to prevent cats from knocking the tree over. If the tree is on carpeting, it can be anchored with a wire or twine to a piece of heavy furniture. Be sure that the wire or string doesn’t itself pose a potential danger for children and pets.
Cats like to chew on the branches and needles of Christmas trees. Pine trees contain pine oil, which can cause gastrointestinal upset, lack of coordination (ataxia), anemia, breathing difficulties and changes in mentation. Cats are especially sensitive to pine oil and should not be allowed to chew on pine needles. The needles usually are quite sharp and can puncture a cat’s eyes or even its intestines if swallowed. Cat owners can reduce these risks by spraying the branches with a mixture of cayenne pepper and water. The sharp taste should deter any further chewing. Cats also like to chew on electric wires. The cords of Christmas lights should be placed in such a way that the cat cannot get at them. Be sure to cover the wires leading from the tree to the electrical outlet, either by taping them down or running them through an empty paper towel or wrapping paper roll.
Secure Loose Ornaments
Cat can’t resist batting at Christmas ornaments and chasing them around the house. Unfortunately, fragile glass ornaments can shatter. Other ornaments may have sharp or pointed edges, both of which can cause serious injury externally or, if swallowed, internally. The most dangerous ornaments are the thin glass balls. When they hit the floor they break, and the kitty can get glass shards in its paws or nose. Unbreakable ornaments should be placed near the bottom of the tree. All ornaments should be securely attached to the branches to prevent them from falling.
Watch Out For Presents And Tinsel
The packages under the Christmas tree can also be dangerous. Cats love to play with ribbons – especially the thin, curly ones. Ribbons can be swallowed and become entangled in the cat’s intestines, causing intestinal blockages. Cats are prone to having string, ribbon or yarn become wrapped around the base of their tongue, which is both dangerous and painful. A huge cause of gastrointestinal abnormalities in cats around the holidays is tinsel – especially the long, thin, single-stranded shiny silver kind. Cats tend to pick tinsel up with their rough tongues while they are grooming. Like ribbon, tinsel can be very dangerous for cats when swallowed. Owners can help reduce these holiday risks by using rope tinsel and wide ribbon. Cats don’t like the sound of foil, so gifts can be wrapped in foil paper and wide ribbon. Newspaper always makes a good wrapping for packages and does not seem to be particularly attractive to cats. It is also environmentally friendly and easy to recycle.