The Clinic cats—Monster, Petey, Jack, Momma Kitty, and Tip-Toe—worked really hard to put together this guide to holiday hazards. They hope you find the information useful.

Plants

Monster wants you to know that several plants popular during the holiday months can be poisonous if your cat ingests leaf, stem, or flower. Monster suggests placing these plants where your cat can’t access them, training your cat to stay away from them, and learning the symptoms of poisoning.

Momma Kitty urges you to seek professional veterinary care immediately if you suspect your cat has ingested a poisonous plant or if your cat displays signs of poisoning!

Poisonous holiday plants include:

    Holly

    Lilies (all kinds)—Ingestion of any part of the lily requires immediate veterinary attention!

    Mistletoe

    Poinsettia

Symptoms of poisoning are often vague (Tip-Toe: We cats always try to hide symptoms of illness.) but can include:

    vomiting

    diarrhea

    drooling

    lethargy

Ribbons, Strings, Tinsel

“Mmmm, ribbon.” Former Clinic cat Simba loved to eat ribbon when his owner’s back was turned. Former owner Dr. Letrisa Miller once had to perform emergency abdominal surgery on Simba to remove the two feet of ribbon he’d swallowed over the holidays.

Some cats love to eat string, ribbon, rubber bands, and so on. Because these items can cut the intestines or cause them to twist, they pose a serious hazard. Never let a cat play with a string or ribbon unsupervised, and never let a cat try to swallow one.

Tinsel poses an especially lethal danger to cats.

Trees and Trimmings

“Jack, here. Did you know fir trees are toxic? Fortunately most of us cats know better than to gnaw on a tree! (Trees are for climbing, silly.) We do like to drink the water from the bowl at the base of the tree, however, but we have no way of knowing if its contaminated with tree-fresh chemicals or insecticides/pesticides leached from the tree itself.”

Use a tree stand with a water reservoir that your cat cannot drink from.
Due to the danger it poses, we don’t recommend decorating your tree with tinsel.

Some cats, especially kittens, like to chew power cords. Cord protectors are an easy-to-find and inexpensive precaution you can take.

Holiday Food

Never allow pets to lick drippings from uncooked meats (”Even if we beg pretty please and look at you with big saucer eyes,” adds Petey). The drippings can contain large amounts of dangerous bacteria. If you’d like to give your cat a turkey treat, wait until after you’ve thoroughly cooked the meat. If it’s not cooked well enough to be safe for you, it’s not safe for your cat either!

Monster wants to point out that cats excel at finding ways of getting to what they want. “So, if you’ve discarded a chicken or turkey carcass or any other unused or spoiled meat, make sure it’s in a tightly sealed garbage can, or I’ll be having a midnight feast and a really bad tummy ache a few hours (or even days) later.”

Stress

The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone in the household -- including your cat! You might be leaving for vacation or having guests to the house. All this unusual activity can disturb your cat’s routine and lead to depression, behavioral problems, or even illness.

Petey offers the following advice: “If you’ll be having guests over during the holidays, provide me with a safe, quite place to go, somewhere the children can’t pull my tail and your uncle with size 12 shoes won’t step on me!”

Monster adds, “Even social butterflies like me appreciate a place to get away from it all.”

Monster also wants to advise you to take time everyday to play with your cat. He says, “We’ll both feel so much better, and you’ll get a chance to observe me for any signs of illness, poisoning, or depression. I usually hide symptoms anyways, so unless you make time for me, you’ll likely miss something until it’s really a big problem. And neither of us wants that!”

Miscellaneous

Holiday time coincides with the arrival of winter. For many people this means it’s the time of year when antifreeze gets added to the radiator. Always clean up spills of antifreeze. Although most cats won’t lick it up, they might accidentally step in it and then ingest it when they groom. Antifreeze is deadly, so seek immediate veterinary care if you suspect your cat has ingested any.

Momma Cat says, “I’ve observed that many people like to celebrate the holidays by drinking lots of alcohol (which seems to be like catnip to them) and then eating aspirin or Tylenol. Just remember that these two drugs can be deadly for me and my feline friends. Especially the Tylenol. Dr. Miller told me about a cat who got Tylenol poisoning just from licking a capsule!”

Candles and other open flames are a danger not only to one-eyed cats like us,” say Tip-Toe and Jack. “Even with two eyes your cat can accidentally singe whiskers or set its tail on fire if its too close to a candle.”

© 2009 by The Cat Clinic of Norman, P.C.