Monday, December 14, 2009 11:16 AM

Making the Holidays Safe for Your Cat

'Tis the season for Yuletide cheer, parties and decorating. Articles abound this time of year brimming with tips on how to celebrate without compromising your cat's safety. I'll be adding my voice to the choir, since, even if some of these warnings are redundant, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Plants: Many decorative plants are toxic to pets if chewed or eaten. A partial list includes poinsettias, holly, mistletoe and, according to an article by Justine Lee in this month's Prevention magazine, any flower in the lily family, which are especially poisonous for cats. She suggests more benign flowering plants for your Christmas arrangements, such as marigolds, orchids, daisies or roses.

Foods: Sweets aren't particularly good for cats (or dogs), but treats containing chocolate, raisins, grapes or currants can be deadly. Make sure kitty doesn't run off with someone's half-eaten crumpet while he is dancing around with a lampshade on his head! Also, alcohol is a big no-no, so be careful to dump unattended drinks just in case your cat decides to sample some.

Decorations: Tinsel strands are definitely out if you have cats. Ingested tinsel will almost certainly cause intestinal obstruction. Use the bough style, and keep it away from the bottom of the tree, where looping strings of anything are an invitation to swiping paws. Ditto for ornaments, particularly breakable ones. Plastic ones are okay nearer to the bottom of the tree, as long as there are not hooks or small pieces that can get caught in the cats' mouth or throat. If your cat tends to climb the tree, try securing it with a couple of strings to the wall or balustrades on the staircase so it won't tip over. If kitty chews on electrical cords (train him out of this ASAP, by the way), forgo string lights, for the risk is not worth it. Not only could your pet be electrocuted, but Lee's article points out that many lights contain methylene chloride, which is highly toxic to pets.

Wrapping for gifts: Ribbon, especially the thin style, can be dangerous for cats to play with. Not only could it get wrapped around paws or necks, but can cause problems if chewed and ingested. Making a wrapping-paper ball for your cat to play with is fine, just be sure that the dye used is non-toxic.

Following these tips should keep your holidays happy and safe for both people and pets. And don't forget to surprise your cats with a nice catnip toy in each of their stockings on Christmas morning!
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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