Enjoying Hazard-Free Holidays

It’s important to remember these tips of pet safety during the festivities of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The holiday season is fast approaching, and your cat’s safety is probably the last thing on your mind — well behind preparing Thanksgiving dinner for your new in-laws and buying presents for Christmas or Chanukah. But it shouldn’t be. Probably the most important “gift” you can give your feline friend during these holidays is the pledge to remain alert about her whereabouts and well-being when your home is filled with guests, enticing foods, gift-wrapped goodies and new plants.


Turkey: Trouble? You’ve eaten your share of the perfectly roasted bird. You couldn’t even look at another piece of Aunt Mabel’s award-winning sweet potato pie with the marshmallow topping. And kitty is circling the table, looking for just a bite of the spoils. Is it a good idea to give her a taste? Actually not, according to experts.

Fatty leftovers can be harmful to your cat. If she’s not accustomed to eating table scraps, they can cause gastrointestinal problems. Make sure your well-meaning guests know not to slip her scraps under the table throughout the meal. If you really want to treat your pet, cut a few scraps of meat (without gravy and the like) and feed her from her own bowl away from the festivities.

While it’s obviously not a good idea to offer your cat turkey bones, cats sometimes scrounge it from the trash can. Luckily, they don’t pose quite as much of a danger as they do to dogs because cats tend to be more discriminating. They don’t usually gnaw on bones. Still, to be safe, keep the trash locked away from curious pets.

Christmas and Chanukah. The decorations, gifts the tree or the menorah — we all look forward to the winter holidays and the traditions they bring. But while the holidays might mean a time of joy for us, they can also spell danger for our cats.

Just like Thanksgiving, avoid feeding table scraps indiscriminately during the December festivities. Chocolate, which contains the chemicals caffeine and theobromine, can be toxic if cats eat enough of it. Be watchful for vomiting or restlessness as these may be signs of poisoning; and be prepared to take your cat to the veterinarian if you observe these signs.

With cats, it’s especially important to be watchful regarding holiday decorations. Lighted candles can be easily knocked over or swatted at. Holiday plans may contain toxins, so keep them out of reach (or better yet, don’t bring them into your home in the first place). One option is to replace them with fakes.

Watch the Tinsel. By far the most serious Yuletide threat to cats is tinsel. A cat can swallow a length of tinsel or ribbon, which gets wound around the base of the tongue or caught in the stomach. The intestines keep working to try to move it through. If the tinsel or ribbon isn’t stuck, the veterinarian can give the cat bulky food to get the obstruction to pass. But if it does get stuck, tinsel can cut through the intestinal wall, resulting in peritonitis, a life-threatening infection. The prognosis in this very serious situation is often dire.

If, however, the tinsel doesn’t cut into the intestines, the recovery rate is a lot better. In all cases, however, it’s vital to get your cat to a veterinarian immediately if you suspect she’s swallowed a length of tinsel or ribbon. Small toys, too, can be dangerous — and can lead to an intestinal blockage — if your cat manages to swallow one.

A final word of caution: Avoid giving a kitten to a friend or family member during the holidays. Despite the happiness a kitten may bring, it’s difficult to remain vigilant about the kitten’s whereabouts and to give him the kind of attention he’ll need during the holidays. Even though the gift is a thoughtful one, committing someone else — even your own child — to caring for a cat may be unwise.