Christmas Cat Safety 101

Redbarn December 22, 2013

Keep Your Cat Safe this Holiday Season

It is nearing that special time of year, full of joy, family, and fun. Christmas also brings a lot of hustle, bustle, and stress, not only for you but your pets as well, especially the family cat.

All the festive decorations add a new form of frolicking and playtime, jumping in the tree, nibbling on bright colored decorations and pawing at the pretty, sparkly lights.  It may all seem like innocent fun to watch, but without pet-proofing your home at Christmas, the gaiety can quickly turn tragic.

Although we revel in the gloss and glimmer of the holidays, it is just another day for your feline; one filled with changes that need investigating.  There is nothing cuter than to peek through the Christmas tree to see your kitty perching among the branches while swatting at the pretty ornaments and tinsel.

However, these fun “activities” can cause your pet harm and pain. To provide a safe and fun environment during the holiday season, consider the following tips.

Holiday Plants

Be sure to keep most holiday plants out of the reach of your cats, such as the Poinsettia, Holly, Mistletoe and many varieties of Lilies like the Tiger, Stargazer, Japanese Show, Asian and Casa Blanca Lilies.  Most often, cats will not eat the plants, but they do frequently lick at them and then lick themselves.

Transmission of the plant fluids can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and lethargy. Since it may be impossible to keep plants out of reach of a leaping feline, it is sometimes best to opt for the showy, decorative silk foliage and florals; still pretty but non-toxic to snooping pet.


Candles are always a showy piece to add warmth and joy to the season. They also add curiosity to the inquisitive kitty.  Candles are an irresistible piece of décor that your cat may swat and paw at, sniff and explore. The same goes for the fireplace.

If the paws or whiskers get burnt it can be painful; worse yet, if the candle gets knocked over, a fire can ensue.

Never leave candles unattended. In a home with a cat, you may choose to go with the battery-powered tea lights and candles. Concerning a lit fireplace, monitor its use around the cat and keep the screen secured over it.

Cats and the Christmas Tree

When it comes to the tree, your cat may think you just brought it home for him or her to climb and perch.  It is difficult to keep your cat away from such an inviting plaything.  You will have to monitor your cat constantly or not allow her in the “tree room.”

Want to save yourself the hassle? Another option is a small tabletop tree that the cat won’t jump on or place one in an area protected by a playpen or tall gates.

Real vs artificial Christmas Tree

Your best bet is to choose an artificial tree; if a cat nibbles on the real tree, it can cause discomfort in the mouth, nausea and intestinal illness. Additionally, cats sometimes like to “water” the real tree or drink from the water it sits in.

If you do have this type of tree, do not put anything in the water such as preservatives or fertilizers. Other dangers include your cat being electrocuted when she chews on wires, cutting herself on broken glass ornaments and having her intestines blocked from tinsel that’s been ingested.

An artificial tree is a safer option, but you may need to use some twine or wire to prop it up in the event “someone” jumps on or in it.  You may then have to select cat safe ornaments such as kitty toys, at least along the lower branches.  This can often keep your cat from jumping higher onto the tree.

You can try to keep the cat away from the tree by crinkling some foil under the tree skirt or in place of it; cats do not like the sound of the foil and may keep away.  Other options are available when trying to keep your cat away from the tree.

Some ideas include clear plastic carpet protectors, placing them under the tree and nub side up; soft “tacky mats” available from home product stores designed to keep throw rugs from sliding around; and a product known as Sticky Paws, which is a double-sided tape product designed for cat training.


When decorating the tree, avoid the tinsel and glass decorations.  Avoid the strands of garland or tinsel and choose ornaments that are non-toxic and safe in the event they break.

Ornaments are like toys to your cat, so guarantee they are secure on the tree.  This is especially important if you must put up your favorite, delicate ornaments; be sure also to place them closer to the top of the tree.

When it comes to the lights, hide the wires as much as possible, and any hanging wires need to be tied together and out of sight.  Anything that dangles will be an open invitation to your playful feline.

Cats do not like the smell of citrus. So, you may opt to spread citrus potpourri around the base of the tree or orange and lemon peels.

Often, Vicks menthol works as a good cat repellent if you don’t mind this scent at the holidays.  Dip some cotton balls in Vicks and stick discreetly around the lower limbs of the tree to deter your cat from making a home in your Christmas tree.

Holiday Visitors and Table Scraps

Beyond the decorations are the family and friend get-togethers. Watch out for tables full of food and goodies. You will need to be aware of the whereabouts of your cat at all times. You do not want him or her to eat people food, which could be harmful to the pet’s digestive system.

Be sure also to inform all your guests no people food and table scraps for kitty, under any circumstances, despite the cute face and pleading eyes.

It is important to keep an eye on your cat during the holidays, especially with visiting guests so that there aren’t any escapes while doors are constantly opening. Ensure your cat is well identifiable with a collar and tags or a microchip, in the event of an escape.


Make certain your home is protected with tightly closed trash bins so that your cat will not go foraging for food, leftovers, bones and more.

Bones can splinter if ingested and cause injury to the intestinal tract and any of the other food remnants can lead to grave illness in your pet.


Being cautious for the holidays includes the after-party cleanup.  Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today, cats love to rummage while you’re sleeping!

Anything toxic should be cleaned up and tossed out in that tightly sealed trash bin before you retire for the evening.

Be prepared in the event of an emergency, have phone numbers easily available for the Emergency Vet, your veterinarian, and Pet Poison Control.  It is always better to be safe than sorry.

DIY Toys

If you want to let your feline have a little fun during the holiday hustle and bustle, give her some empty boxes, old crinkled wrapping paper and a new cat approved toy; your cat will have a ball.

Be cautious about letting her play with ribbons and bows, especially if you are not in the room.

It seems like so much to go through to enjoy the holidays, but a little preparation can make the festivities more enjoyable for all.  Pets are loved members of the family and during this time of year they are only exercising their inquisitive instincts.

Being a responsible pet owner means having a safe and happy holiday for people and pet alike.

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