Oh, Christmas Tree!: Keeping Your Cats Safe at Christmas

by | Aug 24, 2021 | cats

Okay, guys, time for a Christmas joke!

What do you get when you eat Christmas decorations? Tinselitis!

(Pause for laughter)

It’s not Christmas without a tree, but cats aren’t cats without a strong sense of curiosity!

Alright, that was a bad joke, but Christmas decorations can be dangerous for our pets – especially cats. Glass ornaments, strings of lights, and yes, tinsel, are all beautiful and shiny… and irresistible to our feline friends. We’ve all seen the heartwarming pictures of cats wrapped in Christmas lights or sleeping peacefully under the tree, but not all cats are so respectful of our carefully curated Christmas scenes. And yes, the videos of cats leaping away from falling trees, victorious that they’ve defeated their foes, are funny, but a Christmas Eve trip to the ER is no laughing matter.

Because cats are curious and tinsel looks like a great toy, cats are more likely to get into trouble with Christmas decorations than dogs. In particular, tinsel and garlands are a danger. Tinsel’s easily swallowed, but it doesn’t break down in the stomach. Once your cat swallows a strand of tinsel, your cat is at risk for obstruction, a trapped foreign body, or intestinal trauma. If your cat swallows a string of tinsel, you may see her pawing at her mouth, refusing to eat or vomiting. You may even see a little bit of the tinsel hanging from your cat’s anus. DO NOT TRY TO PULL THE TINSEL OUT! You could make the situation worse. Take your cat to the emergency clinic immediately.

It’s not just tinsel – ribbon and wrapping paper can be hazardous, too. Don’t let your cat play with or eat ribbons from your beautifully wrapped presents, and while playing with discarded wrapping paper is okay, take it away if you see your cat start to eat it.

What about ornaments? And the tree itself? Some cats just can’t help themselves – they just have to whack those shiny, dangly temptations! Don’t hang anything breakable or made of glass toward the bottom of the tree. Don’t allow your cat to climb the tree. Yes, it’s adorable, but danger outweighs a cute photo op. If your cat is persistent, then you may need to forego ornaments, or only put up ornaments that can take a whack or a bite. You may need to surround your tree with a baby gate.

(reddit.com/grove-guardian) Yep, that’s tinsel hanging from your cat’s bum. Nope, don’t try to pull it out!
A good place to wait for Santa, but not a good buffet option!
Christmas trees aren’t top of the list for what to NOT let your pet eat at Christmastime, but they are still considered a danger – the needles aren’t digestible and the tree’s oils can be irritating. The most common symptoms are drooling and vomiting, so be on the lookout if your cat’s been pawing around the tree. Mistletoe, holly, and poinsettias are all toxic to cats and should not be in cat-accessible places in your home in case your cat decides any of them look like a good snack. Poinsettias get a bad rap as the most toxic, but mistletoe and holly are considered more severely toxic by the Pet Poison Helpline. Either way, your cat should not be sampling the holiday decorations – or your Christmas dinner. A little plain chicken or turkey may be a nice Christmas treat, but no more than that! Lots of human foods are toxic to cats, including onions and chocolate. Spicy foods and rich foods can give your cat GI distress, from vomiting to diarrhea, (yep, comes out both ends!).
Perhaps your cat would enjoy a nice catnip mouse instead?

Have a safe and happy holiday season, from all of us at NSVC to all of you! And for more information on how to keep all four-legged members of your family safe this time of year, check in with your local veterinarian or online with the American Veterinary Medical Association‘s recommended holiday safety guidelines.