Whether it’s Christmas, Diwali or you’re just having a dinner party, everyone loves a good celebration. But loud noises, crowds and unfamiliar situations can be worrying for pets who aren’t used to them, so here are a few tips to help you and your cat enjoy party season.
Hosting a party
There are plenty of things you can do to make party life as comfortable as possible for your cat, both before and during the celebrations.
Make sure there’s a familiar and quiet place where she can escape to.
Some cats are quite curious about new people, but others prefer to hide away until they’re sure everything is safe. Prepare a quiet room in a different part of the house full of her favourite toys, bedding and, if suitable, a litter tray. If possible, try to introduce her to this place and help her get familiar with it a couple of weeks in advance. Play with her there with her favourite toys and games, and consider treating her to create a positive association with the room. She will be much more relaxed if she has a familiar refuge to call her own.
Many party decorations, especially at Christmas and Halloween, can be quite hazardous. Long trails of fairy lights can look a lot like her favourite dangle toy. Set up the tree without decorations until your cat becomes used to its presence, and then keep decorations high and out of reach. Get your cat used to ignoring decorations by playing with her and her favourite toys and games around the tree, keeping her attention on safe, tested and familiar objects. Avoid using potentially hazardous materials like glass decorations, and tape wires down or keep them behind furniture. Pine needles are mildly toxic, as are many Christmas favourites such as holly and mistletoe, so discourage her if she shows any inclination to chew. Candles are another one to watch out for. She will probably steer clear of fire, but make sure she can’t knock them off your shelf or mantlepiece by mistake.
Make sure no-one is feeding your cat any nibbles or leftovers. Let everybody know that your cat has her own meal times and specific food and even if she looks interested in the appetisers served, she shouldn’t be offered them. An over-supply of rich human food can cause vomiting or diarrhoea and chicken bones can be a choking hazard and may require an emergency visit to the vet.
Keep an eye on her.
Most cats are more than capable of looking after themselves and, whether yours is happy to stretch out by the fire and be the centre of attention or prefers to leave the room, check on her from time to time to make sure she isn’t becoming spooked by the hustle and bustle and has everything she needs. She will need to be stimulated at least from time to time, as she would be when you are at home, as she is used to that routine.
Fireworks parties present issues all of their own. Loud, sporadic noises that don’t have an obvious source can be frightening and confusing for your cat. Here are some additional tips that will help your Fireworks Night, Diwali or New Year’s Eve celebration go more smoothly.
Acclimatise her to noise.
If your cat is easily spooked by loud noises, ask your vet if they can recommend a pet behaviourist. Acclimatisation, especially when young, can teach cats that bangs and rumbles are nothing to worry about. You can also buy CDs designed to get your cat used to loud noises.
Keep her in after nightfall.
If your cat has access to the outdoors, make sure she’s in before it gets dark and then shut the cat flap and close the windows. Even if you’re not having a fireworks party yourself, your neighbours might be, and panicking animals can easily run away and get lost or injured. It’s also a good idea to make sure she’s microchipped.
Speak to your vet.
If your cat’s behaviour doesn’t change, despite the tips adopted and initiatives taken with the support of a behaviourist, let your vet know that she’s still showing signs of anxiety when noise is very loud. There are a number of different commercial solutions available, such as synthetic feline pheromones, that your vet can advise you about.
Keep curtains drawn and windows closed to quieten fireworks outside. Play music or turn on the TV to provide a constant, identifiable noise to mask infrequent, random bangs.
Keep her busy with her favourite toys and games. If they don’t seem to be working, break out the catnip, treats and laser pens!
Provide a quiet, safe place to hide in.
Whether it’s a room on the other side of the house or just a hidey-hole under your furniture, make sure she has access to a familiar, warm and quiet place where she can find refuge. Don’t tempt her out with treats if she decides that’s where she wants to be. Allow her to calm down at her own pace and make sure you keep your cat safely inside.