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cat playing with christmas tree

Christmas Safety for Cats

5 min read

As the craziest of years begins to draw to a close, people’s thoughts turn to Christmas - and while this year it might look a bit different, there is comfort to be found in traditions and making the festive season as special as possible for the whole family.

If you’re a cat owner, Christmastime can be a stressful and dangerous time. Luckily, there’s lots of things you can do to make sure your cat’s happy and safe this festive season, keep reading to find out more.

Christmas is such an exciting time of year, but unfortunately all the twinkling lights and merriment can be hazardous for your cat. From climbing the Christmas tree to the stress of visiting family members and hazardous treats that may turn out to be harmful, cats and Christmas can sometimes be a real recipe for disaster. But it doesn’t need to be! When managed with a bit of extra care, the holidays can be a time of fun and happiness for both you and your four-legged friend.

 

Cats and Christmas trees

As a cat owner, you’ll know that your kitty is a huge fan of climbing everything in sight. So, it should come as no surprise that often, cats see Christmas trees as just another challenge to get to the top of. But this may well result in your ambitious cat pulling the tree to the ground. You’ll need to ensure that you have a heavy base – you can either buy one of these or attach weights to the bottom. Alternatively, you can tether your tree to the wall or ceiling to make sure it’s not budging, no matter how much your cat tries to replace your angel or star at the top.

Hazardous Christmas decorations

Another element to cats and Christmas trees is that dangling, sparkly decorations often prove a temptation too great to resist. This can be particularly dangerous if you have glass baubles as if they swat these off your tree they may shatter and hurt your cat. Additionally, tinsel and angel hair can cause blockages if ingested. To make sure you have a cat-friendly Christmas tree in your home, stay away from glass baubles and any that are made with toxic materials, ditch the tinsel and angel hair and securely attach all decorations to the tree, ensuring none are too close to the bottom, with reach of a swatting cat paw.

Be wary of mains powered Christmas tree lights

Cats and Christmas tree lights can also be a bad combination as the wires resemble fun toys for your kitty. Any wires will need to be covered to stop them being chewed and when you’re not home, switch the lights off at the mains. If you’re a fan of leaving your lights on all the time, battery-powered options are much safer.

Are Christmas trees poisonous to cats?

cat sniffing christmas tree

Fir trees are mildly toxic and may produce oils which can cause irritation to a cat’s mouth and stomach, but it’s very unlikely that your cat will eat large enough amounts to hurt themselves.

There’s also a small risk with fallen needles from Christmas trees because if they’re swallowed, they could puncture your cat’s gastrointestinal system. An artificial tree might be easier, but if you’ve got your heart set on buying a real tree then a non-drop variety is safer.

Problems with live, potted Christmas trees

Another thing to be aware of is that there may be fertilisers and plant food present in potted Christmas trees which can be highly poisonous to your cat. So, if you’ve purchased a ready potted live tree, change the soil to remove any potentially dangerous chemicals. Potted trees can also present another problem – if the container’s quite large, your cat may think it’s a lovely new litter tray! To prevent this, cover the top of your soil with pebbles or a cover to stop them getting to it.

If you’ve tried to create a cat-friendly Christmas tree and it just proves too great a temptation, try keeping your cat out of the room with the tree.

 

Additional Christmas dangers

Snow globes

Some contain ethylene glycol (antifreeze) inside. If broken, the glass can hurt your kitty and the liquid is highly toxic, so always keep snow globes well out of the way.

Festive plants

If you have a house cat or kitten, they may be interested in your festive plants. A few plants that are poisonous to cats which may be present around the Christmas period are poinsettia, holly, mistletoe, amaryllis and certain ferns.

Christmas food

Christmas dinner is definitely one of the best parts of the season for us, but for cats, it can be hazardous. If you have gammon or beef with your festive meal, be aware of the meat string that ties up the joint – these are soaked in meat juices and look tasty but can cause choking if swallowed. Additionally, there are a variety of toxic or poisonous Christmas foods such as onions, garlic, raisins, chocolates, grapes and alcohol to name a few.

Avoiding stress for cats at Christmastime

cat and christmas presents

Cats and Christmas can be a very stressful combination, especially if you have a nervous kitty. But fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make sure that the holidays go much smoothly for them.

In the midst of all this festive spirit however it is easy to forget what your cat’s view of Christmas might be - and how for many, it can easily become a season of misery rather than merriment.

Most cats like things… well… the way they like them! The way they always are. They like things to smell as they usually do, look as they usually do, behave they way they usually do - and they like to be surrounded by all their usual servants… I mean, people. Their routine, their environment and their home comforts are important to them, give them security and allow them to rule the home as is of course their right! 

At Christmas time, all that changes. There is an atmosphere of excitement in the air (or panic - depending on the household!), the house looks different as it becomes festooned with tinsel and lights, and very often there are strange people turning up to eat, drink and be merry. 

And that’s before you even start with the Christmas tree that has somehow appeared in the house!

For many cats this can be a time of stress and worry - as well as one full of potential dangers. For others, those felines that love to explore and be a part of everything that is going on, it is a time to get into mischief, knock things off shelves, jump in boxes and shred wrapping paper and generally investigate all that the festivities can offer an inquisitive cat!

So how can you make sure Christmas is a time of goodwill to all felines - and keep them safe?

Try to keep the disruption to one room

Having your tree, decorations, presents, strange people and celebrations in one room, while keeping the rest of your house familiar, will give your cat plenty of ‘unchanged’ places to relax in and escape to. It also gives you one room you can keep your cat out of if you are not there to supervise.

Start by attaching your tree to the wall or tying the top of it to something secure - so that if your cat tries to climb it, it won’t fall over. Don’t shout at your cat or get annoyed if they do attempt some Christmas tree orienteering - let’s face it, it’s what cats do - and some breeds seriously love to climb! It is best quietly discouraged though and you can always distract them by playing with a different and more interesting toy instead.

Make sure your decorations are as ‘cat-proof’ as you can get them

Tinsel, baubles and other hanging decorations look like the most fascinating of cat toys - and the inquisitive, the playful and the downright mischievous will be unable to resist their allure but many have their dangers. Avoid tinsel - which can be dangerous if eaten - keep any lights out of feline reach, and also don’t use delicate glass ornaments, instead consider more robust decorations like wooden or plastic ones. 

Consider setting up a multi-level, cat play area that is more exciting than a tree - and keep this topped up with treats, interesting toys and interactive games so it’s way more rewarding for your cat to climb and explore. Include a scratching post too so that they are not tempted to use the bottom of the tree if you have a real one. This is something that can stay up long after the tree has come down (and you can consider this your cat’s Christmas present!).

Consider setting up a stair gate

If you are going to have young children in the house that your cat doesn’t know (or strange dogs), have a stair gate in the doorway of the room you will be having most of your celebrations in - so your cat can leave the room through or over the gate without the children following. If your cat likes to be involved in what is going on, make sure they have some safe spaces, ideally on different levels, so they can supervise from a comfortable distance. If you have children visiting, make sure that they’re always supervised with your cat.

Be mindful of using too many cleaning products in the home

While you are going to want to make sure your house looks its best if you are inviting family around, don't go too crazy with the cleaning, polishing and air fresheners. These can disturb the comforting scent marks your cat leaves around the house that helps them feel at home and secure, and can lead to anxiety. So lightly clean and tidy the rooms you’ll be using - and don’t worry too much about the rest (which might be just the excuse you need not to feel you have to scrub the house from top to bottom before your relatives arrive!). 

Keep the cat safe away from the kitchen

There’s always plenty of cooking going on during the festive period and this poses new threats to your pet. From cooking oil, hot stoves to clanging pots and pans, it’s a good idea to keep cats out of the kitchen at Christmas

Make sure your cat has everything they need

If you know your cat will make themselves scarce when there are strangers in the house, make sure that they have food, water and a litter tray wherever they are likely to use as their sanctuary. Create a safe, quiet space away from the commotion – perhaps in a spare bedroom – and provide your cat with everything they need, that way they don’t have to come out unless they want to

Most importantly, take an hour or two out of your festive celebrations just to have some ‘cat time’ - doing the things you know your cat enjoys. That might be playing with interactive hunting toys, it might be grooming, or it might just be spending quiet time together. This is the best present you can give your cat for Christmas. 

Christmas should be a time of joy for all the family - and with a bit of thought and cattention, you can make sure your cat enjoys it as much as you do.

That’s our guide to making sure your cat is safe at Christmastime! Next, check out the best presents you can offer a cat this holiday season.