How to make sure your cat has a happy Christmas
Most of us look forward to the festive period; the food, the guests, the tree and decorations. However, for cats, Christmas may be a time of stress and risk of injury. As a species they enjoy routine and are sensitive to changes in their environment, making the celebrations challenging. In addition, the season means certain toxic plants and food may be accessible to curious cats. At International Cat Care we have consulted our veterinary members to ask them what injuries they see at this time of year. Based on this information and with the input of the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) this article offers advice on what to keep out of reach and what to do to minimise the disruption to keep our cats happy this Christmas.
Poinsettia is often mentioned as a potentially poisonous plant but its reputation is perhaps unfair. The Veterinary Poisons Information Service informs us that in over half the cases of pets eating Poinsettia plants reported to them, the cat or dog shows no signs of illness. If they do show any signs they are mild such as being sick, drooling, refusing food and being quieter than normal. Even these signs soon resolve without any specific treatment. Nevertheless, it is still a good idea to keep the plant out of reach. In addition, mistletoe, holly, ivy and Christmas cherry can cause a tummy upset and should be kept away from inquisitive cats.
Many cat owners have had the experience of their cat climbing the Christmas tree and it falling over. Usually, both are unharmed but it is worth considering securing the tree to avoid this. Injuries are reported from falling from Christmas trees and from the resulting smashed baubles, with glass ones particularly sharp when broken. Ingestion of Christmas tree needles and the fake snow applied to them can cause stomach upset and other decorations can be ingested resulting in a ‘foreign body’. Chewing of lights and wires can be a problem, especially for nosy kittens and it is not uncommon for cats to pass urine just where you don’t want them to i.e. the tree, potentially a problem if electric plugs and wires are exposed. This can be a sign of stress so read on for techniques to reduce the anxiety cats may suffer at this time of year.
At this time of celebration food may be left out, left-overs left within reach. We traditionally worry about dogs and chocolate toxicity for example but what about cats? Chocolate is also toxic to cats, although the amount a cat needs to eat to make them ill is a lot higher than for dogs. Signs of chocolate poisoning including being sick and passing diarrhoea, drinking a lot, appearing drunk, trembling or even having a fit. Hopefully, a cat’s lesser interest in sweet treats means this risk is small.
Similarly, grapes and raisins, known for causing kidney damage in dogs, may affect cats but poisoning is much less common. The VPIS would, however, advise treatment of cats known to have eaten these foods, and suggest that for example mince pies are not left out. If you think your cat has eaten such food contact your vet and encourage them to call the VPIS for advice. On the subject of food, it may be tempting to treat your cat this Christmas, perhaps extra cat treats or some scraps from the Christmas dinner. While a little left-over turkey will be enjoyed by the majority of cats without harm, excessive treats and human food could make a cat poorly so do try and stick to their normal feeding routine this time of year; they won’t know they are missing out! Another hazard can be cooked poultry bones – they are hard for cats to digest and can get stuck in the digestive system so make sure your cats can’t raid the bin after the Christmas lunch.
For more information contact International Cat Care at https://icatcare.org/