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Christmas cat safety: The not so obvious

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Many celebrate the holidays with food and drink, decorations and gifts, friends and family. With a beloved cat in the home common sense precautions should become second nature. Just as at Thanksgiving, offer only cat-safe people foods to kitty, provide its own safe room, and keep kitty from running out of open doors. There are dangers that may not be so apparent or forgotten due to the excitement of the moment. Staples, batteries, artificial snow, even the tree are things that can get kitty into trouble. Here are some tips to help prevent you from spending Christmas morning in the vet’s office.

  • Tree: Big and beautiful or a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, real trees are dangerous to cats. Keep kitty out of the tree. Pine needles are toxic to cats and can cause oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, trembling and weakness. Swallowed needles can also puncture the digestive tract. If the tree is watered to prevent it from drying out, make sure kitty can’t drink the water. It is as toxic to kitty as the needles. If you hang medium size bells from the lower branches you will soon know when kitty is messing with the tree. A good solid tree base helps prevent adventurous climbing kitties from knocking the whole thing over.
  • Tinsel: Shiny, dangling enticingly moving tinsel is a huge attraction to kitty. Keep it well out of kitty’s reach. Although not toxic it can block the intestines and stomach if eaten. This is an emergency requiring immediate surgery.
  • Artificial snow: Toxic to cats.
  • Ornaments: Tap it and it swings; swipe it and it comes off the tree ready to be chased. Glass and fragile ornaments break. Kitty can cut itself on the glass. If bitten or swallowed the sharp edges from broken ornaments, or pieces broken off large ones, can cut kitty’s mouth, throat and intestines. Ornaments are also a choking hazard. Hang fragile ornaments high in the tree.
  • Tree lights: These may be as attractive to kitty as the tinsel. Ensure kitty can’t bite or claw through the cord and electrocute itself.
  • Plants: Holly, mistletoe, poinsettias are toxic to cats.
  • Candles: Lit candles are a fire risk hazard to kitty and kin.
  • Wrapping paper: Small pieces of chewed up paper are a choking hazard. Kitty hidden under wrapping paper can get stepped on.
  • Bags with handles: Cut the handles. Cats can get their head caught through the handle, panic and run. It may well be amusing to some to watch kitty bounce off the walls and run into furniture. That is until kitty crashes into something and injures or strangles itself.
  • Packaging: Make sure there are no sharp staples or pieces of retaining plastic on backing cards or pins in packaged clothing. Kitty can hurt itself simply by stepping on an upturned staple.
  • Ribbon: Same issues as tinsel if swallowed; possible blocked intestines. Unsupervised kitty can strangle itself or become injured if it gets tangled in ribbons or string. Cats can panic when tangled. Dispose of ribbon promptly. Please do not make kitty a festive collar out of ribbon and bows; it may be pretty but can become a choking or strangling hazard.
  • Small toys: Whether kitty gifts or people presents, these are another choking or intestinal blocking risk. Ensure all cat toys are cat safe.
  • Batteries: All batteries are potentially toxic. If you think kitty has chewed or swallowed a battery contact your vet. Pierced or chewed batteries can cause chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning.

Supervised play is fun; with or without ribbons and bows. Have a happy Christmas with kitty.

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