Cats, Christmas Trees and Plants: Festive Feline Safety Tips

The Christmas holidays are upon us. It’s when family chants cheerful carols, there is an abundance of festive food, brightly-coloured presents and there in the middle of it all – the Christmas tree. 

A Christmas tree has everything cats love – a base to scratch, branches to climb and a water tank “specially designed for drinking”. This would all be fine and dandy to a certain degree, however, the real issue here is that festive trees are not all that safe for kittens. 

Cats and Christmas mix like oil and water.

Yet, with the right preparation, you can make the holiday season, fun for both you and your feline friend.

Are Festive Plants Poisonous to Cats

Holiday plants are a great decoration, but cats like to view them as more of a snack. Aside from the obvious damage, your feline can leave, worse consequences can follow. 

Certain Christmas plants are poisonous and can leave your cat helpless.

Christmas Trees

Some people avoid real Christmas trees to prevent cats from ingesting fallen pine needles and there’s a reason for that. 

Are Christmas trees actually poisonous to cats?
The answer is one big NO! 

The pines of most Christmas trees are not toxic and better yet, most cats won’t ingest any. 

However, if by some unfortunate event they do, the worst that can happen is needles to lodge in your kitten’s intestines. That’s how irritation happens.

Mistletoe and Cats

There are a few types of mistletoe poisonous to cats. Those include the 

When eaten by a cat, mistletoe can cause drooling, vomiting, abdominal discomfort and diarrhoea. However, a larger quantity of mistletoe can lead to abnormal heart rate, low blood pressure, seizures, and in some cases even death. 

Note: The American is less poisonous than the European species.

Therefore, if you suspect that your cat eating mistletoe, rush it to the local vet immediately!

To prevent accidents, keep mistletoe out of your cat’s reach. Or better yet, don’t put any up as a decoration.

Holly Plants and Cats

Certain Holly berries contain toxins poisonous to cats:

When ingested by felines, the spiny leaves of this festive plant can cause gastrointestinal complications and lead to vomiting and diarrhoea. Toxins are in the leaves and can cause your cat to drool.

If spotted eating a Holly plant, smack its lips, and shake feverously!

To avoid headaches caused by kittens eating holly, keep the plant out of reach at all times. If by any chance your cat ingests the yuletide plant, phone your vet.

Poinsettias and Cats

Poinsettias is a festive plant seen in most households. 

However, there’s a question that keeps popping up this time of year amongst cat owners and that is: Are poinsettias poisonous to cats? 

Well, although this Christmas plant has somewhat of a bad reputation, truth be told, it’s only mildly toxic to felines. Its milky white sap can cause a bit of drooling and mild vomiting when ingested. 

In rare cases, cats experience lite diarrhoea, too.

There is no known cure for poinsettia poisoning. It’s one of those inconveniences that just require some time to pass and don’t need any medical treatment. 


Check out our article about Lilies and cats!


Cats and Christmas Tree Decorations

Plants aside. The biggest threat to cat health is probably Christmas tree decoration. Small synthetic, and sharp glass or plastic are dangerous for any cat.

Hooks

Definitely avoid using hooks when decorating your Christmas tree. They are unsafe and can pierce a cat’s ear, tail, and paw, or even worse, get swallowed. Replace them with ribbons and twine.

Ornaments

Round-glass, shiny ornament can be extremely enticing to felines, causing them to lose their marbles. This may even result in cut paws and nose and even tipping over the Christmas tree. 

To avoid, go for plainer ornaments in less conventional shapes, preferably plastic or paper. 

Whatever you do, don’t put up edible ornaments up on your tree. 

Tinsel

Tinsel looks flashy and welcoming, yet for cats, it’s anything but that. 

Tinsel poses many risks and dangers. Most cats can’t resist the long shiny decoration and it’s all fun and games until the cat tries to have a bite. Tinsel can block its intestines and removing it might require surgery. 

Therefore, best skip it altogether.

Electrical Cords

For a cat, an electrical extension cord is nothing more than just another string-type toy. 

Add string lights to the mix and your feline’s temptation skyrockets. What at first might seem like just another game, can quickly go south. If your cat chews or scratches an electrical cord, it can electrocution might follow. 

To prevent this, tape down the excess wires (to the floor or wall) all the way to where cords join. A good alternative to tape is to covers wire via pipes and thus keep your cat safe.

Christmas Tree Water Tank

The water inside the standard Christmas tree stand is often swarming with pesticides, fertilizers,  and other dangerous chemicals. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep your cat away!

Christmas tree water can poison your cat. To prevent, wrap aluminium foil around the opening of the stand and remove it only when adding more water.

How to Cat-proof Your Christmas Tree

While there’s no definitive way of cat-proofing a Christmas tree, tricks can make it more cat-friendly one. Here’s what Fantastic Gardeners’ Christmas tree expert Deemer Cass had do share:

  • Use a repellant
    An easy and crafty way to cat-proof a Christmas tree is to spray it with a cat repellent. This will keep the cat away and best yet doesn’t leave a smell behind. You can buy these sprays at almost any pet shop. However, if want to go down the DIY route, it’s simple! Make your own spray out of citrus or apple cider vinegar, as their odours are great to repel cats.
  • Choose a safe location for the tree
    The place you set up your Christmas will play a huge factor in whether your cat will attack. Always go for a spacious spot with no furniture around. If you have shelves or cupboards near the tree, your cat will most definitely use it as launch pads to jump straight onto the green Christmas giant!
  • Keep your cat distracted
    Scatter your cat’s toys and scratching post around the same room as the Christmas tree. This will encourage the cat to choose them over the tree.
  • Take precautions before you throw it out
    No matter how you plan to dispose of the Christmas tree, make sure you leave nothing behind. 

Cats at Christmas Dinner

Christmas dinner is a great time to hang out and catch up with family, friends, and your cat, over a nice, festive meal. While many consider cats, a part of the family, they have certain limitations that set them apart from us (obviously!). In this case, human food consumption. 

It’s a well-known fact that most of the food we consume is poisonous to cats.  

The main reason human food is dangerous for cats because of the dressings we use. We love salt, pepper, sugar, butter and olive oil, etc. on most meals we take. Since larger quantities of spices can cause harm to humans, just imagine what they can do to a feline.

However, if you’re still keen on feeding your cat food from the Christmas dinner table, there are meals you can share in small quantities of course. But there are others that you shouldn’t under any circumstances let your feline get close to.

Christmas Meals You Can feed Your Cat (Small Quantities!):

  • Turkey – boneless and skinless white meat, with no spices
  • Cranberry sauce – only pure cranberry sauce, not mixed with anything
  • Carrots – raw or boiled without any spices
  • Potatoes – boiled, mashed or in chunks, without spices
  • Sprouts Parsnips & Peas – uncooked, with no herbs, spices or even honey
  • Rice – should be treated as an occasional treat at best.

Check our guide on:
The Best Cat Food For Urinary Tract Health


Christmas Food to Keep Cats Away From:

  • Pigs in blankets – contain way too much fat and salt
  • Turkey skin – the skin contains a lot of fat
  • Gravy –  too fatty and salty
  • Anything made with onions – onions are poisonous to cats and their consumption can lead to anaemia
  • Bread sauce – contains lactose, which cats find difficult to digest
  • Chocolate – theobromine is toxic for cats; you can read more on these topics – here.
  • Nuts – some nuts are poisonous to cats, so it’s best to avoid all of them just in case
  • Anything that has sugar – snacks such as candy canes are best avoided 

Although feeding your cat a small number of certain foods won’t cause harm, it can reinforce bad habits. Your feline might think human food is the same as cat food and is all for the taking.

This can lead the cat to eat from the table, raid your trash can and much more. Once it becomes a habit, there’s no going back. 

Be on guard every time there’s food in the open and feed your cat well.


Also read:


Christmas Dress-up

If you ever think your cat can’t look more adorable than it already does, you’ve just never seen it in a cute little Christmas outfit. Pet outfits have seen a huge rise in popularity these past few years. For Christmas themed ones, there are Santa hats, sweaters, knit caps and even little elf costumes.

However, although Christmas outfits for cats look awesome, they also cause huge amounts of stress. Most cats despise playing dress-up, especially when hats are involved. So maybe it’s for the best to leave the outfits out this year.

Nevertheless, if you really desire to see your cat in a festive outfit, make sure you buy one that it can easily get out of. And remember to never tie anything around your cat’s neck, be it tinsel, ribbons or any other type of decoration.

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