Christmas and New Years can be some of the most enchanting times of year. We celebrate these special times of year with both our fur babies and real babies. While the festivities are ongoing, keep an eye out for these dangers:
1. Anything long and linear: Linear foreign bodies are quite common during the holidays. These can include tinsel, ribbons, strings, bows, etc. What makes these things even worse is that they are novel (only brought out during the holidays), brightly colored and often shiny. Long skinny decorations are commonly ingested and may cause your cat's intestines to twist or bunch up. It can require expensive and sometimes risky surgery to remove the offending decoration and repair and remove any damaged intestine.
2. Shiny, blinky and electric: We've all seen just how crazy a laser pointer can make our cats! Now imagine a thousand "laser pointers" all over the house... Christmas lights and all of the other electronic holiday decorations can be a source of significant electrocution and burn dangers. Kittens, especially, are notorious for chewing on all things wired, now throw in some brightly colored Christmas lights and you have a recipe for an unexpected cat emergency visit! Keep lights up high and out-of-reach and additionally using low voltage LED lights (where the wire does not carry the normal voltage) can help decrease this risk. You can take this one step further and use low-voltage battery operated micro-dot lighting. While death from electrocution does happen, the biggest risk is oral and facial burns. These can be painful and if untreated, deadly.
3. A poisonous kiss under the mistletoe:
While we may not realize it, we often bring potentially poisonous plants into our homes during the holidays. These include mistletoe (berries), juniper branches (berries), Poinsettia, Lilies (does include amaryllis), paperwhites, etc. If you suspect lily exposure (especially) don't hesitate to call someone quickly as damage can be permanent and quickly lethal.
4. Saint Nick may be fireproof, but your fur baby is not:
During the cold wet or cold and snowy pacific northwest winters there is often nothing better than cozying up with your loved ones in front of a roaring fire, listening to festive music while the candle light burns around you. Alternatively, you may have a few burners keeping that holiday feast warm before your family attacks the buffet line. Regardless, all of these can serve as burn risks for your cat. Cats and cat hair can ignite quickly and unpredictably. Within an instant, your cat get seriously burned. No joke, this can happen so quickly that your beloved friend can actually set your house on fire during the process. It's extremely dangerous and extremely painful for them so just be careful with all of those open flames.
5. Human food is tasty:
With all of the hubbub and hustle, it is quite common that Fluffy gets into something Fluffy shouldn't. Human foods abound during the festive season. Some of these human foods are not good for Fluffy. Poultry and poultry bones are hollow and can splinter when ingested. While rare, very large amount of chocolate can be toxic to your cat. Most often, cat exposure to chocolate (in moderate amounts) leads to digestive distress.
6. The Christmas tree:
The Christmas tree is often the hub for everything celebratory during the holidays. Although the dangers of the tree itself are often minor, they are real. One of the most common complaints we hear of during the holidays with cats is diarrhea and vomiting. Most often vomited are parts of the Christmas tree including needles and branches. Next most often vomited is the Christmas tree's often stagnant or chemically-treated water. In addition, significant injury can and does occur when cats climb the Christmas tree and it and all that dangles falls on your cat. While kittens are most likely to climb the tree, any adult cat can and will do so if interested.
While you are reveling in the holiday spirit, your fur baby may be miserable. Many cats don't like strangers, loud noises, celebration, change, your obnoxious aunt/uncle/niece/nephew/in-law, etc. All of this can add up to stress that causes your pet to get dehydrated, anorexic, withdrawn, etc. Many cats that have underlying (either diagnosed or undiagnosed) medical issues can have severe flare-ups or disease progression when they don't eat or get dehydrated. These can be conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, etc. Sometimes the best best can be to board your cat or limit your cat's exposure to certain protected rooms of the house. Another common stressor is travel. Travel can be extremely stressful for cats for obvious reasons. Minimizing travel (pet-sitter?) and use of Feliway or anti-anxiety medications can help your fur baby cope when they have to travel but hate to do it. One of the most serious and common happenings during the holidays can be males that have a blocked urinary tract. The causes can be multiple but are often exacerbated by stress. If your cat is straining to urinate or not passing normal amounts of urine (often hard to keep track of during the holidays) call your local veterinary emergency center immediately. This can be a serious and lethal condition (particularly in males).
Notes from the doctors:
The holidays can be a wonderful and relaxing time of year. Often the best way to keep them relaxed for both you and your cherished feline friend is to abide by the ounce of prevention and pound of cure philosophy. Keeping dangerous items out of reach of the kitty is an obvious start. If there is an accident or stress causes issues, keeping an eye on the basic potty habits (are we urinating and defecating with the normal amounts and frequency) can go a long way towards spotting a problem before it becomes deadly or requires costly treatment. If your kitty shows the signs and symptoms of exposure to any of these holiday risks, don't hesitate to call our trained cat clinic staff, poison control hotlines or area emergency veterinary clinics for advice. Calling sooner-rather-than-later can literally save lives and money.