We all get excited about holiday festivities and decorations—from the Christmas tree and holly berries to the Menorah and other Hanukkah trimmings during the holiday season. As you may see the sparkle in your family’s eyes when you bring out the tinsel, you may not realize that your cat also has a sparkle as well. Does this mean that to keep your cat safe that you can’t have your traditional holiday favorites? Not at all! As veterinarians, we always try to help you strike a balance between keeping holiday traditions intact while keeping your fur friends as safe as possible. Below, we talk about keeping your cat active while deterring them from the things that may harm them.
Play Time With Your Cat
Keeping your cats active all year round is very important to their mental and physical health. During the holidays, there can be many changes that can affect your cat(s) in different ways. You will want to understand how your cat will handle the changes and what you can do to keep them happy.
If your cat doesn’t like change, you will want to identify where your cat feels safe and keep it off-limits from change. Gradually introduce new things in your home. Start it by the door, then move it after your cat has either come to inspect and has a relaxed body language. Add in playtime with a feather wand or laser light to have them play away from the new object and then have them move slightly moving closer. Keep the play a little bit of a distance so your cat can feel that the decoration will not harm them. For the curious cats, the wand is also great to keep them from exploring too much.
Playing with your cat increased the bond you have with them, and they will seek you out and less likely to find things that you don’t want them playing with.
Don’t feel bad, however, if you are spending less time with your cat than you used to; there are ways to entertain them independently. Hunting for food is a way to keep their mind active and less likely to eat out of boredom. Place multiple dishes of food around, in safe areas, that your cat can get to. Change the location around every day. You can also buy toys that will dispense treats or food if you lack space to encourage hunting food challenges.
You can always find toys for independent play online or at your local pet store. Rotate the toys every few days, so they remain intriguing. Fake mice, crinkle balls, cat springs, ball tracks, doorknob feathers, battery-operated toys that move like mice or birds, and a smartphone operated laser light are all fodder for cat play. There are so many options out there. You can always start with a variety pack of toys. Amazon has packages for all price ranges. You can tie a string around them and hang from doorknobs or the bottoms of kitchen chairs. If your cat likes catnip, you can always refresh old toys by using the catnip spray or dry catnip and sealing the toy in a sealed bag for a few days.
Avoid Toxic Plants
Many toxic plants come into the home from Nov. 1st through the new year. Just because you have a cat doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of them.
Some good resources for what plants are toxic and what to do in case of ingestion are below:
Pet Poison Control - https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control
The Christmas tree is a lot of fun for cats; you have a tower to climb, along with all the cat toys strategically placed around for batting, not to mention the tinsel to chew or the desirable popcorn string. We will get to safeguarding tricks for the tree a little later, but the water your natural tree is sitting in can be harmful to your pets—the sap that leaks into the water or the additive to keep your tree fresh. There are stands that you can purchase where the water is not as accessible to pets.
Poinsettias are very common in households and often receive these as gifts. Even if your cat doesn’t normally chew on plants, a new plant may entice a taste to even the calmest of cats. Holly and Mistletoe not only have plants but the berries are also toxic, which is why you should examine them for leaves or berries that are about to fall off. Place these in an area that your cat can’t get access to.
When It Comes to The Christmas Tree, It’s All About Location, Location, Location
If your cat is used to being by the window, don’t replace their cat tree with your Christmas tree. Your message to the cat is, “Look, I got you a new tree to climb!” This would be the same for adding lights or other decorations within reach of their areas.
If you do need to move the cat furniture, do this a few weeks before adding in the tree. Slowly move it a few feet at a time, and place it in a comparable area, like another window.
Avoid playing or treating your cat in that area where the decorations will be. Of course, your cat will be curious when you do bring home the tree or other decorations. Let them explore. Keep their favorite toys and treats handy to distract them if they start to climb the tree or play with the decorations.
You would think that grooming wouldn’t fit into an article about playing, but to cats, it is all about instincts, and you can include that into your time with them.
You know cats like to be pet, and you can use this time to groom your cat or encourage them to groom themselves. If your cat doesn’t want you to brush them, there are gloves that you can use instead. And we all have seen it—you will brush your cat and they will have to go back over and fix it. Grooming encourages natural behavior, and if you remove the excess fur, it will help prevent hairballs. You can also find toys that will have rubber tips that encourage your cat to rub up against the object. This behavior is a way for your cat to spread around a pheromone that lets them know that this is their home and comfortable. Where catnip will encourage your cat to play, this pheromone will help to make your cat content. You can find a pheromone diffuser and spray for your home during the holidays to make your cat more relaxed. Talk to your veterinarian about other options if you have concerns.
Scratching Posts FTW!
If you don’t supply a place for your cat to scratch, they will find something—the arm of our couch or even your ugly sweater covered arm. Cardboard scratchers are relatively inexpensive and can be placed all over your home, and come in various shapes, sizes, and styles—ones that lay flat or ones that encourage vertical scratching. You will want to place them where your cat may be inclined to scratch. Carpeted scratchers are great as well; they will last longer and tend to be sturdier. They can be found in different colors, as well as shapes and sizes. If you are handy, you can even build your own to customize to your home. There is an endless supply of DIY on YouTube. You can test different textures and what your cat likes best, from carpet to rope, or even add cardboard to your design.
We hope that you and your cat have a happy holiday season! If you have any questions about how to keep your feline fit and free from danger this holiday season, please give us a call!