Thursday, December 10, 2015

Make a Pet-Safe Home for the Holidays

Photo: TRF_Mr_Hyde via Flickr

Hosting a holiday get together and decorating for the season? Festive decorations and plants make a home warm and inviting for guests, causing them to linger after meals and gift-giving for hours and hours and hours… You’ll want a break from the hubbub, but not for an emergency trip to the vet! Make sure your feline companions enjoy the holidays too by taking some simple precautions to keep them safe.

Photo: MsSaraKelly via Flickr
Many holiday decorations are shiny and enticing to playful cats, but potentially harmful. If swallowed, ribbon and tinsel can cause intestinal blockages. Ornaments and other decorations with small pieces should be placed with care; if it’s a choking hazard to a small child, it’s a risk for cats as well.

We also mark the season by bringing a bit of nature indoors, in the form of trees, wreaths, flowers and other decorative plants. Maybe the two most ubiquitous holiday plants are Christmas trees (pine) and poinsettias. Both are toxic to cats, but actually only mildly so. Common symptoms from ingesting these plants are drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea, with the severity depending on how much is eaten. Pointy tree needles can cause mouth and digestive system problems too, so closely monitor low-hanging branches for signs of nibbling.

Be sure your tree is solidly in place so there’s no risk it will tip over on pets or people if kitty tries to climb it, and keep your tree’s water covered, especially if using additives or fertilizer to keep it fresh; these sometimes contain substances toxic to cats as well. 

Holly. Photo: Jacinta Iluch Valera via Flickr
Mistletoe. Photo: Alex Gorzan via Flickr

Holly leaves and berries are toxic to cats, and so is Mistletoe, so a quick kiss underneath is fine, but keep it out of reach of curious paws. Lillies and daffodils are a bit more of a worry for cats, as some varieties are moderately to severely toxic for cats. For this reason, we suggest keeping holiday bouquets completely out of reach. (Traditional rose bouquets are one safe alternative.) 

Lily photo by Karyn Christner via Flickr. Daffodil photo by Sarah via Flickr. Illustration by ACR.

Throughout the hectic holidays, make sure you’re keeping an eye on your cat companions for changes in behavior or signs of distress, and call your vet immediately if you suspect a problem. Be sure to have your vet’s phone number on hand, as well as contact information for a nearby emergency or after-hours clinic that is open during the holidays. In addition, you can call the ASPCA's 24-hour poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Hotline at 800-213-6680. (A fee may apply to both numbers, but it's worth it in an emergency.)

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