A feline-friendly Christmas: navigating the holiday season with your cats

Last year’s Christmas was an epic success – according to our feline family members. For us, it was more like the Titanic all over.

Imagine the scene where the tree with everything in it has crashed in the middle of the room, broken ornaments scattered all over the floor, and an innocent kitty in the middle of all that.

This year, we’d like to avoid a rerun of last year’s events and make it more festive for all of us. But how?

A cat-proof Christmas – understanding their point of view

We tend to think our cats are domesticated, innocent creatures. Still, underneath their soft furry coat, you’ll find a genuine explorer and hunter with a heart aching for adventure. Imagine how thrilled they’ll be to find a proper tree in their living room!

Really, how can we expect them to contain themselves and not climb to the top of it, hide in it, and toy around with all those shiny and fluffy ornaments along the way?

Keeping your decorations cat-safe

We can agree that it is unfair to demand such self-discipline from our housemates – leaving aside whether they are (or even can be) aware of the dangers lurking in all that goodness.

Fortunately, there is much we can do to avoid nasty misadventures.

Let’s dive into some of the most common decorative dangers – and introduce safe alternatives to them – and share them with our fellow cat lovers.

Choosing the right tree

Christmas tree with root ball

A real tree, preferably with a root ball for a second life in your garden after Christmas, gives off such a lovely pine scent in your home.

❌ But you may not know that the oils giving these scents are mildly toxic to your pets. Chewing the needles can cause an upset stomach and irritation to the mouth. When swallowed, the needles can block or even puncture the lining of their intestines.

And if you like to keep your tree healthy with fertilised water, please remember that cats prefer weird water sources. Fertiliser does not do any good for your pet.

πŸ’‘ The good news is that there are trees that don’t drop their needles as much. Try finding a nice Nordmann Fir. They’re pretty and low maintenance, what can be more to wish for! And for the water issue, make sure you cover the tree base. Better safe than sorry.

An artificial tree can be a sustainable choice if intended for many years to come.

❌ Unfortunately, it comes with additional risks for your cat’s sake. I’ve yet to meet a cat able to resist these crispy plastics, and they don’t digest well.

πŸ’‘ Try spraying some vinegar mist around the base of the tree. Cats don’t appreciate the smell and, with a bit of luck, might end up avoiding the tree altogether. Or see if you can find a motion-activated pet-deterrent air spray. It could just do the trick, as the element of surprise should never be underestimated.

Decorating your tree without putting your pets at risk

Closeup of Christmas tree with natural-style ornaments

I’ve always dreamt of decorating our tree, as pictured in those lovely American ads. With the whole family, boxes all around, and Christmas music in the background. Ok, that sounds horribly cheesy. Sorry for that.

Back to business, the shops are filled with shiny glass ornaments, lights in all rainbow colours, flashing like mad or quietly distributing their warm glow. Bags full of tinsel, “angel hair” for the romantics, and garlands. So much temptation, so festive!

❌ Cats love to play with the ornaments. And dogs, well, they’re just so clumsy. It’s as if they never realised that the tail is attached to them!

All of it; the glass ornaments, the tinsel, the garlands, even the strings of lights, they’re disasters waiting to happen.

Broken ornaments, shattered in 1000s of tiny glass splinters, can enter the fragile paws or accidentally be swallowed. Tinsel and garlands consist of long, thin, and sharp metallic threads.

Your pet won’t be the first to spend their night on an operating table to untangle and repair the inner damage.

πŸ’‘ Luckily, there’s a lot we can do to discourage our adventurous friends.

  • Have you seen those gorgeous natural-style wooden & furry ornaments? Unbreakable, even for the worst of cats!
  • You can hang any glass ornaments high in the tree, far away from clumsy tails and fishing cats.
  • Consider tying the tree to the wall with some safety cable. Even Garfield (if he’d ever consider exercising 😱) couldn’t bring the tree down.
  • Tinsel is a no-go, but you could try some suitable quality garlands, again higher in the tree.
  • Battery-operated strings of lights reduce risks when chewed on.

Beyond the tree: ensuring a safe holiday home

little kitten looking innocent from inside of gift bag

Now that the tree is safely anchored and cat-proof decorated, it’s time for a small sidestep to other elements of Christmas. Let’s make this a merry one for all!

I’ll leave the obvious one here.
There is no need to go into details on leaving burning candles unattended πŸ•―

Festive plants: hidden dangers for your pets

Around Christmas time, there are so many festive plants available! Sometimes reworked in a Christmas decoration or simply as a traditional Christmas staple on the chimney mantle.

❌ Most of the usual Christmas suspects, poinsettias, mistletoe, Christmas cactus, crown-of-thorns, amaryllis, Christmas rose, holly berries, and lilies, are more or less toxic for your pet. I can’t help wondering what that tells us about these traditions…

πŸ’‘ Not much to do about that, sorry. If you can’t imagine Christmas without one of these, ensure they’re well out of reach for your pets and children. And remember, cats are always way more agile than we think.

The perils of ribbons and strings

Most kids will find this the most crucial part of Christmas: the abundance of presents piled high under the Christmas tree for days. Keeping their ever-increasing curiosity about all that gorgeous wrapping in check is one of the most challenging aspects of December. Don’t worry; it will lessen as they get older.

❌ Ribbons and strings from gifts, left unsupervised for days, can be tempting toys but are dangerous if swallowed. And during unwrapping, it’ll be even more of a paradise for mischievous kittens.

πŸ’‘ If you keep the gifts under the tree, you will have to restrain yourself when using ribbons and embellishments. While gift exchanging, remember to keep a bin bag handy and clean up promptly after each unwrapping. That should do the trick.

Crafting a cosy, safe haven for your furry friends

Christmas, being the festive family gathering of the year, will unavoidably mean lots of activity and visitors. That’s what Christmas is all about, don’t you agree?

❌ It’s possible your pets don’t find it as delightful as you do. If you have kids, they’ll be overly excited. Add nieces, nephews, and grandchildren to the mix, and you’ll have a disaster waiting to happen. After all, your four-legged family members aren’t that vocal, and they’ll see only one way to say “no”. Nope, not what we wish for.

Cute gray kitten is sleeping with bokeh christmas lights in background

πŸ’‘ Set up a cosy nook in a calm corner with their favourite blanket, bed, and toys. This will be their go-to spot for relaxation away from the festivities. Make sure it’s easy for your cat to reach the litter box. Remember to mention to all human attendees that this area is prohibited as a pet sanctuary.

You could also consider a calming supplement to take the edge off things. It’s best to prepare yourself beforehand, as the array of natural, artificial, pheromone-based, pharmaceutical, and non-pharmaceutical options is positively dizzying.

Wrap-up – pun intended

Well, that’s a lot of information in one article. And even now, it’s still far from complete.

With these tips, your Christmas decorations will not only look fabulous but will also cater for the well-being of your cat. Let’s make this Christmas a delightful and safe celebration for our whiskered family.

And as you get creative with your cat-friendly holiday decor, why not share your purr-fect setups with us! Also, if you’ve got more tips or festive cat stories, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Wishing you and your feline friends a paws-itively happy holiday season!

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Angelique Hersman
Angelique Hersman
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