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5 Tips for Having a Safe Thanksgiving With Cats

From potentially toxic foods and flowers to stressful environments and hazardous fires, here’s how to ensure you have a safe Thanksgiving with cats.

Karen A. Doll  |  Nov 21st 2017


The beauty of the Thanksgiving holiday is reflected in the happy faces of family and friends gathered together — felines included. But, not all Turkey Day traditions are good for kitties. Follow these tips to ensure a safe Thanksgiving with cats!

1. First, some general tips about Thanksgiving with cats

A black cat with Thanksgiving decorations.

From toxic foods to unsafe decor, Thanksgiving can be a dangerous holiday for your cats! Photography ©EEI_Tony | Thinkstock.

The scent of roasting turkey will no doubt lure your cats to your kitchen. Your self-appointed taste testers might stick their tongues where cat tongues don’t belong or linger and get underfoot. One year, our cat, Bean, was caught red-pawed sampling the mashed potatoes while we were setting the table. Sometimes, it’s best to safely tuck your kitties into a back room or bedroom from prep time through clean-up detail.

If your cats are out and about at mealtime, set some ground rules before you sit down to eat. Politely ask that your guests not feed your feline friends since some holiday favorites are toxic or unhealthy for cats (see a list of what Thanksgiving foods are safe for cats here). Cats seem to crave fatty foods, and too much can lead to bouts of vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis.

According to Dawn Pyne, marketing manager for Embrace Pet Insurance, “Pet insurance is a great way to protect your cat if any unexpected accidents or illnesses occur during the holidays. Minimize triggers that cause stress, and limit giving your cat Thanksgiving table scraps. Based on our claims data, treating an adult cat for generalized inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract with overnight support therapies can cost over $3,000.”

2. How to safely let your cat have Thanksgiving food

To include your cat in the Turkey Day celebrations, Pyne says, “consider making a small plate with unseasoned, white turkey meat without skin, fat or bones, plain green beans and a scoop of pumpkin.”

Some other purrfect choices to add to the feline-friendly feast are apple slices and plain cooked carrots.

A great way to show gratitude for your cats’ daily doses of love and devotion is to whip up some homemade holiday treats. Petplan Pet Insurance veterinarians suggest pumpkin smoothies and roasted turkey medallions.

3. Cat-safe and festive flowers and decor 

Pretty flowers and aromatic potpourri may set the stage for your Thanksgiving celebration, but are they safe for cats?

Thankfully, the ASPCA put together this great go-to list of toxic plants and flowers for cats.

Potpourri, whether in liquid or dried form, may be toxic to cats. Liquid potpourris contain cationic detergents and/or essential oils, which, if ingested, can cause inflammation and tissue damage in a cat’s mouth and digestive organs. What if your cat can’t resist and dips a paw into the mixture? First, it may cause skin irritation, swelling and pain, and second, as your cat grooms, the chemicals can be ingested or get into her eyes, causing irritation or injury. If your cat is tempted to munch on dried potpourri, the pieces can cut and irritate the insides of your cat’s mouth and become a choking hazard.

Thanksgiving decorations, such as pumpkins, corn stalks, potted chrysanthemums and Indian corn may be intriguing to your cats. Mums are toxic, and the other decor might be a choking hazard. So, it’s always best to err on the side of safety — don’t put out decorations that are potentially dangerous for cats.

4. Keep a watchful eye on candles and fireplaces

Seasonal scented candles and warm fires in the hearth may add ambiance to your holiday celebration, but cats are intrigued by the flickering lights and popping sounds — hot wax and flames can singe or burn your curious cats’ sensitive paw pads. Never leave a cat unattended around an open flame or burning fire!

5. Create a stress-free holiday environment

Cats thrive on routine. The slightest disruption can cause stress, but the busyness of the Thanksgiving holiday often extends into the weekend and can rattle even your most social and laid-back felines. Rescue Remedy Pets to the rescue. “I’ve found the most effective way to administer Rescue Remedy to cats is to put two drops on the end of my finger and then stroke it into the fur on top of the head,” says longtime cat mama and Catster contributor, JaneA Kelley, in this piece on reducing Thanksgiving stress in cats.

A few other tips on managing Thanksgiving stress for cats: 

  • Gently instruct guests, especially children, not to approach or handle your cats. Let your cats take the lead — they’ll mingle when they’re comfortable and retreat when they’ve had enough.
  • Schedule in time with your cat. Guests will understand if you need to slip away for a little snuggle and play time with your favorite felines.
  • Create a separate for-cats-only secret clubhouse in a spare bedroom for your cats to retreat during the busy holiday season. Buy a few new, interesting toys, and scatter them around. If you don’t already have a cat-climbing tower, now is a great time to add one.

Tell us: What are some of your tips for having a safe Thanksgiving with cats? How do you minimize Thanksgiving dangers for cats and ensure that your kitties have a safe and happy Thanksgiving? Please share your ideas in the comments section.

Thumbnail: Photography ©Chepko | Thinkstock.

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