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How to Avoid 5 of the Biggest Feline Holiday Freakouts

A lot changes for our cats physically and mentally this time of year; these tips will help you help them.

Rita Reimers  |  Dec 23rd 2016


Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our January/February 2017 issue. Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

While we humans relish the hustle, bustle, and merriment of the holidays, our feline family members might not feel the same way. In fact, some things about the holidays could cause a complete and total feline freakout!

Feline Freakout #1: Decorations

feline-holiday-freakout-ornament

Photo by Fiona Green

Bring out the holly, the tinsel, the tree, the menorah, and even holiday costumes, but remember that all of these things can be frightening — and even dangerous — to your cat.

  • Holiday decorations with glue and glitter may attract your cat but can cause harm if eaten. Hang those adornments high on your tree or mantel. better yet: Avoid them.
  • If you put up a tree, your cat might try to climb it. Noses and tails can knock over low-hanging ornaments, and your cat could get hurt on the broken pieces. Keep breakable ornaments up high.
  • Poinsettia plants and lilies are among the most toxic plants to cats and can be fatal if eaten. Skip them if you have a cat.
  • Be careful using menorahs or other types of candles. Noses and tails could get burned if your cat investigates. Tip: Give faux flame candles a try.
  • As for dressing up your cat, consider the cat. Most cats don’t enjoy wearing any type of outfit. Wearing it can cause your cat discomfort and stress. behavioral issues could result, too.

Feline Freakout #2: Holiday parties

A cute cat waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Photo by iStock

Friends and family pop in and out of your house during the holidays. but your kitty can become stressed with all the strange people, new sounds and smells, and other animals your family members may bring with them.

  • Under normal circumstances, your cat might not think about darting out the door. but cats under stress can — and usually do — behave unpredictably. The sight of a house full of strangers can scare your cat, and all the opening and closing of your front door could also give her ample opportunity to escape into the night.
  • If you have a party, put your cat in a separate room with a cozy bed, his favorite treats, and some soothing music. Put a do Not Enter sign on the door. one of our clients at Just For Cats Pet Sitting hires one of our sitters every year to keep his cat company in a separate room when he gives a party.
  • Ask friends and family to kindly leave their pets at home.

Feline Freakout #3: Boxes and wrapping

Cute funny cat in a plastic red bag.. seeming to think "Please, help me!" his eyes are so expressive!

Photo by iStock

This is a good feline freakout. Cats love boxes and will be interested and even excited seeing them all being wrapped, then unwrapped.

We all know, “if they fits, they sits,” so you can’t blame your cat for horning in on your gift exchanges. Letting her play among the empty boxes and paper as you unwrap presents will make her feel a part of the celebration.

  • Be careful of what you use when wrapping your gifts. Ribbon and string may be irresistible to kitty, especially if you include bells or shiny tinsel. String and ribbon can get twisted inside your cat’s intestines if swallowed, which could prove fatal.
  • Wrap up a new toy or some treats for your cat, and let her have fun opening a safely wrapped package of her own.

Feline Freakout #4: Rich food

cat-food-meat-90924467

Photo by Shutterstock

Nothing smells more like home than a turkey or ham roasting in the oven. Believe me, your cat agrees. But, table food is not recommended for cats because so many things we cook with can make them sick or even kill.

  • A small bite of turkey, ham, or other meats without seasoning is OK. Know that people food is much richer and harder to digest for your cat.
  • Don’t give your cat raw meat or eggs, because of the risk of salmonella.
  • Keep your cat away from onions, garlic, raisins, grapes, milk, alcohol, chocolate, or caffeine. All can cause gastrointestinal distress, and some can be fatal.
  • Sugary goodies are always bad.

Feline Freakout #5: Being left alone or being boarded

Portrait of a young redhead woman in Santa Claus hat with ginger scottish fold cat on pink background

Photo by iStock

As the owner of a cats-only professional pet sitting company, I know how many people travel for the holidays. While some travel for just a few days, others are away for a few weeks, which creates a dilemma: What to do with kitty?

Leaving your cat home alone for long periods can cause stress and separation anxiety, especially if your cat is already the needy type. But, you can cut down on how stressful it is for her.

  • If possible, it’s better for your cat to be home than to be boarded, which may cause anxiety that could result in respiratory issues once she gets home and behavior issues later.
  • Hire a professional pet sitter, or someone you trust, to visit your cat daily. She should provide playtime and snuggles for your cat, not just feed her and rush out the door.
  • Leave something you’ve worn spread out on your bed or sofa, so your cat will feel more secure while you are away.
  • Use a calming pheromone plug while she’s home alone.

With all the celebrating, it’s easy for your cat to feel neglected. Give her extra playtime and love during the season. A new toy or delectable treat will make her feel like she’s part of the family celebration, too.

About the author: Rita Reimers’ cat behavior counseling sessions have helped many kitties remain happy in their forever homes. Visit her website, the Cat Analyst, to learn more about her services and to read her cat behavior blog. Rita is also owner/ CEO of Just For Cats Pet Sitting. Connect with Rita on Facebook and Twitter.