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Keep Holiday Gift Opening Fun and Safe With Cats

Holiday gift opening can be dangerous to your cats. Here’s how to keep your gift exchanges fun and safe for all family members.

Angie Bailey  |  Dec 22nd 2017


Anyone who lives with cats knows that they want to be involved in anything and everything we do — especially if we’re sitting on the floor and interacting with boxes and bags. This tends to happen more often during the holiday season, when we — and sometimes a houseful of friends and family — enthusiastically tear open festive wrapping paper to reveal gifts and goodies. Unfortunately, this activity can pose potentially dangerous — and even life-threatening — results for kitty.

Certainly, there are ways to keep holiday gift opening safe and fun — even if you have cats!

Ribbons and cats

A cat with a wrapped holiday gift.

Ribbons are just one of the many holiday hazards for cats. Photography © Image Source | Alamy Stock Photo.

Of all the holiday package adornments, ribbons are perhaps the most dangerous to cats. “There are many dangers to cats associated with consuming gift-wrapping ribbon,” says Patrick Mahaney VMD, CVA, CVJ of California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness (CPAW). “Although ribbon looks appealing and tasty, it creates a foreign-body effect inside the body and can be very damaging to the inner lining of the digestive tract (stomach and intestines). The abrasive nature of a foreign body like ribbon can irritate the stomach and leads to vomiting, decreased appetite, abdominal pain and behavior changes.

Aside from the digestive threats, ribbon poses other dangers to cats. Dr. Mahaney continues, “Ribbon can also get caught around a cat’s neck, limb or body, causing a tourniquet effect that compromises blood flow, causes pain, and can lead to strangulation, severe tissue damage, and even the need for advanced medical procedures like ongoing wound care or limb amputation.”

Tape and cats

There’s a fair number of cats who go nuts for tape or anything adhesive. Like ribbon, tape — if ingested — can cause intestinal blockages and other digestive issues. Additionally, eating the tape’s adhesive could cause adverse reactions.

Bags and cats

It’s a well-known fact that cats love bags, and we love to watch our kitties hide and play inside them. Opening gifts presents many opportunities for feline bag investigation. The main consideration for holiday bag fun is that most of them have handles.

Do you see where we’re going with this one? That’s right — cats, in their holiday bag frolicking, may wind up with their heads stuck in the bag handles. Because there’s so much activity going on around the situation, this potential emergency may go unnoticed by humans. Cats should be supervised any time of year if given a bag with handles. Or, you could simply cut the handles off the bags and then let kitty go wild.

More safety suggestions for opening holiday gift opening with cats:

A gray tabby cat and a small Christmas tree and gifts.

Kitty parents should be sure to put these safety measures in place before opening holiday gifts. Photography ©Maryviolet | Thinkstock.

  • Mahaney says, “Yes, feline-owning households can make gift opening festive for people yet safe for cats by using holiday-themed wrapping paper but excluding ribbon from their packaging and decorations.”
  • Make one person in charge of a trash bag and direct them to immediately collect all the torn gift wrap that’s been tossed aside. Also ask them to collect the gift bags and fold them flat. It’s probably a good idea to keep this stack of bags out of the reach of curious paws.
  • Boxes are nearly always a good solution when it comes to cats. To distract kitty, offer her a box that’s free of tape remnants. For added enjoyment, add a few pieces of (tape-free) crumpled-up wrapping paper to the box. Hallelujah!
  • Before you start opening gifts, give kitty the contents of her stocking (come on, we know your cats all have stockings). The new toys from Santa might be just the distraction she needs.
  • Let guests know the gift-opening drill, and ask them not to give kitty any items that are off limits.
  • If none of these suggestions work, place kitty in a room behind a closed door with food, water and a litter box. Oh, and maybe a box or bag (with the handles removed, of course).

Thumbnail: Photography ©NataGolubnycha | Thinkstock.

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