A Veterinarian’s List of Do’s and Don’t for a Happy and Healthy Christmas with your Cat

In our dreams, the holiday season is full of twinkling lights and dreams come true. But in the veterinary hospital, the holiday season brings us sick, stressed cats and the worried people who love them. To make matters worse, the holidays are a time of year when people are short on cash and time. These can become unbearable stressors when our cats get sick too.

Here is my list of Do’s and Don’ts to keep your cat happy, healthy and out of the veterinary hospital this holiday season.

Don’t

  • Accidentally poison your cat!
    • Onions and garlic damage your cat’s red blood cells and lead to anemia. If your cat accidentally eats onions or garlic and shows signs of lethargy, weakness, reduced appetite, pale gums, and orange to dark red urine seek emergency veterinary care.
    • Even one grape or raisins can a dog into renal failure. We are still learning about the risks of grapes and raisins for cats, but it is best to be safe while we get more definitive information.
    • Pan drippings, turkey skin and fatty meats are rich for a cat. These foods can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Some cats can develop pancreatitis, which can be deadly. Learn about more foods your cat shouldn’t eat!

Do

  • Treat your cat to foods that taste great and make them feel good too!
    • Cats are obligate carnivores. Small bits of fish or lean meats are healthy treats for your cat.  Salmon, and white meat chicken or turkey are great.
    • Watch your portion sizes when giving any treats. Less than 10% of your cat’s daily calories should come from treats. 11 more people foods you can give your cat.

Don’t

  • Bring holiday plants into your home that can be dangerous to your cat.
    • Poinsettia are not the biggest problem. Poinsettias cause mild local irritation to the mouth.  The real concerns are Lillie and Mistletoe.  Mistletoe may mean a stolen kiss for you, but it can cause an upset stomach or a heart arrhythmia in your cat.  Lilies are worse yet.  Even a few bites of a Lily can cause fatal kidney failure in cats.  I recommend never letting lilies in your house. Read more about plants that are poisonous to cats.

Do

  • Keep the number for Animal Poison Control on hand and call it if you think your cat ate something dangerous
    • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435

Don’t

  • Decorate with tinsel and/or stringy decorations. These items are quickly ingested by your cat and can cause a life-threatening problem in his/her intestines called a linear foreign body.
  • Put aspirin, alcohol or any preservatives in your Christmas tree water. Cats that have access to the Christmas tree can’t help but take a drink and can become very ill.

Do

  • Cover the Christmas tree water reservoir with aluminum foil to prevent your cat from drinking from it.
  • Understand that you just put an irresistible, natural cat tree in your cat’s world. Now make it safe. Keep your Christmas tree as sturdy as possible in case your cat goes for a climb. From below, make sure that you use a sturdy, heavy-duty tree stand. From above,  add stability by putting an eye hook in your ceiling and using high test fishing line to secure the trunk to the ceiling.

Don’t

  • Underestimate the stress of the holiday season for your cat. Stress can be the cause of lower urinary tract disease and gastrointestinal disease for your cat. Every day, our cats thrive on predictability in their environment and routine in the household schedule to feel safe and happy. The holiday season changes everything.  We move our furniture around, decorate, and have erratic schedules. We have parties, and overnight guests.
  • Force your cats and guests to interact. In fact, cats are happier if they are the ones that initiate contact with people and are allowed to end the contact when they want to.

Do

  • Advise your guests not to disturb your cat and only to pet your cat if your cat approaches them.
  • Think about how the change in your cat’s surroundings affects his/her life. Make sure that your cat has easy and stress-free access to his/her litter box, food, and water.
  • Give your cat a safe place to hide and escape from the party. Consider setting up a special room for your cat with beds to rest and hide in, cat trees to climb on, food, water, and a litter box.

Follow these Do’s and Don’ts for a happy and healthy holiday season with your cat, and I’ll see you in 2020!
Wags and Purrs,
Dr. Liz Bales

The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine graduate, Dr. Liz Bales, has only ever wanted to be a veterinarian. She has such a passion for her job, that she says if she weren’t a vet, she would be studying to become one. She loves “helping pets and the people who love them be happy and healthy!  Helping people translate complicated medical information into practical tips on how to care for, and connect with their pets is the best part of her job” Not just a veterinarian, Dr. Bales shares her passion through writing, giving speeches, and appearing on shows such as Fox and Friends, ABC News, and Cheddar. She has even started her own company, Doc and Phoebe, and invented a revolutionary cat product—the Indoor Hunting Feeder.

Dr. Bales’ favorite quote reflects her love and compassion for animals: “When a human dies there is a bridge they must cross to enter into Heaven. At the head of the bridge waits every animal that human encountered during their lifetime. The animals, based on what they know of this person, decide which humans may cross the bridge…and which are turned away.” With this in mind, Dr. Bales tries to live every day by her grandfather’s advice: “These days are precious. Don’t waste them.”

Jayne Taylor

Jayne started out as a veterinary nurse before she had her son, Joshua, and later her daughter Lily. Jayne is a passionate cat lover and has two fur-babies in Max and Silky. She admits to have a particular soft spot for russian blue cats and says she does her best not to make Max jealous when she pays special attention to Silky her russian blue. While Jayne was on maternity leave she noticed it wasn't easy to find the information she wanted about her beloved animal so she decided to start Cat Informer!

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