Dr. Sandra McCune for the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS)
Do you love the excitement, fun and busyness of Christmas? Or does it make you want to retreat under a duvet until it’s all over? Christmas can be a wonderful time of year, but it can also be stressful. It’s not just people that can get stressed at Christmas but also our companion animals. Here are 5 tips to ensure this Christmas is a happy one for you and your pet.
1. Seasonal Stresses
Things can be a little different for our companion animals at Christmas time. Cats can become stressed with unfamiliar people visiting, smells of cooking and cleaning, more noise than usual, Christmas decorations up and furntiure moved from its usual place, all creating a disturbance to their sense of security.
Cats love routine which is often disrupted during the Christmas season. Food items left out may be poisonous to your cat. Raisins and grapes, chocolate, alcohol, onions and garlic, poultry bones and excessive treats may make your cat unwell. Christmas plants such as poinsettias, Christmas tree needles and mistletoe can cause sickness and should be kept away from curious cats.
2. A Safe Haven from Parties & People
With all the excitement of Christmas and potential stress it may bring to your cat, it is best to be prepared in advance. Most cats love spending time with their owners but they all need time on their own. If the environment changes, as it often does at Christmas, it is important to give them choices about how much time they spend in the company of people or being petted. Christmas parties with unfamiliar people wanting your cat’s attention can prove particularly challenging for them. Toddlers and young children visiting may want to play with your cat more than they want to or in ways they find threatening. Provide cat-only access areas where they can retreat if they find what is going on elsewhere in the home a bit overwhelming. This can be a separate room if you have the space or a warm resting space out of the way. Cardboard boxes provide a degree of security and many cats love to sleep in them if placed in a quiet corner or up high.
3. Christmas Tree Chaos
We all love twinkly, sparkly Chrsitmas trees. Your cat may also find them irresistible with places to hide in, branches to climb and shiny baubles to bat. But Christmas trees can also pose risks for your festive feline including eating ornaments, chewing tinsel and getting caught up in lights. Follow these tips on How To Cat Proof Your Christmas Tree to keep your cat out of trouble and out of the vet clinic during the holiday season. Some cats love to climb so it’s best to supervise them when they have access to a Christmas tree to keep them safe. Glass baubles or ornaments that might break easily are best placed higher up in the tree to avoid being batted or broken by your cat. Make sure the tree has a sturdy or weighted base so it won’t fall over if your cat does venture up. Be careful with tinsel as some cats find it irresistible to chew and it can cause serious harm.
4. Gifts & Games
Wrapping paper, packaging and boxes can provide great enrichment for your cat. Many of them will love pouncing on scunched up paper. Treats can be hidden in packaging for cats to search and locate. And most cats love hiding in and playing in boxes. But care also needs to be taken when gifts are opened. Ingestion of ribbons, streamers and string appear to be the most common foreign bodies causing obstruction problems at this time of year. Party poppers and small items from crackers and games also pose a risk if they fall to the ground and are not lifted before your cat ‘catches’ and swallows them. Watch out for snow globes as some contain a form of anti-freeze which can taste attractive to cats but may be lethal if consumed.
5. Worrisome Weather
Cold weather poses risks to your cat just as it does to you. Cats often do not go outside as often or for as long as usual when snow or ice are on the ground. They may even refuse to go outside if temperatures drop too low. Provide them with a litter box indoors in a quiet place, away from their feeding area which may need cleaning more frequently than usual while it is cold outside. For cats brave enough to venture outdoors, it is vital they have easy access to return to the warmth of indoors so check catflaps are working properly. If your cat depends on you to let them in and out, then keep a close eye on them asking to be let back in after they go out so they do not get too cold. If you won’t be there during the day, ensure they have a cosy, warm and draught-free area they can access at all times such as a well lined box in an outside building.
As always, keep an eye on your cat for any signs of illness throughout the holiday season. Cats often mask their symptoms so they can be subtle but if you’re worried about your cat because it is less responsive than usual, hiding away more, and being sick or refusing food, then consult your vet.
The Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) Christmas season wish for everyone is a happy, healthy life with a companion cat for those that can manage the responsibilities that come with owning a pet. This Christmas season, SCAS wishes you and your cat a very happy and safe time together. Cats at Christmas. Follow us on FB and Twitter (@SCASuk) to share your Christmassy cat pictures and cat stories with us!
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SCAS was established in 1979 to promote the study of human-companion animal interactions and raise awareness of the importance of pets in society.
Over the past forty years SCAS has established itself as the UK authority in Human-Companion Animal Bond Studies, funding research, providing education, raising awareness, encouraging best practice, and influencing the development of policies and practices that support the human-companion animal bond.
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