Season’s Heedings

Follow these tips to keep your cats happy and safe during the holidays.

When you’re an inquisitive, resourceful cat (and aren’t they all?) the words “holiday trappings” take on a whole new meaning. The very components that make the season so special for humans enticing smells and tastes, festive decorations and the bustling activity can spell trouble, or at least discomfort, for cats.

However, the situation doesn’t have to be a lump of coal. You can keep your cats away from where curiosity leads them, and they can happily take all nine lives with them into the new year.

Food for Thought
Once your cat pads safely past Halloween (all cats, especially the black ones, indoors on All Hallow’s Eve, please!), the next holiday hurdle is Thanksgiving. And as experts can attest, the sources of concern are almost exclusively gastronomical. As the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals explains in its “Pet Safety Tips for the 2004 Holiday Season,” foods that merely threaten our waistlines can pose a much greater risk for your cat.

Do not give your cat holiday leftovers and keep it out of the garbage, as “greasy, spicy and fatty foods can cause stomach upset and moldy foods could cause tremors or seizures,” according to the ASPCA. And sweets, especially chocolate, are not for pets. Depending upon the amount ingested, the organization noted, chocolate (baker’s, semi-sweet, milk and dark) can be poisonous to many animals, with reactions including seizures, hyperactivity and increased thirst, urination and heart rate.

“You have to watch them because they can ingest all sorts of things they shouldn’t, like chocolates, even coffee grounds,” said Valerie Angeli, director of public information and special projects for the ASPCA in New York. “Think common sense and prevention.”

“With all that food around, it’s tempting,” said Katherine Houpt, VMD, director of Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y. “Cats don’t really like sugar and can’t digest it, but if it’s in a fatty food like pumpkin pie or ice cream, they’ll eat it.”

Acknowledging that getting into food poses the main threat to pets at Thanksgiving, Wayne Hunthausen, DVM, director of Animal Behavior Consultations at the Westwood Animal Hospital in Westwood, Kan., prefers to head pets off at the pass before they even get their paws on their first morsel.

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Behavior and Training · Cats