Three Tips for a Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving with Cats

Holiday traditions can pose dangers to cats, and the ASPCA recommends these safety steps.

Thanksgiving means spending time with the whole family, including cats, but the ASPCA reminds cat owners of some dangers that the holiday brings to pets.

Dr. Camille DeClementi, senior toxicologist at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, says cat owners must know of the popular holiday traditions that could pose dangers for cats. “Many of the foods we eat and the decorations we put up – while perfect to help us get into the holiday spirit – are not always safe for our pets.”

The ASPCA has the following three reminders for keeping cats safe during the holidays.

Food for Thought
On Thanksgiving, feeding your cat a bit of turkey is okay, as long as it has been fully cooked and is bone-free. Undercooked turkey may contain salmonella bacteria and bones could splinter and get lodged in your cat’s digestive tract. DeClementi also urges cat owners to be extremely careful with any alcoholic beverages.

“Pets that ingest alcohol can become very sick and may fall into a coma, leading to an untimely death,” DeCLementi said in a press release. If baking is a yearly tradition, chocolate should be kept far away from cats, as it can cause a variety of symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rate and occasionally seizures.

Dangerous Decorations
Thanksgiving can mark the start of holiday decorating, so, protect cats while putting up seasonal decor. Keep candles out of reach of curious cats that might swat at flames, burn themselves or even knock the candle over.

DeClementi reminds cat owners to keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of “paws’ reach.” “A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock, and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus. Shards of breakable ornaments are very sharp and could also be dangerous.”

Tinsel is extra appealing to cats who love sparkly, light-catching “toys” that are easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible emergency surgery.

Boughs of Holly
Certain festive plants can cause some serious damage if cats ingest them.

“Lillies are popular holiday flowers which can cause kidney failure in cats,” DeClementi said. “And festive plants like holly and mistletoe also can be dangerous and cause gastrointestinal upset or, in rare cases with mistletoe, cardiovascular problems.”
She says to use non-toxic decorations such as wood, fabric or even pinecones.

What about poinsettias? It is a persistent holiday myth that the poinsettia plant is highly toxic to cats; in reality, poinsettias cause only mild to moderate gastrointestinal irritation. Keeping it out of cats’ reach is still a good idea, but there’s no need to banish it altogether, according to the ASPCA.

Christmas trees are not particularly toxic, but take precautions to securely anchor it so it doesn’t tip or fall. Cover tree water; it may contain fertilizers and bacteria that can cause stomach upset, nausea or diarrhea if cats drink it.

If your cat accidentally ingests a potentially toxic substance this holiday season, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for immediate assistance.

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