The holidays are a time full of cheer and fond memories with your family and your furry friends. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve watching my cats underneath the Christmas tree. As mentioned in my first blog entry, “Earl’s of Wisdom” is named after my own personal cat, Earl. Many of you are probably not aware though, that this is Earl’s first Christmas! As an owner, I never want to see any preventable injuries or illnesses in my pet. As a veterinarian, it is part of my responsibility to spread awareness and knowledge on how to have a safe, fun holiday with your kitty cats.
The Christmas Tree
The focal point of any house during Christmas celebrations is often the iconic Christmas tree. If you have a young, energetic, mischievous cat in your house, you might want to opt for an artificial tree this year. Pine needles can be dangerous when cats ingest them, causing an upset tummy. Also, needles from the tree can scratch the eye of playful kitty cats, causing painful corneal ulcers. Pre-lit trees are safer too because they have a lot less wires, which cats are often tempted to chew on. Cats chewing on the wires from lights can cause burns in the mouth and even electrocution. When decorating my tree, I never use any tinsel. If swallowed by our feline friends, tinsel can cause a bowel obstruction leading to emergency surgery. Also, pay attention to where you hang your Christmas ornaments on the tree. Avoid hanging breakable Christmas ornaments on the lower branches. Be mindful of cats ingesting ornament hooks. Again, this can lead to painful bowel obstruction.
Another classic holiday decoration during this time of year are poinsettia plants (Euphorbia spp). Although poinsettia plants are technically not lethal as has been historically reported, the latex sap found within the plant is known to cause gastrointestinal upset, vomiting and diarrhea. Therefore it is best to avoid having these types of plants in a feline friendly household. Another favorite Christmas decoration is mistletoe (Phorandendron spp), which contains toxins that can result in vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. In severe cases, mistletoe can even be poisonous by causing your pet to develop a slow heart rate. The American varieties of mistletoe are not normally lethal, however I would recommend artificial mistletoe when decorating your house.
I hope this blog entry was found useful for feline friendly homes when decorating for the holidays. From all of us at VCMC as well as my cat Earl, we wish everyone Happy Holidays and a Happy, healthy New Year!