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Norwich Bulletin - 12/23/2007

Christmas Safety For Cats

Itís Christmas time again and everyone is excited; the kids, the parents and our cats can sense that something is in the air. It is the time to enjoy the holidays but also the time to take some extra precautions with our kitties because there will be many dangers facing them during the Christmas season.

Cats and Christmas trees. I know that the rules say it is better to have an artificial tree than a real one for cat safety. So the first year we were married, my husband and I invested in a very expensive fake tree. We put the tree up and decided to let the cats get used to it before we put up any decorations.

Well, the next day when we got home from work, there were very few branches left on the tree. The cats had pulled them off and ran around the house with them as toys. A few had thrown up because they had eaten some of the fake pine needles. So we tossed the tree and bought a real one. For us, the real tree works.

Our cats like to sleep under the tree and smell the out of doors. We never put any type of chemicals in the tree water though, because a few of our cats will drink from the tree stand. It has taken us twelve years but we have the routine down pretty well.

We put the tree up and leave it bare for at least three days Ė by then the cats are bored with it Ė then we put up the lights and we use wooden garland with beads, rather than any type of tinselly materials. Cats will play with and eat tinsel and it is very dangerous, causing blockages which result in expensive emergency surgery.

We put non breakable wooden and fabric ornaments on the bottom of the tree so the cats can safely bat at them. Also, when they donít get yelled at, the cats figure they are not doing anything wrong so they get bored and leave them alone. All or our breakable ornaments (yes, we do have them), are up high where they are less likely (notice I said less likely) to get knocked off the tree and broken. The lights are unplugged when we are not home and they have bitter apple lining them when they are plugged in to prevent curious kittens from chewing the wires.

We never use artificial snow (it is toxic to cats) and candles on the tree are a definite no-no. Flames are very hard for a cat to resist checking out and the cat and the house could be in serious trouble.

We are Christmas plantless in our house because holly, mistletoe and poinsettias, although beautiful, are toxic to cats, all in varying degrees. If you really feel you need to have plants to make your holiday complete, place them where your cat cannot get to them.

As you give your cats special treats of human food, it is important to remember that some foods do not belong in feline stomachs. Never give your cats chicken or turkey bones as they can splinter and become lodged in your cats throat or puncture the intestines and stomach. Chocolate is very dangerous and you need to keep your gift boxes of chocolate in the cupboards. Make sure your garbage can is not easily accessible Ė turkey bones wrapped in aluminum foil can be doubly dangerous if ingested.

We donít put ribbons and bows on our family presents anymore (note Ė we also do not have small children) but the few that we do decorate, stay in our closets on our shelves until our visitors arrive.

Speaking of visitors, that brings us how our cats react to strangers. Cats are like people, some are gregarious and friendly, others suspicious and still others shy. Be aware of your catís feelings and give the cat the option of mingling with the guests or retiring to a nice, quiet area of their own.

When buying toys, make sure you thoroughly check them first. There should be nothing glued on that the cat can pull off and swallow, and, if the toy is small enough for a cat to swallow, donít give it to your pet.

I still maintain kittens should not be Christmas gifts. If you insist on bringing one home, please do not tell your children it is from Santa. How horrible would it be if there was something wrong with your kitten? Could you ever explain to a child why Santa would give a sick kitten as a gift? If you feel you have to have a kitten on Christmas Eve, then please give the baby its own room, plenty of food and fresh water and alone time. You do not want to cause undo stress on a baby.

Please ensure your cats are safe and happy, inside and warm. The Knapps and their cats wish you all a very happy holiday.

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