How to Avoid Holiday Cat Emergencies

No one wants to have to bring their cat to the emergency vet, and emergencies are especially stressful during the holidays. Unfortunately, accidents happen - that's why we're here. With a little pre-planning, though, you can reduce the risk of a cat emergency.

Many things have the potential to cause a pet emergency, from food to decorations and from travel to house guests. It's important to have your veterinarian's phone number handy as well as that of the nearest 24/7 veterinary hospital (like us!). The number for the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline can also be indispensable. In addition, you'll need to take a look at your holiday decorations, foods, and other items as well as activities that could impact Kitty.

Making sure everything is safe - or that Kitty is separated from potentially hazardous situations - can save you (and Kitty) from heart-ache and stress later on. Of course, if you have kittens, you'll need to be extra cautious since they don't know the rules yet!


As you know, cats - especially kittens - are curious, often investigating every little thing (and sometimes testing those things' responses to gravity by knocking them over, off or around!). Whether your cat investigates new things by climbing, pawing, batting, sniffing, or chewing, it's best to make sure your decorations are kitty-proofed. That could mean making sure your table top decorations are anchored securely, or it could mean your ornaments are securely attached to your tree. You may even need to anchor your tree securely so it doesn't end up laying on the floor!  

While the potential exists for nearly any decoration to cause a problem (from broken glass ornaments to stray tree needles), there is one decoration that is notoriously terrible for cats: tinsel. It’s shiny, it dangles from tree limbs, and it is absolutely enticing to cats. Tinsel is dangerous because, since it's relatively easy to swallow, it can cause intestinal blockages and/or damage internal organs. If your cat (or dog) has ingested tinsel, you need to take him/her to the veterinarian immediately - s/he may need x-rays and abdominal surgery! Waiting to see if it passes raises the risk of extensive abdominal damage and, potentially, death.

Candles can also be problematic for cat (and dog) owners. While their flickering light is beautiful, it only takes a single bat of a paw or a missed jump to move the flickering light from the candle to the drapes or the tree or something else. If you do have candles, make sure they're well-contained so if they are knocked over they can't light anything else.

Need some cat-friendly decorating ideas? Try this article or this Pinterest board so your holiday decorations don't end up on the floor like the ones in the photo!


Of course, decorations aren't the only things Kitty might find fun... bows, string, tape - all the the things you use to wrap gifts can be potentially hazardous playthings for Kitty. Bows (depending on type) and strings pose the same problems as tinsel, potentially requiring surgery to remedy. So, to be safe, keep your kitty away from the wrappings and keep wrapped gifts in a secure location Kitty can't get into. When it's time to get them out and put them under the tree, make sure to keep Kitty away unless s/he can be supervised!

Electrical Cords

Your cat may have learned already that chewing on electrical cords is a bad idea... But some cats just don't learn their lesson (and kittens may not have learned yet at all!).  Obviously, that’s a potential hazard you'll want to prevent. Keeping Kitty from chewing on electric cords, like extension cords or Christmas lights, may mean limiting these to a specific room and then supervising your cat when in that room.

You know your cat best so you’ll have to be the judge of how much supervision your cat needs. (Some cats have no interest in any of it, while others are fascinated!)


Seasonal plants and flowers often play a part in our holiday decorating, too, but be careful that you don't decorate with something poisonous to Kitty! You may be surprised at the number of plants poisonous to cats. Lilies, poinsettias, and amaryllis are a few that are popular during the holiday season, and we recommend keeping these out of reach of your felines. However, these are not the only plants to be aware of. Here’s a complete list of plants toxic to kitties. (Lilies are especially fatal to cats. Don't let Kitty near any part of a lily, even its pollen or vase water!)

Additionally, many cats like drinking the water out of Christmas tree stands. If your cat is one of those, you'll either need to ensure there are no additives in the water and no pesticides on the tree, or you'll need to block Kitty from the water. If you see any symptoms of poisoning like vomiting, be sure to call your veterinarian right away.


Traveling with cats requires special fortitude. From secure carriers to medical records, what you’ll need depends on where you’re going and by what means. A car ride a few hours away may only require a cat carrier and some food, while a flight will likely require medical records (which you should start updating several weeks to a couple of months in advance) and, possibly, medication. You can discuss your plans with your veterinarian who will make appropriate recommendations. 

Leaving your cat with a pet-sitter, instead? Be sure your pet-sitter has been to your home to meet your cat(s) - and make sure their keys work! - before you leave. That gives you the chance to introduce a new person to them while you're there and to answer any questions the pet-sitter might have. It's not a bad idea, though, to have a back-up person (like a trusted neighbor) who can take care of your cat(s) in the event of bad weather or an accident preventing your pet-sitter from getting to Kitty.

Finally, if you're staying home, but guests are traveling to your home, make sure Kitty has a safe place away from the hubbub. It's also a good idea to keep Kitty away from exterior doors when people are coming and going. Even if s/he isn't one to try to dart out under normal circumstances, the disruption to his/her routine during the holidays might prove too stressful and cause him/her to run. No one wants that (including Kitty).

The holidays are supposed to be a fun time, full of family, friends and good cheer. While there’s ample opportunity for curious cats to get into trouble, with a little pre-planning, you can keep your season bright and prevent holiday cat emergencies.  And remember: all your cat really wants for the holidays is your love, some tasty treats and a lifetime supply of awesome boxes!

*As always, if you do have an emergency, we're here 24/7 to help!

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