Through the years, for certain holidays such as the Fourth of July, Christmas, New Years, Halloween, and Hanukkah, we use enchanting lights, fireplaces, lanterns, trees, firecrackers, ornaments, bottle rockets, and candles to celebrate with family and friends. Although we may enjoy our festivals with these traditional additions, sometimes they can be terrifying, intriguing, or damaging to our pets. Some dogs are known to be afraid of fireworks and cry while the loud noises fill the air. Cats too can be startled by fireworks and are often a little bit too curious about candles.
Christmas lights are common for people to have inside and outside their homes. And why not? Santa wouldn’t be able to find your house if it’s not lit up! If strings of Christmas lights are hung inside homes, cats can grab for them with their paws and may try to bite the bulbs. If their teeth are on the wires or piercing a bulb while the lights are plugged into an outlet, your cat could be seriously hurt. If you plan to have lights hung up for the holidays, do not put lights on your Christmas tree’s lower branches and keep them high in corners against your walls and along the ceiling so your cat cannot jump onto them.
Christmas trees, whether fake or real, can be hazardous to your cat. Regardless of the type of tree, place your Christmas tree in a corner against two walls and away from ledges. If you have a fake Christmas tree, your cat may be tempted to chew on the plastic branches; make sure to place your fake tree on a block of wood and/or have the branches bent upwards. If this plastic is ingested, it can cause intestinal blockages for your cat. If you have a real Christmas tree, have your branches trimmed at the base so your cat won’t be able to chew on them. Pine trees contain pine oil which can cause gastrointestinal upset, lack of coordination, anemia, and breathing difficulties. The needles are also very sharp and can puncture your cat’s eyes or intestines if swallowed. If your cat tries to chew on the pine needles, you can spray the branches with a mix of water and cayenne pepper. The sharp taste should ward off your cat’s further chewing.
Fireplaces are wonderful to sit by, particularly if it’s winter and you would like to keep warm with a cup of hot chocolate while the fire roars. Some cats will avoid fires, but others may want to snuggle up near you to also stay warm. Make sure to take safety precautions if your pet might be near the fireplace. Always keep a gate, whether it’s installed around the fireplace or if it’s a fold-able fireplace gate, it will prevent ashes, sparks of fire and embers reaching your cat or the floor nearby. If you have a glass gate in front of your fireplace, do not let your cat come into contact with it; this can result in burns to their face and nose. Always open your damper so your cat and yourself will not be exposed to carbon monoxide which can be deadly. It is also important to keep fireplace tools behind a barrier so your cat will not be hurt by pokers or ingest starter bricks and matches. Most importantly, never let your cat be alone around a fire.
Glass ornaments and tinsel can be very hazardous to your cats. Although tinsel adds a nice spark to your Christmas tree, if they are in your cat’s reach and ingested, the tinsel can potentially block their intestines and this is generally only fixed through surgery. The same thing goes for ornaments. In addition to intestinal blockages, the broken glass can injure your cat’s face, mouth, and throat. Remember that traditional Christmas plants such as mistletoe, poinsettia, and holly are deadly to cats; if you have these plants in your home, make sure to keep them in areas where your cat cannot reach.
Fireworks are beautiful and fun to enjoy with family. Whether they’re sparklers, smoke bombs or bottle rockets, they are pretty and timeless. But when you keep fireworks in your home, it is important to keep them in a container or in a cabinet away from your cat. When unused fireworks are ingested, they are very poisonous to pets. Fireworks have hazardous chemicals such as potassium nitrate, which is an oxidizing agent, sulfur, which works as a coloring agent, and charcoal are dangerous heavy metals. If ingested by your cat, they can develop serious gastrointestinal issues. This will result in abdomen pain, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. If your cat ingests large amounts of these chemicals, they can also suffer from seizures, bone marrow changes, jaundice, tremors, acute kidney failure, and shallow breathing.
Never keep your cat near lit fireworks, under any exception. Exposure to lit fireworks can result in burns, conjunctivitis, and eye irritation. In addition, the loud noises can cause your cat fear, anxiety, and severe stress. Of course, you can’t prevent your neighbors from setting off their fireworks during New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July. But what you can do is stay calm to help your cat feel safe, and make sure that your cat has a safe place to hide. Your cat chooses these places because they feel protected from the sounds of the muffled fireworks.
Luminarias, Jack-O-Lanterns, and the Hanukkah Menorah all use candles to give a soft, beautiful and simplistic glow during Hanukkah, Halloween, and Christmas Eve. One thing they all have in common is their use of candles. It’s not difficult to think about how these can be dangerous for your cat.
Luminarias are paper bags filled with a bit of sand and a 3”x3” or 2”x3” pillar candle. These can be kept outside along the sidewalk, on the roofs of houses, and sometimes on the inside of window sills. Your cat will be curious about the shadows projected from the lit candle inside the bag. They could burn the paws by hitting the bag or knock it over, lighting the bag (and anything else the flame touches) on fire. If you plan to keep your Luminarias, you can use flameless tea light candles instead of real ones.
Your cat will also be curious about the tall pillar candles placed on the Hanukkah Menorah, and if the candle isn’t sturdy enough, it could fall over and injure your cat and possibly light something on fire. An alternative can be purchasing a Lustrous Silver LED Lighted Flameless Hanukkah Menorah instead of the traditional stand and candles, or LED pillar candles. A typical candle can be replaced in a Jack-O-Lantern with a battery fueled pillar candles, or purchase flameless Jack-O-Lanterns for your home instead. It may not be traditional, but it is safe for your cat, your children (if you have any), and your home.
Holidays are fun; the food, the music, the gift giving and receiving, and the speicial family moments makes theses days special. Decorations help emphasize and add to the fun of each holiday, and you are still able to enjoy your holidays with pet-safe decorations and alternatives while ensuring that your cats will be happy and healthy. Of course, not everything is a guarantee, but this way you can do your best to ensure it is.
Happy Holidays to you and your pets!
Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.