Hello! Nigel, here! The holiday season is upon us and this brings up many concerns for your feline overlords. Many of you decide that at this time of year, for whatever reason, it is a great idea to bring an actual tree into the house…dangle sparkly lights, strings and toys on it…and then expect us cats to completely ignore it. Does anyone other than myself see the problem with this logic?

Of course, the doctors at For Cats Only recommend just skipping the tree altogether. We certainly don’t have one at our house. Can you imagine? Really..I mean, Cecil would likely burn the house down!

For many of you, I realize that having no decorative holiday foliage in your home would be a fate worse than death. For this reason, I have compiled a list of suggestions to help you enjoy the decorations of the holiday season while minimizing the risk to your feline friends.

1. Anchor the Tree

Whether the tree is artificial or real, cats reall do enjoy scratching on the bark or trying to make their way up the trunk. This can cause the Christmas tree to tip over. If the tree lights are on, this creates a potentially life-threatening fire hazard for everyone in the household. It is very important that you choose a tree stand that is large and sturdy. Many stands on the market are small and flimsy. In addition, it is a good idea to secure the legs of the stand with duct tape to an uncarpeted floor, to prevent cats from knocking the tree over. If the tree is on carpeting, it can be anchored with a wire or twine to a piece of heavy furniture. Be sure that the wire or string doesn’t itself pose a potential danger for children and pets.

2. Prevent Chewing

Cats like to chew on the branches and needles of Christmas trees. Pine trees contain pine oil, which can cause gastrointestinal upset, lack of coordination (ataxia), anemia, breathing difficulties and changes in mentation. In addition, the needles usually are quite sharp and can puncture a cat’s eyes or even its intestines if swallowed. Cat servants can reduce these risks by spraying the branches with a mixture of cayenne pepper and water. The sharp taste should deter any further chewing. Cats also like to chew on electric wires. The cords of Christmas lights should be placed in such a way that the cat cannot get at them. Be sure to cover the wires leading from the tree to the electrical outlet, either by taping them down or running them through an empty paper towel or wrapping paper roll.

3. Secure Ornaments

Cats love to bat at Christmas ornaments and chase them around the house. Unfortunately, fragile glass ornaments can shatter. Other ornaments may have sharp or pointed edges, both of which can cause serious injury externally or, if swallowed, internally. The most dangerous ornaments are the thin glass balls. When they hit the floor they break, and the kitty can get glass shards in its paws or nose. Unbreakable ornaments should be placed near the bottom of the tree. All ornaments should be securely attached to the branches to prevent them from falling. Much more secure fasteners will need to be used than those flimsy wire paper-clip varieties..

4. The Forgotten Hazards of Presents and Tinsel

Many people forget about this one, but the packages under the Christmas tree can also be dangerous. Cats love to play with ribbons wrapped around the presents– especially the thin, curly ones. Ribbons can be swallowed and become entangled in the cat’s intestines, causing intestinal blockages. Cats are prone to having string, ribbon or yarn become wrapped around the base of their tongue, which is both dangerous and painful. A huge cause of gastrointestinal abnormalities in cats around the holidays is tinsel – especially the long, thin, single-stranded shiny silver kind. Cats tend to pick tinsel up with their rough tongues while they are grooming. Like ribbon, tinsel can be very dangerous for cats when swallowed. The safest thing to do is skip on ribbons and tinsel. There are plenty of other decorations and wrappings that you can use to be festive, without putting your precious kitties in unnecessary danger. A good idea is to use foil-type wrapping paper as cas don’t like the sound or texture of foil. Newspaper always makes a good wrapping for packages and does not seem to be particularly attractive to cats. It is also environmentally friendly and easy to recycle.

I hope these tips are helpful to you humans. Please enjoy your holiday ridiculousness, but remember to keep your precious cats safe. After all…we are the “reason for the season”. Right?

Nigel…signing off! Meow!

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