Cats and Christmas Catastrophes

Time to Cat-Proof for the Holidays

Canine dietary indiscretions like chocolate, raisins, grapes, and turkey carcasses are well known. Let’s be fair; cats are sneakier; their Christmastime binging can go unnoticed until they’re sick.

Tinsel tops the list. Once swallowed, peristaltic movements usually advance it safety toward the proper exit but if a strand gets hung up, those back and forth gut motions create trouble. Wads of tinsel cause obstructions. Lengths of it saw holes in the intestinal wall. Choose wisely: decorate with tinsel or have a cat. There is no tinsel at the Nichol house.

The silica gel packs included as moisture absorbents in many gifts are compelling toys. Cats who eat a little of the contents do OK but consuming mass quantities will cause a belly ache. Swallowing a packet whole can obstruct the intestines.

Imbibing on Christmas tree water? Additives intended for life support of this festive symbol aren’t a problem but bacterial/fungal contaminants lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Sampling the boughs themselves? Regardless of tree species, snacking kitties may lose their appetites, vomit, and suffer abdominal pain. Swallowed needles can obstruct the gut. A floor-to-ceiling cat tree, festooned with dangling catnip toys and located against a window, is a funner alternative to a slowly dying tree anyway.

Poinsettias have long been reviled as the Grinch that stole pet Christmases but a cat would have to really stuff himself to get even mildly sick. Ditto for Christmas cactuses. Holly, another feline holiday delicacy, causes kitties to be queasy but survival is expected.

Mistletoe (few cats care for kissing) causes mild stomach upset even if only a few nibbles are taken but beware of plastic berries. Kitties who swallow those spend their Christmas break recovering from surgery. Amaryllis is not our cats’ friends either. Ingestion of the leaves and flowers causes drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. A cat who consumes the bulb can suffer low blood pressure, weakness, staggering, trembling, and convulsions.

Finally, if the antidepressant Effexor is part of your holidays be sure the lids on the pill bottles are secure. These tablets are tasty to cats, who respond by vomiting, staggering, dilatation of the pupils, racing hearts, and agitation. They need emergency treatment. If in doubt call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-4-ANI-HELP). Have a safe and merry Christmas.