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The Scoop on Poinsettias, Ribbons, Tinsel, Potpourri and More

The holidays are almost upon us. And with them come lots of things that can affect your cat. Speaking from a cat’s perspective, some of these things are kind of scary. So, here are some of the things that you cat owners need to know about your cats and the holidays.

This time of the year, poinsettias traditionally get a bad rap for being dangerous. The truth is that the risk of poisoning from a poinsettia is generally overrated. They are mildly toxic and, if one of us chews on them, we might end up drooling and maybe vomiting a little bit and/or having some diarrhea. However, they are not typically life-threatening and your cat will likely recover if ingestion does occur.

Some of the other plants and flowers used as decorations, on the other hand, are much more dangerous. Lilies in particular are especially dangerous for cats and these plants (and their cut flowers) can definitely be life-threatening. Other plants that have varying levels of toxicity include some types of holly and mistletoe, both of which are used as decorations this time of year.

Speaking of decorations, ribbons, tinsel and other string-like objects can be quite dangerous for us. We’re cats. We’re curious. We love to play with strings. But sometimes playing also leads us to swallow these objects, which can cause intestinal obstructions and perforations which can even be fatal for us.

Many of the decorations you use to make your house pretty and sparkly are electrical and electrical cords can be tempting for us too. These cords can pose an electrical risk for a curious or playful cat that decides to bite into one of them.

Candles and potpourri are also commonly used as decorations this time of the year. Potpourri often contains herbs and essential oils that don’t mix well with cats. Cats are notoriously sensitive to such things. In addition, besides the risk that these items may cause injury to a cat that gets too close, they can also pose a fire hazard, especially if one is knocked over accidentally.

Being more discriminating in what we eat than our canine counterparts, food toxicities are less of a problem for us cats. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Chocolate can be dangerous for us, depending on the type of chocolate and how much is eaten. Raw yeast dough can also be dangerous. Fortunately, sugarless products that contain xylitol don’t appear to be dangerous for us as they do for dogs.

Holiday trees can pose a threat to us in several different ways. Firstly, the water at the bottom of the tree may contain fertilizers and other things that could be poison for us if ingested. Secondly, curious cats have been known to knock ornaments off of trees. Glass ornaments can break, leaving sharp edges that can cut. Finally, some cats may even try to climb the tree, which could potentially cause it to topple and cause injury. It may be necessary to secure your tree so that it cannot fall.

If in doubt about the potential for poisoning or other risks associated with holiday decorations and the like, avoid exposing your cat to them. Your veterinarian is your best source for advice about what’s safe and what’s not for us.

Another thing to consider around this time of the year is that many of us don’t do well with changes in our routine or surroundings. We may find this time of the year stressful. For some of us, the stress could even be enough to precipitate litter box issues or even health problems. To help avoid this, try to keep to our regular schedules as much as possible. Make sure we have a private spot that we can retreat to if we need some alone time, especially if you have strangers in the house. Don’t forget to set aside some quality time to spend with us too. We’ll appreciate the extra TLC and it will be good for you too.

Lastly, if you have any doubts about your cat’s health or well-being, consult with your veterinarian, whether it be around the holidays or any other time of the year. A good holiday gift to give your cat would be a visit with your veterinarian if your cat has not had a regular examination recently. Doing so will allow you to give your feline friend the gift of good health.

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