Top 6 Holiday Hazards for Your Cat

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A cat with cat insurance bites a snowflake decoration.

By Dr. Jane Matheys, a Veterinarian and a writer for Pets Best, a cat insurance agency

With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to lose track of where your cats are and what trouble they might be getting into. Having pet insurance as a backup is always a good idea— but here are some holiday health tips to keep your kitty safe this season.

1. Decadent Food
Be careful not to overdo it by giving your cat foods that may cause digestive upset. Avoid feeding table scraps indiscriminately during the festivities, and remind guests not to sneak tidbits to your cats either. Also remember that chocolate can be toxic or even fatal to dogs and cats, especially unsweetened cocoa or baking chocolate. Theobromine, the toxic compound found in chocolate frequently causes poisoning in dogs, but cats are also susceptible. Between 1 to 4 hours of eating chocolate you may notice your pet showing signs of: vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, weakness, difficulty keeping balance, hyperexcitability, muscle spasm, seizures, coma, or death from an abnormal heart rhythm.

2. The Christmas Tree
There’s always something enticing to cats about a novel source of water like that in the Christmas tree stand. Do not let them drink from it. Christmas tree water may contain fertilizers which can cause stomach upset if ingested. The stagnant water can also be a breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. Try to keep the water covered or use a heavy tree skirt. Cats may also try to climb the tree, so make sure it is anchored well and away from things like glass tables.

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3. Décor
Many cats cannot resist tinsel. Although the sight of your cat pawing at the tree may be cute, the ingestion of tinsel can be deadly. Because pets can easily get a hold of something like Christmas décor, it’s a good idea to have a dog or cat insurance plan—especially around the holidays.

Eating tinsel or other string-like items such as ribbon can cause serious damage to the intestine. One end can get stuck while the rest is pulled into the intestine as it contracts. The contractions may cause the ribbon or tinsel to saw through the intestine. If not caught in time, infection of the belly cavity develops and the prognosis for recovery becomes poor. If your cat has eaten something like this, signs might include: vomiting, diarrhea, depression, belly pain, and sometimes fever.

4. Lights
Decorative lights are another attraction for cats to chew on. Electrical shock can cause burns, especially in the mouth, difficulty breathing, abnormal heart rhythm, loss of consciousness and death. Call your veterinarian immediately if your cat has been injured by electrical shock. Treatment will be most effective if begun soon after the shock. Curious cats have also been known to knock down candles causing house fires. Never, ever leave candles unattended with a cat in the house. Having pet health insurance can help defray costs, especially around the holidays when many vet offices are closed and sometimes expensive emergency care is your only option.

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5. Potpourri
Liquid potpourri makes your house smell festive but may be another attraction for cats to drink. I once treated a cat that had tongue ulcers from drinking potpourri. Fortunately, the kitty recovered well with supportive care and a gruel-type diet for several days. Keep potpourri pots covered or otherwise inaccessible.

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6. Plants
Probably the most important plant to worry about is the fragrant lily (such as tiger, Asiatic and Stargazer) which is commonly found in holiday arrangements and is highly toxic to cats. Just one chewed leaf can result in severe, acute kidney failure.

Mistletoe can also be very toxic to cats and you should consult your veterinarian immediately if your cat has potentially ingested any part of the plant. It’s accidents like ingestion of Mistletoe that having cat insurance can be a life saver. Holly can also be a problem, although signs of poisonings are generally mild and include vomiting, belly pain and diarrhea.

Poinsettias have received bad publicity in the past whereas, in fact, they are not very toxic to cats. They do, however, contain a milky sap that can irritate the mouth, but signs are usually mild.

For more information about pet health and pet insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.

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