Holiday Feline Care: 10 Essential Tips


The holiday season is a joyous time filled with friends, family, festive decorations and lots of activity. However, all of this excitement can also be scary and stressful for our feline companions. As a veterinary professional with over 15 years of experience, I want to provide cat parents with my top 10 essential tips to keep your cats happy and healthy this holiday season.

1. Keep Your Cat's Routine

Cats thrive on routine and predictability. Their delicate systems are easily upset by changes, which can cause issues like constipation, urinary tract infections, vomiting and more. While it may be tempting to give extra treats, shifts in activity or feeding times during the holidays can wreak havoc on your cat's health.

Try to keep their schedule as close as possible to their normal routine. Feed them at the same times every day rather than leaving food out to graze. Make sure they have calm spaces they can retreat to, and try to keep noisy festivities away from these restful areas. Maintaining consistency will give them a sense of comfort and stability amid the holiday hustle and bustle.

2. Provide a Quiet Space 

The holidays often mean houses filled with guests and wild children hyped up on candy and excitement. The noise and chaos of constant company and activity can quickly overwhelm many cats. Be sure your cat has access to a dedicated quiet space they can retreat to for some peace and relaxation, like a spare bedroom, laundry room, large closet or even under some furniture.

Place their litter box, food, water, scratching post and some favorite toys in this calm zone. Also be sure unfamiliar guests, especially rambunctious kids, give this kitty oasis a wide berth. Providing a relaxing refuge will give them an escape when they’ve had enough fun. Pay attention to their body language, and intervene quickly when they seem stressed before problems arise. A [feline pheromone diffuser](https://www.bdvets.com/blog/pheromone-diffuser-for-cats-does-it-work/) can also help induce tranquility.

3. Practice Caution with Holiday Decorations


Many classic holiday decorations pose safety issues and choking hazards for curious cats with a penchant for batting and biting ornaments and chewing on wires, pine needles and tinsel. Consider skipping the traditional Christmas tree altogether, and opt for a tabletop feather tree or secure decorations at least 4 feet or higher up walls to avoid tempting paws.

If you do have a classic tree, secure it firmly in a sturdy stand, and use unbreakable ornaments. Stick with wider ribbon over thin strands they could ingest, and ensure exposed wires are neatly covered and secured. Clean up pine needles daily, and make all spaces with light strings and electrical decor inaccessible. Keep breakable heirlooms and plants toxic to cats like poinsettias, lilies and mistletoe well out of reach to avoid emergency vet visits. Work to balance festive fun with feline safety. 

4. Exercise Caution with Holiday Treats and Foods

The tasty abundance of holiday dishes and edible gifts pose threats to cats as well. Many traditional holiday recipes feature dangerous ingredients like garlic, onions, nutmeg, grapes, raisins, rich fatty meats and bones. Chocolate is highly toxic to cats, so sweets and baked goods are unsafe no matter how small the amount.

Even small tastes of risky foods can cause severe poisoning, stomach issues or even pancreatitis. Cats also love playing with and chewing on ribbons or cellophane wrapping which can cut their intestines when ingested or cause suffocation when caught on their teeth and claws.

Resist sharing holiday table food leftovers, no matter how much they beg. Keep trash with food wrappers secured, and ensure visiting guests know not to offer kitty concessions either. Opt for safer treats made just for feline palates instead to show your cats some holiday love.

5. Keep Holiday Plants Out of Reach

Lovely holiday greenery like poinsettias, holly and mistletoe are quintessential Christmas decor. However, they also happen to be extremely toxic to cats who may nibble or ingest leaves, berries or sap. Even small mouthfuls of any portion of these plants can lead rapidly to an emergency trip to the [veterinary hospital](https://www.bdvets.com/).

The safest approach is to decorate with only non-toxic greenery like pine, cedar and fir boughs. If you do have dangerous holiday plants, then its best to ensure cats have no access by isolating them to rooms pets cannot get into. Place toxic specimens far out of reach, and never allow cats to be unsupervised with plants in their environment. Accidents happen quickly, so constant vigilance is a must.


6. Prevent Electric Cord Chewing 

Kitties have an innate desire to play with and chew on string-like items which make the abundance of holiday lights, extension cords and electric menorah wires too tempting to resist. Their sharp teeth easily tear through plastic coating exposing current-conducting wires carrying up to 120 volts of deadly electrical current. Even pawing or mouthing live cords poses an immediate electrocution risk with just one frayed bite leading to tragic consequences.

While your own cords may be safely out of reach, beware of visitor extension cords or temporary lighting set-ups. Additionally, curious cats can fit into some really tight spaces which gives them access behind furniture or appliances housing electrical plugs.

Combat the risks by ensuring all wires are fully secured, covered with protective tubing, hidden safely behind furniture, and 100% inaccessible to curious kitties. Also watch for early signs of an unsafe interest in cords like licking, batting or mouthing wires and redirect their attention quickly. Stop hazards in their tracks before any damage is done.

7. Take Care with Lit Candles

Nothing sets a holiday mood like softly flickering candles, however leaving burning candles unattended poses serious risks. Curious kitties batting at flames can easily ignite their fur or cause a larger out of control fire. Burning paws or singed whiskers trying to investigate are also common injuries which require immediate first aid and pain control. 

Prevent candle catastrophes by blowing out all flames whenever leaving a room, even just briefly. Battery powered artificial candles capture a similar twinkle without open flames. Cover burning candles with glass shades, keep out of traffic areas, place on high shelving cats cannot access, or avoid altogether by using safer flameless LED options instead.

8. Prep for House Guests

Surprise out of town guests flopping onto your couch pose safety and anxiety issues for resident cats unaccustomed to strangers in their territory. New people bring unfamiliar sounds, smells and movements which can be perceived as extremely threatening. This triggers a self-protective reactive response leading to aggression like hissing, biting or scratching even in previously docile cats.

If possible, introduce house guests slowly while keeping fearful cats confined safely in another room. Brief visits on neutral ground allow adjustment without the trauma of someone suddenly invading their space. Provide abundant hiding spots to retreat to and maintain their daily routines. Feliway diffusers and calming treats can also help lower stress. 


Prepare visitors by explaining proper cat etiquette like waiting for kitty to approach first before interacting. Children especially should receive clear guidelines about being gentle and not chasing cats before a visit. With ample safety measures and patience, most cats can adapt well to holiday guests.

9. Add Extra Litter Boxes

Changes in household schedules or an abundance of visitors during the holidays often translates to disrupted bathroom routines for resident cats. Rather than waiting patiently, sudden urgent needs may send them searching frantically for the nearest usable spot. Many undesirable surprise “gifts” or torn up carpets are direct results when nature calls suddenly but the facilities seem limited. 

Adding a spare litter box or two, especially in high cat traffic areas, helps avoid accidents when regular boxes are suddenly inaccessible due to commotion. Scoop faithfully at least twice daily as cats dislike dirty potties even more than us humans. Keeping their bathroom options fresh, safe and readily available prevents messy morale destroying mistakes when holiday havoc leaves them desperate.

10. Prioritize Exercise and Playtime 

Hectic holiday happenings often mean cats spend more time alone as families rush about on errands, host festivities or travel over the holidays. Bored, lonely cats left to their own devices engage in naughty behaviors like chewing, clawing furniture or relieved boredom through excessive eating leading to obesity.

Make an extra effort to dedicate at least 20-30 minutes strictly for quality playtime every single day over the holidays. Break out the laser toys, catnip kickers, puzzle feeders and wand toys to get them leaping, pouncing and burning mental energy. This mimics hunting behaviors they need to express. Tire them out properly, and destructive behaviors diminish as contentment rises. Interactive play also reinforces critical human social bonds amid chaotic times when they may feel neglected. Both cats and owners benefitall around.

The key to keeping cats healthy and happy through the stress and excitement of the holiday season relies on maintaining their normal comforting routines as much as safely possible. Always put hazardous items out of reach, provide them with their own quiet safe zones to retreat to and give them plenty of playful attention each day. With some thoughtful planning and a few easy precautions, your kitties can stay merry, bright and untroubled all season long while you enjoy worry-free celebrations. Here’s wishing all my readers and their beloved felines a meowy holiday season from my clinic to your home!