Cats and Christmas Trees

By Catherine Angle, DVM
Staff Veterinarian at Pet Poison Helpline®

Holiday Christmas CatAfraid your holiday cheer will wreak havoc on your feline friends?  You’re right, it might!  Christmas trees present a dangerous temptation to cats.  There are a couple of precautions that you should take to keep your favorite feline from spending your Christmas bonus on veterinary medical bills.

  1. The Holly Dazzle Tree
    Cats love to climb into the tree and peer out at everyone from their new safe hiding spot.  This isn’t an issue as long as they don’t eat anything while they are in there, get sap on their fur, or knock the whole thing over.  Try getting an artificial tree so your cat can’t ingest sap, tree water or pine needles, which can cause nausea, vomiting, skin irritation or injury to the stomach.  Secure your tree to prevent it from falling during curious feline exploration.  The tree should be secured at the top and bottom.  If you get a live tree, don’t give your cats access to the water basin at the bottom.  Cats are very sensitive the pine oils and chronic ingestions could cause problems.  If you see or feel sap on their fur wash it away immediately – if you don’t, they will and for a cat that means eating the sap.
  2. Tinsel
    Pretty though it may be, tinsel is a common cause of feline bowel obstruction.  After a cat ingests the tinsel they are unable to pass it through their intestines.  Once stuck, the cat tries to vomit it out but cannot and will need surgery to remove the blockage.  Cat lovers may want to go tinsel free or tinsel light until you know if your cat can resist the shiny temptation.
  3. Ribbon
    Ribbon ingestion commonly causes a linear or sting foreign body obstruction.  This is a particularly dangerous type of obstruction because once stuck, the ribbon becomes taught and acts like a saw against the side of the intestine.  Cats with this type of obstruction are good at hiding their illness and may continue to eat and drink for some time.  Keep your presents stored away until the big day or shy away from wrapping with long ribbons or wire edged ribbons.
  4. Lights
    Cats will occasionally chew through light strands, which can cause electrocution.  Cats who have been electrocuted will often have difficulty breathing and have burns in their mouth.  If you come home to find a chewed cord bring the culprit immediately to the veterinary office for evaluation.

Please have a happy and safe holiday season.  If a furry friend gets into something they shouldn’t, please call us!  We are here to help 24/7.  We love hearing from you, but prevention is always the best medicine and a little planning may help keep your holiday less stressful.