Holidays Can Present Hazards to Your Cats

By Dr. Alison Kinnunen

As the holidays approach, there are some hazards that cat owners should be aware of. First, if you are planning to have a Christmas tree, make sure it is firmly anchored so that it doesn't fall over — because you know your cat will try to climb it! If you have a real tree, make sure your cat cannot access the water in the tree stand. Fertilizers from the tree preservatives and bacteria can cause problems. Also, avoid decorating the tree with tinsel, popcorn or other food on a string, or breakable glass ornaments. Tinsel and string can cause intestinal obstructions and require surgical removal. For the same reason, you should avoid using ribbons or string for wrapping gifts if they are going under the tree.

Two holiday plants to avoid altogether are holly and mistletoe, as both are toxic to cats. Poinsettias used to be considered toxic, but in reality, they cause a mild gastrointestinal upset if eaten. 

Always use caution when burning candles. They should be out of kitty’s reach, and they should never be left unattended. One brush with a tail could burn the cat or knock the candle over and ignite a fire. Liquid potpourri should be avoided altogether. It contains caustic chemicals that can cause severe contact burns on cats' skin and in their mouth and stomach if they ingest it.

If you have any concerns that your kitty may have gotten into something toxic, contact the ASPCA Poison Control hotline at 888-426-4435.

Finally, try to keep your cat's diet and schedule as normal as possible during the holidays. Some foods that should never be given to your cat are bread dough, chocolate, anything with onions or garlic in it, and alcohol. If you're planning a party, make sure your cat has a safe retreat to help decrease stress. Feliway diffusers and other calming agents may also help reduce stress.

Pets Experience Grief, Too

By Liz Miller

Dealing with the death of a pet can be difficult, but equally important as caring for yourself is ensuring that you take your remaining pets into consideration. They are likely mourning, too, and there are a few things you can do to make this time easier for them — and for you.

Here is a helpful article from Cesar Milan's website. Though it specifically details grief in dogs, there are some salient bits of information that you can use on your kitties as well. Here are the highlights:

  • Always be patient and understanding with your bereaved pets.
  • Do whatever you can to maintain a normal routine for your pet. This can help facilitate the transition that occurs following the death of an animal companion.
  • Often exercise, particularly for dogs, can help raise an animal’s energy and morale.
  • Be wary of introducing a new pet to your household too quickly. You do not want to disrupt your pet’s grieving process by creating potential territorial problems.

Finally, always make sure you take care of yourself throughout this difficult time.

Here are a few links (feline-specific) that may also prove useful:
Cats' Grief Over Pet Loss -
Feline Bereavement - International Cat Care

Human Foods Can Be Harmful to Your Cat

By Liz Miller

We all know how cute it is to baby our kitties with toys and treats, but we must not let our tendency to spoil our cats get in the way of their safety. Certain human foods can be harmful for our feline friends; just be sure to avoid the items on this list, and you can rest easy that your darlings are safe, happy and healthy.

  • Chocolate, coffee and anything containing caffeine: These all contain a substance known as methylxanthine that can be harmful to our kitty friends.
  • Alcohol: I hope this one goes without saying, but it is important to note that alcohol consumption may lead to severe liver and brain damage.
  • Raw and undercooked meat: These pose a risk for the development of salmonella and other food-borne illnesses.
  • Onions, garlic, chives and other related produce: These may cause gastrointestinal irritation, and what's worse, they may lead to red blood cell damage. Cats are particularly susceptible to the effects of these food items.
  • Milk: You will want to pay attention to this one. Though you may be tempted to offer Miss Kitty Princess (as I like to call my cat ☺) a saucer of milk, many cats do not possess sufficient lactase to break down the milk properly. Essentially, our cats are lactose intolerant. Who knew?
  • Salt: Just as with humans, salt consumption can lead to excessive thirst and urination.
  • Avocado: The various parts of the plant (and fruit) are known to be mildly toxic for felines.
  • Tuna: Now, Miss Kitty Princess loves her tuna, but there are sufficient data to suggest that tuna produced for human consumption (not specifically for cat food) could potentially lead to digestive issues.
  • Xylitol: A lot of sites mention this sweetener, which can be found in candies and gum. It may cause an elevated insulin release that leads to hypoglycemia and liver failure.

As a long-time cat owner, I was surprised to discover how many of the items could be harmful. Several of them had never before been brought to my attention, while others (like tuna and milk) seem to go against everything we have ever been taught regarding the behavior and care of cats. Of course, this list is by no means comprehensive — in future, if you are unsure about the safety of a given food item, it is probably best not to take a risk.

Check out these resources for additional items that could be harmful:

"People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets"

"Foods That Are Hazardous to Cats"

"Foods Your Cat Should Never Eat"

Why Should I Feed My Cat a Grain-Free Diet?

By Altadawn Bell

Is your kitty a bit of a chunky monkey? It seems more and more cats are developing “people-type" diseases and health problems. Obesity, diabetes and kidney disease are only a few on the list. These could be attributed to what we feed them.

Cats are not animals that thrive on starch and grains. Picture a barn cat who is primarily responsible for feeding himself. Does he go into the barn to chew on some hay or dip into the grain bin? No, he will hunt primarily birds, mice and rabbits. Cats are carnivores! Their digestive systems are designed to process meat, bones and even some fur.

There have been a lot of instances where we have convinced people to try either a grain-free diet or a raw diet for their cats with terrific results. We saw diabetic cats who went from one or two insulin shots a day to no shots (with veterinarian approval, of course). Cats lost the excess weight to be within an acceptable weight range. Adult and senior cats start acting like kittens again just because they feel better. Taking grains out of the diet can even help reduce seizures in epileptic cats and dogs.

Kitty and customer favorites for grain-free kibble include Solid Gold’s Indigo Moon or Pure Vita Grain-Free Chicken. Both of these are great alternatives that don’t break the bank. If your cat will eat it, a raw diet (like Primal, Nature’s Variety or Rad Cat) is such a great idea. It provides them with an easily digestible food that their systems were created to handle. Let’s help them get back to a more natural diet!

-- Altadawn Bell is the manager of Pets in the City, 1919 S. Grand Blvd., Suite 100.