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Winter Hazards for cats

The most important winter hazard to mention is Anti-Freeze and due to the importance, we have included the iCatCare information poster within this magazine issue. Please read this and pass on the information to family, friends and anyone who will listen.

Seasonal Plants:

Poinsettias – iCatCare advise that, although Poinsettias are potentially poisonous for cats and dogs, the Veterinary Poisons Information Service has advised that over half the incidents reported to them involving these plants do not show symptoms of actual illness. This being said, it is still not advisable to let your cat near enough to a poinsettia to eat it. If you want these seasonal plants, then place them where cats can’t reach them. Common signs of poinsettia poisoning to look out for are vomiting, hyper-salivation (dribbling a lot), anorexia (not interested in food at all), lethargy and depression.

Mistletoe and Holly – these also need to be kept out of reach and be careful that falling berries are not eaten as these can cause stomach upsets.

Ivy and Christmas Cherry - due to possibly causing stomach upsets these should be kept away from cats who are inquisitive and chewers.

Cyclamen – Due to their rancid taste caused by the triterpenoid saponins in these plants, it is unlikely that a large amount will be eaten by cats. If it is, then the effects of eating them usually occur within 4 to 6 hours. Common symptoms are hyper-salivation, inappetence (no interested in food), vomiting and diarrhoea. In some cats an allergic reaction may occur.

Christmas Trees and their Decorations:

Real Christmas Trees – The dropping needles are easily eaten by cats and cause stomach upsets, so it is advisable to vacuum regularly around the tree.

Real or Artificial Christmas Trees – These are super inviting for cats to climb and can topple over with the cat and decorations flying in all directions. Making sure the tree is as stable as possible is vital to prevent damage to your tree and potential injuries to your cat, particularly if they get tangled in the decorations or broken ornaments. It is best to avoid glass ornaments if you have cats. To prevent artificial trees toppling over they can be screwed onto a solid square base. Round ones are less stable.


Fake Snow – Fake snow and similar products are easily eaten or licked off fur and can cause stomach upsets.

Tinsel and Lamenta – These are highly attractive to cats as the light reflection from them catches their attention and invites play which may result in pieces being swallowed. This can cause problems within the digestive system and may cause a blockage. If your cat does pounce on light reflections, ensure that tinsel is kept out of reach and avoid lamenta altogether as it is easily swallowed. Your cat might need major abdominal surgery to remove it as the long pieces can cause a blockage in the intestinal tract.

Tree Decorations – These are particularly attractive to cats and ensuring fragile breakable decorations are not placed on trees is essential. Inquisitive and playful cats will undoubtedly remove some of the decorations and play with them. For this reason, avoid glass and other fragile ornaments as these are likely to shatter and cause wounds to the cat’s paws and if swallowed, to the mouth, throat and even the intestines.

Christmas Lights –The wires on Christmas lights can be very inviting to inquisitive cats, especially those who like to chew. Cable tidy covers are available to avoid wires being chewed. Placing wires so they are not mobile or dangling within a cat’s reach will help reduce their attractiveness. The position of plugs if using extension cables should also be considered. Some cats struggle to cope with the extra stress of Christmas and may urinate in undesirable locations. Electrical wires are often a target in these circumstances; a combination of urine and electrical sockets is not a good mix.

Reducing Risks –

· Distract your cat from a Christmas tree that is proving too attractive by playing with his favourite toys in an area away from the danger.

· Introduce puzzle feeders as these are brilliant for entertaining cats as they use their problem-solving skills to get to the food they contain. (see article about the benefits of puzzle feeders and how to create your own).

· Let your cats investigate the new items, but under your supervision and be aware a real tree will have all sorts of smells on it, so they will probably be very intent on smelling it carefully.

· Fast movements can grab a cat’s attention so set lights on a slow change or steady to help prevent attacks.

· Trees in particular can become ambush sites so be careful where you position yours as it could become the centre for cats who normally play and pounce on each other which would increase the risk of the tree toppling.

Important Do Not Punish Your Cat - Remember that the new and novel items entering our homes around this time of year are seen as things which must be explored. Cats do not understand they are out of bounds. It is vital that cats are not punished for simply being cats, as punishing them will result in confusion, fear and stress. This could damage your relationship with your cat because you have become someone to fear.

Note: Excluding cats from the room you have decorated for Christmas, whilst preventing accidents, can potentially cause stress and frustration especially if this is normally a room in which they spend a lot of time. If you need to do this ensure the exclusion is gradual and provide more safe places around the rest of the house. Introducing Feliway and/or Pet Remedy may also help throughout the festive period. Take a look on the iCatCare website which has information about helping cats through this potentially stressful time.

Candles and Essential Oils – These items have various hazards for your cat.

· The flickering nature of candles can attract a cat’s attention, resulting in singed paws or even fires if the cat knocks over the candle. Cat’s tails can become singed as they move past so candles must be placed well out of reach and must never be left unattended.

· Candles can also contain essential oils along with other chemicals or items poisonous to cats. Not all, but some cats may bite candles, particularly small round ones that when unlit get knocked on floor and used as a toy.

· If essential oils like eucalyptus and tea tree get onto a cat’s fur they can then be ingested during grooming.

Signs of Ingestion of Essential Oils:

Skin irritation, hypersalivating (excessive dribbling), vomiting, lack of interest in food, coughing and becoming dehydrated. Other signs can include appearing wobbly and drunk, with muscle tremors or convulsions.

It is essential to contact your vet if your cat has swallowed an essential oil or groomed after getting some on its fur. Do not wait for symptoms to occur if you see this happening.

Food Risks:

Chocolate – it is not as toxic to cats as dogs, but it should still be completely avoided and if a cat does eat any you may see vomiting, diarrhoea, a drunken appearance, excessive drinking, trembling or seizure activity.

Grapes and Raisins – Similar to chocolate they are not as toxic for cats, but they can still cause kidney damage so don’t leave out the mince pies or Christmas puddings and certainly don’t feed them as a treat. Increased thirst and urinating after eating something containing grapes or raisins can occur but it won’t be instant and may occur sometime after it has been eaten.

Turkey and Other Poultry Bones – Turkey bones cannot be digested by cats and can cause problems by blocking their digestive system which would result in surgery to remove them. To be safe avoid giving your cats any cooked bones and ensure they are not left out and the bin is cat proof. This also includes when put outside as other cats or animals may raid a meaty smelling bin.

Human Food – It is very tempting to give treats to cats at this time of year but giving them excessive amounts of food uncommon to them can cause stomach upsets. A small amount as a little treat may not cause issues but remember that cats don’t know they’re missing out if they haven’t tasted that treat before.

The Animal Poisons Line is run by the Veterinary Poisons Information Service. You can call their helpline if you are concerned or unsure that what your cat has eaten or licked off its fur is poisonous.

Their website is and the helpline number is 01202 509000.

If you have any concerns that your cat has possibly ingested any poisons or hazardous items then please call your Veterinary Surgery immediately.

Information from:

BSAVA/VPIS Guide to common canine and feline poisons.

iCatCare –

Animal Poison Line –

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