Kitten looking into fire
I love the fall and winter holidays! The food, the decorations, the gathering of family. I just think there’s no happier time of year.

And if you’ve added a kitten to your family recently, you’re likely find there’s no more entertaining time of year. Kittens are always on the move, eager to investigate everything around them. Watching them stalk the wild shoelace or rise straight up into the air when startled by the twitch of your toes beneath a blanket is guaranteed to give you a healthy belly laugh.

But, the holidays can also be a dangerous time for kittens — not to mention for your holiday decor. Kittens can get into trouble when their curiosity leads them to steal food not meant for them, bat at candle flames, tug on twinkly tinsel or climb the Christmas tree. I’m here to share some tips to help ensure that you and your kitten have a safe and breakage-free holiday season.

Fire Hazards

Since ancient times, we’ve relied on fire to protect us from things that go bump in the night, and it’s just natural that flames flicker merrily at this time of year. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, we brighten our homes with candles, luminarias, menorahs, Christmas tree lights and Yule logs.

It’s normal for inquisitive kittens to be attracted by dancing flames and dangling electrical cords. But, they can easily singe their whiskers and tails, suffer burns if they get too close to an open flame, or sink those little teeth into an electrical cord.

To protect your kitten, consider replacing tapers and tea lights with flameless candles, at least until he’s a mature cat who has left his rambunctious ways behind him. Set up a fire screen so he can’t get to the fireplace, and place tough plastic covers over electrical cords so he can’t chew them. If that’s not an option, wrap cords tightly and position them so they don’t dangle enticingly.

Foil Food Theft

No self-respecting kitten is going to pass up a chance to help you eat your roast beast. It’s OK to give him a bite or two of turkey or beef (remember, his stomach is a lot smaller than yours), but to protect your prize poultry from kitten predation, keep it, and all other fixings, well out of your kitten’s reach until you’re ready to serve dinner. And while a nibble of meat won’t hurt your feline, overindulgence in rich, fatty foods such as dressing and gravy can lead to a life-threatening case of pancreatitis.

That string you used to wrap the roast or ham? Your kitten will love chewing on and swallowing it, but it’s the kind of thing that can become what we veterinarians call a “linear foreign body,” and it’s bad news. If your cat swallows it, he can suffer a partial or complete intestinal obstruction. Trust me, you don’t want your holidays disrupted by emergency kitten surgery, so don’t leave that string hanging around.
Kitten playing with ornament in a Christmas tree

Decor Damage Control

Tinsel and ribbon are also potential linear foreign bodies that kittens find attractive. Skip them when you’re decorating your tree and packages.

Speaking of trees, it’s a good idea to anchor it to the ceiling with fishing line. If your kitten decides to try climbing the Christmas tree, the line will keep your furry marauder from knocking it over. You may also want to decorate it with soft or plastic ornaments that won’t break — at least until your kitten outgrows the crazy stage. Even better, place the tree inside a playpen or exercise pen to help keep your kitten away from it.

That potpourri that gives your home a wonderful holiday scent? It’s coated with highly toxic essential oils. Some cats like to nibble on the scented stuff, but ingesting it can cause severe chemical burns to their mouth and esophagus. A safer way to get that holiday smell is to simmer cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel on your stove.

Greenery Guidelines

You’ve probably heard for years that poinsettias are toxic to pets. Although they can be dangerous, the holiday plants you need to worry even more about include amaryllis, lilies, holly, and mistletoe. If your kitten eats them, they can cause abdominal pain, mild to severe vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, kidney failure and even death, depending on which plant and how much of it he eats. Keep them out of your home or use artificial arrangements.

With a little forethought, it’ll be easier to keep your kitten out of trouble during the holidays.