Cat in front of Christmas tree
A carefully crafted holiday party guest list includes lots of different types of people. But what about your cat? Is she the social type who has never met a stranger she didn’t like? Or is she so shy that your friends don’t even know you have a cat? Is she a door dasher or a committed climber or a nosy parker? And how can you manage her manners while you’re tending to your guests?

Here are some simple tips for helping your cat be on her best behavior during your holiday party — no matter her personality type.

The No-Show

If your feline ducks for cover when people arrive, set up a cat-safe space for her where she can retreat from the holiday happenings. Gather all of her necessities — litterbox, food, water, bedding, toys, perch areas and scratching posts — in a room that is off-limits to party guests. Soothing music and sound buffers, such as a rolled towel placed against the door, can help mute bothersome party noise, and a spritz of pheromone spray on the towel or on bedding can help to calm your cat’s nerves.

If possible, arrange the space a few days before your party and give your cat time to get comfortable before the festivities start. During the party, check in every so often to see how she’s doing and offer her a treat.

The Wallflower

If your cat is friendly but takes a while to warm up to new people, let her sit out the chaos of arrivals in her cat-safe room. Once guests are settled, encourage her to come out by offering rewards, like her favorite treats and toys. If your kitty knows some tricks — high-five or come when called are two you can teach in advance — have her perform these for your guests. Tricks give her a familiar way to interact with new people.

Be sure to provide easily accessible retreat areas in case your cat becomes overwhelmed or afraid. Climbers that raise her above the crowd or boxes she can hide in can be helpful if she needs a moment to herself. And make sure she has access to her cat-safe room if she decides she’s done with the party.

The Social Butterfly

Socialite kitties are likely to relish the extra human attention available during a holiday party. But it’s important to remember that not all of your guests will love your cat as much as you do, or welcome her overtures. Unfortunately, these are often the first people your cat will try to make friends with. Redirect her toward a toy or a more cat-friendly visitor with a hand lure or target. (Of course, you’ll have to teach that behavior well in advance of the party.)

A super-social cat may also direct play behavior toward your guests’ hands, feet and clothes — especially if she lacks other options to sink her teeth or claws into instead. To help put a stop to this behavior, always redirect cat play to toys, instead of hands, feet or clothing. During your gathering, place a varied selection of toys near areas where guests will congregate; use them to help turn your cat’s attention away from your friends and their party clothes.

The Thrill Seeker

Does your cat see an open door as an invitation to escape? Consider making her comfortable in her cat-safe space while guests are arriving and departing. If she wants to participate in the meet-and-greet, a cat harness and leash will help keep kitty close and safe — as long as you’ve helped her get accustomed to wearing them long before the party.

Maybe your cat’s not a door dasher — instead, she’s an adventurer who likes to scratch or use her claws to climb. To discourage climbing on or scratching the furniture, provide high resting areas and designated scratching posts. Train your cat to use these spaces before the party and redirect her attention to these areas should any off-limits scratching or scaling take place.

The Nosy Parker

If your kitty is known for being nosy, you will need to carefully manage her environment during the party. Keep guests’ belongings out of reach by hanging them up or placing them in a closed room. And pay attention to decorations, drinks and food; curious cats may encounter dangers on countertops or tables, such as a lit candle, off-limits food items and breakable dinnerware.

Cat-proof barriers can help keep your cat out of dangerous spaces like the kitchen or cloakroom; a cat-safe room can give her a place to play without endangering herself. Activities, such as stuffed food puzzles, can help occupy her attention and satisfy her appetite.

The Split Personality

Is your cat calm and cool until someone tries to pet her? Warn guests of her unpredictable behavior and offer suggestions for ways to interact with her that won’t freak her out. If she likes to be petted in certain areas — on her head and neck, for example — but hates being touched in others — belly, back — let your guests know this up front, so no one gets swiped with a claw.

If your cat especially dislikes being touched or interacted with or if you are concerned that your guests won’t remember how or where to pet her, make kitty comfortable in her cat-safe space for the duration of the party.

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