Holidays are joyful, the old song says. That may be true, but they can also be uncomfortable for your cats.
New people in the form of visitors may suddenly appear, taking over rooms that would otherwise be available to them. Play and cuddle time with you and feeding time may be disrupted. The entire layout of the house may even change with holiday decorating. Parties and dinners can be loud and especially scary. Just when they get used to visitors, they may suddenly disappear.
Here are some things you can do to make holidays less stressful…and maybe even fun!…for your cats.
Involve your cats in the decorating process, if possible. When you get out the boxes of decorations, also get out their toys and treats and give them a good time while you’re rearranging everything. Talk to them while you do this so they feel they’re a part of the activities. When you put up the tree, invite them to rub on it so they feel it’s theirs too. Give them a new catnip toy to play with while you decorate. For most cats, catnip can lower anxiety.
Humans are so weird…they give their cats actual trees covered in cat toys and then get mad when they want to play! Many decorations, ornaments and wrapping supplies are potentially hazardous to your cat.
This is especially true with kittens, who will be extra curious about all sparkly things and ribbon, for example, and may try to eat them. Try to keep them out of reach or use unbreakable ornaments for your kitten’s first year. Garland is a safer choice than tinsel you may need to make sure to get cord covers for all those cords so little teeth don’t find them so appealing. It’s always a good idea to attach the tree to the wall or ceiling at least until your kitten grows up! You may need to consider skipping some decorations until next year when your kittens are no longer teething.
Please remember that many Christmas plants are toxic to kitties, including poinsettias, mistletoe, holly and especially lilies, which can kill a kitten very quickly. People treats like cookies and candy, especially chocolate ones, should be kept out of reach.
You may have a lifetime of memories with family members, but your cats might not. To them, a complete stranger has just showed up and is making him or herself at home.
One of the best ways to increase your cats’ confidence in the presence of anything new is to Clicker Play for Cats. With just a little time investment, you can teach a simple trick or two like touching a nose to a stick. Give your cats a treat they really love, like fresh or freeze-dried meat or fish, and training time will become the highlight of their day.
The pleasure of training with treats will override their fear of the new situation and help them get used to these new people. You can then have your visitors help them perform the tricks. Even coming to his or her name is a skill well worth training (can anyone around here say, Waldo Canyon Fire?). Your cats will see they are part of the new routine and strangers will become new friends.
Please don’t let your guests force the petting issue. To a cat, being petted or picked up by a stranger can be fearful. Teach your visitors to offer a finger to the cat and let the cats come to them. Remember the adage from Jackson Galaxy, “Let the cat pet you.”
Let your visitors (one at a time, please) be involved with feeding time. Also, get out the wand toys and let them play with your cats. Don’t underestimate the power of good catnip toys too! Getting to know new people is a simple training issue of acclimation that can be shifted with these techniques.
If you have kittens, please make sure your guests know the dangers of open toilets, fast-moving doors, folding beds, drawers and especially recliners. Kittens–and cats–love cave-like spaces and we’ve heard horror stories about kitties getting caught in these chairs.
Parties & Dinners
Cats’ hearing is a third more acute than dogs and two thirds greater than ours. When you turn up the volume by adding people and festivities, it can actually feel bad to them.
Unless your cat is especially outgoing, it’s best to provide a safe place that’s off limits to guests, like their favorite bedroom. Play normal music there, give them treats and special toys and let them relax while you’re having fun. You’ll also avoid the risk of your cats running out the door, trying to get away from the commotion. The last thing you want during the holidays is to lose your best feline friend.
If you’re considering adopting or giving a cat or kitten as a Christmas gift, there are a few things to keep in mind. For most cats, being suddenly displayed in a noisy room full of excited people could be a very frightening experience, especially when going to a new home is scary in the first place. A kitten can actually suffocate if presented in a box and will almost certainly be terrified when the box is opened.
You can give your family the excitement of opening a gift along with the pleasure of choosing the right cat or kitten, a win-win. Simply buy a plush cat or kitten and wrap that with a gift certificate for the cat (like our Purr & a Promise Christmas Gift Certificate), along with some of the supplies your cat will need, like a carrier, scratcher, litter box and toys. Unwrapping will be fun and then taking the time to choose the perfect cat or kitten will be even more fun!
Of course we recommend getting your new kitty from a reputable shelter like Happy Cats. Every adoption saves two, the happy cat in a new home and the scared cat on the other side of our door, waiting to come into safety. Millions of cats are adopted and then returned when the match isn’t a good one, so finding an organization that knows its animals well can make your Christmas kitty the companion of a lifetime. Please call us at 719-362-4600 if we can help!