Does Your Cat Have
Christmas Cat Syndrome
During the Holidays?

Is your kitty a Christmas cat? Some social cats may really enjoy all the holiday festivities, but other cats may hate it.

I'm going to go out on a catnip limb and say that most cats are stressed by it. Here are some recommendations on keeping your cat safe and happy during this time.

Cat drinks from christmas tree basin

Image credit: ICHC

Remember that cats like a routine, and they may become stressed if that routine changes. They're also very territorial, so visitors, especially strangers, can disrupt their comfort level.

Some cats will be fine with all the excitement, the new people, and the activity. They may even make new friends who will scratch them, and they may enjoy clumsy people who drop bits of roast beef and turkey.

Other cats will run and hide, or climb the walls and curtains, or even experience misplaced aggression and attack other pets or people in the house.

We might say that instead of being Christmas cats, they develop "Christmas cat syndrome." Be sensitive to this when your cat acts out, or jumps on the counter to grab a piece of turkey.

We covered 25 cat care tips here. Now, let's look at some holiday pet safety tips:

The Christmas tree -- We also covered dealing with cats and Christmas trees here. Don't let your cat drink out of the bowl! Wrap it in aluminum foil, place citrus rinds around the area, or make it otherwise inaccessible.

Create a cat sanctuary -- This is a safe haven for your cat to retire to when the craziness becomes too much. Loud adults, children chasing after you, and the general stress of it all just makes you want to crawl into a quiet hole, groom yourself from head to toe, and fall asleep.

At a minimum, there should be toys, a bed, a place to hide, and a climbing area, such as a cat tree. Cats should, of course, always have access to fresh water, and a litter box.

Prevent accidental escape -- Keep your cat away from the door so that she doesn't get out as people come and go. While your cat may feel like she wants to escape, we don't want to facilitate it.

I've always found it's best to just put all the felines in the sanctuary room and close the door before visitors arrive. Once all the visitors have been there for a while, you can let your cat out for a meet and greet if she wants.

Keep stuff where it is -- Some cats are not bothered by this, but others may become disturbed if you move their litter box or their food bowls.

Moving the litter box may only add to what is an already stressful situation, and can lead to litter box problems.

Ideally, instead of moving things, you've got a litter box in the sanctuary area already, so your cat can use that. And, you've got alternate food and water bowls nearby as well. If you don't already have this in place, set these up at least a few days before the festivities begin so your cat gets used to things. Leave the old items right where they are.

Keep the same routine -- As much as possible, keep your cat's regular routine. Clean the litter boxes when you normally would, and keep feeding times the same. If you normally have a grooming time or play time with your cat, try to keep that up as well.

Cats only please -- While it might be convenient and tempting for friends and relatives to bring their dog over, your cat may not appreciate it. That goes for other pets that may come to visit as well.

Your cat may either see them as a threat, or as lunch if they're little or feathery. Ask others to leave their pets at home, especially if your cat doesn't get along well with others.

Buffet tables and counters are fun -- Your cat might see it as a fun thing to jump up on the counter or buffet table and grab a slab of meat.

I'm not so sure you'd think it was fun, and your guests may not like it much either. When the food is out and not being watched, it's probably best to keep kitty in the other room where her sanctuary is.

Stop playing with people food -- Some people food may make interesting cat toys or snacks. Common holiday snacks, like chocolate and nuts may be harmful to your cat.

Some, like nuts or wrapped candies, are choking hazards, and chocolate can be a poison concern. Keep an eye out for easy to reach treats that may do your cat harm.

Speaking of people food -- Opinions are mixed. Some vets will tell you never to feed people food to your cat. Others are more lax and will say that giving your cat the occasional treat of table scraps is usually fine. Don't over do it, though, and don't feed your cat directly from the table or the counter as this will encourage begging and counter surfing.

Never give your cat anything with bones, especially chicken bones as these may splinter and cause choking or internal bleeding if swallowed. Keep your cat away from rich foods or anything with sauces or spices as this may cause stomach upset.

It's best to cook some lean meat with no spices as a separate holiday treat for your cat. If you do use spice, some catnip or parsley is usually recommended. There are a number of clever folks who have come up with more elaborate homemade dishes you can prepare for your feline as well.

You go ahead without me -- Some cats actually like car rides, and like to travel and see new places, but most don't. If you're traveling somewhere for the holidays, consider leaving your cat at home. Instead of taking your cat with you or having her boarded, your cat is usually much better off in familiar territory with a pet sitter or a friend staying at your house.

Decorations can be dangerous -- Decorations can be tempting play toys for curious kitties. Tinsel is very dangerous for cats. Clean up any pine needles, berries, leaves, or anything small enough to swallow as soon as it hits the floor.

Resist the urge to punish -- You are probably stressed during the holidays as well, and there may be a tendency to over-react if your cat misbehaves. Punishment can make things worse, however, so be alert to that. If you catch your cat sleeping in the Christmas tree, or sneaking a snack, try to remain calm.

Sometimes just moving your cat to another part of the house and distracting her with a treat or toy is enough. If not, then using a restrained but firm "no" and a clapping noise is often a good deterrent. With some of the more bold and persistent cats, however, this doesn't work.

Recovery -- If your cat hides a lot during the holidays (wouldn't you?), her bathroom, eating, drinking, and sleeping schedule may be off. She may end up somewhat dehydrated, over tired, and constipated. If needed, give her a chance to sleep and recover as much as possible, while encouraging light play sessions, and getting back into a normal routine. Premium quality wet food can help with hydration as well.

The holidays can be fun, but can also be stressful for both you and your kitty. Even shy cats, however, can learn to tolerate visitors, at least in small quantities, if they get the right kind of attention and have a safe haven to retreat to and rest.

Extra attention -- Your cat may get less attention from you during this time of year, so be sure to take time out and give her some one-on-one time with you. Get her some new toys, and try to play with her every day.

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