Thanksgiving is a fun holiday that is usually filled with good food and quality time with loved ones. The holidays can be a fun or stressful time for pets, but for cats, it often leans toward stress due to the change of pace and routine.
Visitors coming and going can also lead to stress for your cat. There are also a few risks to the health and safety of your cat that can occur during the Thanksgiving holiday, so it’s important to understand these risks and be prepared to do everything necessary to keep your cat safe.
The 12 Most Important Thanksgiving Safety Tips for Cats
1. Define Clear Rules
There should be clearly defined rules in your home during Thanksgiving, especially when it comes to your cat. Guests and household members alike should understand the rules that are in place, as well as accept that these rules are in place to maintain the safety and health of your cat.
Everyone should understand the rules surrounding giving your cat food and treats, when to play with them and when to allow them to rest, if your cat is allowed to go outside or not, and how your cat prefers to be pet or played with. If you have guests who make it clear that they are intentionally not following the rules, then you may need to be willing to ask them to leave in order to protect your cat.
Remember, it’s your responsibility as a pet owner to keep your pet safe and healthy, no matter what.
2. Scrap Feeding Table Scraps
There are so many tasty foods during Thanksgiving, but very few of them are safe or healthy for cats. Chocolate, coffee, and alcohol can all be toxic to cats, while fatty foods, like turkey skin, ham, and buttery foods all can lead to health problems like pancreatitis and stomach upset.
Sugary sweets, breads, and pastries can all lead to stomach upset, and yeast doughs can lead to serious stomach discomfort and health complications for your cat.
It’s best to stick to feeding your cat only the things you know are safe for them, like their regular food and treats. If you’d like to give your cat a safe special food during Thanksgiving, you can offer very small amounts of things like unseasoned chicken or turkey that were baked or boiled without oil. Avoid fatty or seasoned foods, though.
3. No Bones
Raw and cooked bones can pose a variety of risks for your cat, including salmonella and other food-borne illnesses, intestinal obstruction, and tooth damage. Your cat should not be given access to bones at all, including turkey and ham bones. The risks associated with feeding bones to your cat far outweigh the little bit of enjoyment your cat may get from eating them.
Make sure that things like turkey carcasses are put up as soon as they’re stripped of meat, ensuring your cat doesn’t make off with a bone when you aren’t looking. Wishbones should also be immediately disposed of or placed somewhere that your cat cannot access.
4. Empty the Trash
Trash cans are a major risk during the holiday season, especially on Thanksgiving. Lots of dangerous foods and materials go into the trash surrounding Thanksgiving, and if your curious cat decides to break into the trash, they can become sick or injured.
Make sure to take the trash out frequently throughout the Thanksgiving festivities, as well as keep all trash and waste out of the reach of your cat. Cats can be wily animals, so it’s not uncommon for a committed cat to find a way to get into the trashcan or food scraps.
Make sure you’re creating as safe of an environment as possible by keeping your trash out of reach and taking it out frequently.
5. No Strings
There are strings that are sometimes used around the Thanksgiving holiday, especially those that are used to tie up a turkey for cooking. These strings can be extremely dangerous for cats, though.
Strings in general are dangerous for cats because they can be consumed and, if allowed to pass through the intestines, can catch parts of the intestines and cause them to “telescope” through themselves, as well as create obstructions that can lead to tissue death in the intestines.
What makes the strings at Thanksgiving even more dangerous is that they are often infused with the tasty flavors of foods that your cat will be interested in, so it’s not uncommon for cats to accidentally or intentionally consume these strings.
Whenever possible, avoid using strings at all. If necessary, make sure they are thrown out immediately after use to prevent your cat from getting to them.
6. Keep Your Cat Secure
Thanksgiving is often associated with lots of guests, so people will be coming and going through the doors over and over. This can open multiple opportunities for your cat to escape through an open door, especially if guests are holding doors open or don’t close them fully. Your guests should be made fully aware of the presence of your cat and instructed on the ways to keep your cat securely in the home.
If your cat is allowed to go outdoors, your guests should always let you know whenever they let your cat in or out of the house. You’ll need to be able to keep track of where your cat is to help keep them safe. Keep in mind that open windows can also provide a means of escape for your cat during Thanksgiving.
7. Give Your Cat a Safe Space
Cats are very particular animals that can become very anxious in abnormal and unusual situations. Many cats are timid when new people are around, and a holiday with lots of guests can be downright overwhelming for any cat. Make sure your cat has safe, secure spaces to spend time during Thanksgiving.
Most cats enjoy having spaces that are located up high to spend time, so consider giving your cat a tall cat tree or a bed on top of a bookshelf. You should also ensure your cat has the ability to freely come and go from a safe space if needed.
If you keep your cat fully closed in or out of a specific room, it may lead to more anxiety by making them feel trapped or uncomfortable. Try to create a space that allows your cat to choose where they want to be at any given time during Thanksgiving.
8. Spend Quality Time Together
Your cat probably wants to spend lots of time with you during Thanksgiving, just like your family and friends do, too! Try to find ways to spend quality time with your cat over the Thanksgiving holiday. Help them burn excess energy through puzzles and games, as well as give them lots of comfort and love via pets and snuggles.
If your cat is anxious and feels like they aren’t receiving any emotional reassurance from you, it can lead to an increase in their anxiety levels, as well as an increased risk of your cat attempting to bolt out the front door or hide for hours on end.
9. Maintain Structure and Routine
The holidays create an obvious shift in the structure and routine of your cat’s daily life. If you can find ways to somewhat mimic their normal routine, you may help relieve some of your cat’s stress. For example, aiming to feed your cat their meals at their normal mealtimes, regardless of the holiday, can help to maintain a sense of normalcy.
You can also make sure to set aside your normal playtime or finish the evening off with a lazy movie on the couch as you might on any given night. Although maintaining a routine is challenging during a big holiday, it can help your cat significantly.
10. Décor and Plant Safety
There are lots of plants and holiday décor that are unsafe for your cat. Plants and flowers that you’re likely to start seeing around the Thanksgiving holiday include amaryllis, autumn crocus, chrysanthemum, and oak acorns. You may also see things like poinsettias and pine branches beginning to make appearances, and some centerpieces and bouquets may contain lilies. Holiday décor containing materials like tinsel, glass, and bite-sized pieces of anything can pose major hazards to your cat.
Always aim to keep plants and décor out of your cat’s reach, no matter how safe they seem. This is especially important if your cat is curious and tends to get into new items. Any dangerous plants and décor should be avoided, but if you choose to bring them into your home, always make sure they are in places where it is definite that your cat won’t be able to access them.
11. Travel Safety
Thanksgiving and the days before and after it are often considered some of the busiest travel days of the year, so it’s not uncommon for people to travel over Thanksgiving. If you aren’t traveling with your cat, make sure they are left with a trusted pet sitter who can ensure all of their needs are met.
If you are traveling with your cat, there are things you can do to keep your cat safe, like keeping them contained in a carrier or crate during travel, ensuring their collar tags are up to date and making sure that you are taking them to a pet-friendly space that is safe for cats.
Don’t wait until the last minute to plan a trip with your cat, though. There is a lot of time and planning that can go into traveling with a cat, so you should be prepared well in advance, so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute.
12. Be Prepared for Anything
There are a huge number of negative events that can arise during the Thanksgiving holiday when it comes to your cat. It’s essential to your cat’s health and safety that you are well prepared for the possibility of any number of things occurring.
Familiarize yourself with the phone numbers and holiday hours of vet clinics in the area, and ensure you have your cat’s vaccine records and any current medical records on hand. Plan out your ground rules and let your guests know in advance of their arrival what the expectations are, although these rules should be reiterated once they arrive as well.
Plan out your cat’s safe, quiet spaces, as well as the ways you’re planning to maintain some of their normal routines during Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that is a lot of fun for people, but that can be quite stressful for cats. Make sure you are prepared in advance for the possible complications associated with the Thanksgiving holiday, as well as any travel plans or pet-sitting services. Consider picking up a few new, exciting toys for your cat to keep them entertained and to help reduce stress as you maneuver through the Thanksgiving holiday together.
Featured Image Credit: Dikushin Dmitry, Shutterstock