Holiday & Seasonal Safety Tips and Information

Valentine’s Day Safety – Theobromine in Chocolate is Deadly Treat to Cats
Chocolate is a deadly snack for your cat. Chocolate contains an ingredient called theobromine (3,7-dimethylxanthine) which is produced by cocoa beans. Currently there is no chocolate available on the market that does not contain theobromine. Processed and sweetened chocolate such as milk chocolate contains less theobromine than does semi-sweet or dark chocolate and baking chocolates.  

Theobromine in chocolate is deadly to cats.

Theobromine is one of several methylxanthines. While theobromine is found in cocoa, the methylxanthine in tea is theophylline and in coffee is caffeine. Theobromine is a diuretic (produces urine) just like the caffeine in coffee does but it does not stimulate the central nervous system like caffeine does.  

All of the methylxanthines can harm the heart, kidneys, and central nervous system since cats metabolize (break down) the chemical very slowly. If enough of the chemical is ingested, it may cause death.

If your cat ingests any chocolate (or coffee or tea), immediately call your veterinarian or local emergency veterinary hospital. You may also contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center which is staffed by veterinarians and veterinary toxicologists, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A consultation fee may be required which helps pay for the Center to operate since it does not receive state or federal funding. Contact them at 1-888-426-4435 or visit their website for information on toxic foods, medicines, battery poisonings, etc. and plants that are toxic and safe.

Easter Lilies Claim Thousands of Cats’ Lives Every Spring
According to Michigan State University Extension’s Grower Guide, Easter lilies are the third most important flowering pot-plant grown in the United States, with 10-11 million plants produced annually.

Lilies are deadly.

Unfortunately, several types of lilies can be deadly to cats. These lilies can cause kidney failure in cats which results in death if left untreated.  

Within only a few hours of ingestion of lily plant material, the cat may vomit, become lethargic, or develop a lack of appetite. These signs continue and worsen as kidney damage progresses.  Kidney failure occurs in about 36-72 hours without treatment and the cat will eventually die.

All parts of the lily plant are considered toxic and consuming even small amounts can cause severe poisoning. Lilies should never be kept in the home or anywhere a cat may get to them.

The following is a short list but notes the most common species: (common name: genus and species names)

Easter lily:  Lilium longiflorum
Tiger lily:  Lilium tigrinum
Rubrum lily:  Lilium speciosum
Japanese Show lily:  Lilium lancifolium
Day lily:  Hemerocallis sp

If your cat ingests any of the above lilies or a plant you cannot identify, immediately call your veterinarian or local emergency veterinary hospital. You can also contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center which is staffed by veterinarians and veterinary toxicologists, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A consultation fee may be required which helps pay for the Center to operate since it does not receive state or federal funding. Contact them at 1-888-426-4435 or visit their website for information on toxic foods, medicines, battery poisonings, etc. and plants that are toxic and safe.

Flowering bulbs are dangerous to cats. They cause everything from mild irritation or gastrointestinal upset to liver or kidney damage and death. Other bulbs to also avoid are: daffodil, jack-in-the-pulpit, crocus, lily of the valley, hyacinth, iris, jonquil, narcissus, and tulip.

Fourth of July Safety
Keep your cats indoors during the fireworks on the fourth. Cats do not like loud unpredictable noises and may run into the street or be otherwise harmed during the festivities. Keep all fireworks away from your curious felines. Use the same safety precautions for your pets as you would for your children and have a safe holiday.

Keep Your Cats Safe From Summer’s Heat
Some tips below will help to beat the summer heat and keep your cat cool and safe.

1 – Give plenty of fresh water, add ice cubes.
2 – Keep your cats indoors to protect them against fleas and mosquitos as well as other parasites.
3 – If your home is warm or the cats are on the porch, provide fans that are safe for use around pets and children.
4 – If your cat is outside or on a porch, make sure your cat has access to cool places out of the sun and rain. Make sure the places do not receive sunlight during certain times of the day and if you are late getting home, there are alternative hideouts for your cat from the heat.
5 – Use a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 on the exposed pink skin of your cat. Cats can easily get sunburned and also develop skin cancer. Apply the sunscreen often because your pet may lick it off. Never use a product containing zinc which can be harmful to cats. Check with your veterinarian when choosing a sunscreen.
6 – NEVER leave your cat in your car! Heat exhaustion and death can occur in less than three minutes.
7 – Reduce exercise to a minimum when the temperature is hot. Don’t overexert your cat. Cats have hardly any sweat glands and if they begin to pant it may mean they are already in distress.
8 – Groom your cat daily to remove loose hair which can trap heat.

Macy with her left ear tipped, after being trapped again and tamed. She is now an indoor only cat.

National Feral Cat Day
In October every year is National Feral Cat Day which celebrates the anniversary of Alley Cat Allies in Washington, DC who promotes the control of feral cat populations with the trap/neuter/release program instead of euthanasia. Colonies are maintained and cared for by volunteers. Both male and female cats are typically spayed/neutered, vaccinated and released back to where they were taken from so that no more kittens will be born. Cats are then ear-tipped (tip of the left ear is removed) so that volunteers can easily see which cats have been neutered and which are not. Visit Alley Cat Allies to find out more information about their program and how you can start one in your community.

Halloween Safety
Many dangers threaten pets, especially cats, during the Halloween season. Your pets can be safe if you follow these recommendations:

  • Loud and scary noises go along with Halloween, especially if you’re the one having a party. Move your cats, along with a bowl of food, fresh water, and a litter box, to a quiet room and keep the door closed. Make sure the windows and screens are secure so the little fur bundles can’t escape by going out the window. Put a sign on the door alerting your guests that there are cats inside and instructing them not to open the door.
  • Candy, particularly chocolate, can be fatal to cats. Keep all chocolate out of reach of your cats and instruct guests to do so as well.
  • Keep cats away from candles, dry ice, lighted pumpkins, lights, and decorations such as spider webs, streamers, and mylar tinsel. All can prove fatal to cats and knocking over a lit candle can even prove fatal to your family.
  • When answering the door for Halloween trick-or-treaters, make sure your cats are safely harbored in a quiet room with food, water, and a litter box. Most cats escape out the front door when they do get out of the house.
  • Be extremely careful when putting costumes on cats. No pet should be dressed if the animal reacts uncomfortably or becomes agitated. Never use rubber bands to attach costumes. They can be forgotten or become wrapped around a paw or neck and cut into the skin causing severe damage and even death.
  • NEVER leave your cats outside during the week of Halloween! Many cats are abducted by people who tease, torture, and even kill them. Black cats are frequent targets during Halloween week. Many shelters in the United States do not allow black cats to be adopted the week before Halloween because of black cat abuse. If you do see anyone abusing or teasing any animal, call your local law enforcement agency and humane society immediately!
Raven, an ex-feral cat

Black Cats – Myths and Facts
The domestic cat’s original color and pattern is a brown tabby. It is used to allow the cat to blend into its traditional surroundings. The domestic cat developed from the tabby sand cats originally found on the deserts and grasslands of Egypt and the surrounding area.

The fur of a domestic cat is pigmented in bands along the hair shaft. Tan pigment at the base with black at the tip. This color change is referred to as the agouti shift.

The top of Macy’s head exhibits her hidden tabby genes. Macy is an all black cat.
Raven is a pure black cat, in very bright light the bands on his front wrist (known as bracelets) are visible.

Long ago, the genetic make-up of the cat was slightly altered, resulting in a chemical change that eliminated this normal exchange of color. The result is the production of completely black hairs from base to tip. If you look closely at a solid black cat in bright light or strong sunshine, you can often see the muted tabby pattern. It tends to be more visible on the legs, top of head and sometimes the sides of the body.

  • Although having a black cat cross your path in America is considered bad luck, it is the exact opposite in England, Japan, and Egypt, where black cats are believed to bring good fortune.
  • A Scottish folktale claims that every black cat has a white hair and finding it will bring wealth and love.
  • The French consider black cats lucky.
  • French peasants believed that a black cat released at the intersection of five roads would lead them to buried treasure.
  • Charles I, King of England, owned a black cat and feared losing it so he had it guarded constantly. The day after it fell ill and died, he was arrested.
  • Fishermen’s wives would keep a black cat at home to prevent disaster at sea, consequently, the cats became very valuable and were often stolen.

The plague hit China in 1330. Due to the fact that it was the world’s largest trading port, the disease easily spread to western Asia and Europe. The Bubonic Plague or Black Death, was carried by rodent fleas that transmitted the disease to humans. The disease had spread by 1347 to England. Throughout Europe at this time, black cats were killed because superstitions claimed they were the cause of hunger and misery. When wiping out the black cats did nothing to end the Europeans’ plight, all cats became fair game. Europe’s cat population virtually disappeared and the rise in population of rodents and fleas was immense. In just five years from 1347-1352, twenty-five million Europeans had died from the plague. One third of the human population of Europe were dead. The plague did not fully disappear until the 1600’s. The loss of life from the plague would have been much smaller had there been cats to control the rodent populations, thereby reducing the amount of disease-transmitting fleas.

Thanksgiving Safety
Make sure your pets are secure in your home when you have guests come over for the holidays. A frightened cat may dart out of the door to escape family and friends when it feels threatened or suffocated. Put your cats in a safe quiet room with food, water, and litter box until all of the full dinner guests are gone. If your pets do like to socialize, make sure your guests know not to feed them anything. A well-meaning guest can unknowingly give your cat a deadly treat containing onions or chocolate.

Winter Safety
Many substances are available to cats during the winter and holiday season. Antifreeze is deadly. Just a few sips from an antifreeze puddle on your garage floor or the licking of paws after walking through a puddle can produce symptoms within 30 minutes such as staggering, vomiting, weakness, listlessness, frequent drinking, and urination that could be followed hours later by coma and death. After four hours, the ethylene glycol in antifreeze causes severe kidney damage that is irreversible. If treated without delay, the veterinarian will induce vomiting, administer activated charcoal to bind the antifreeze in the gastrointestinal tract and give the cat intravenous ethyl alcohol (ethanol) for three days or longer. The ethanol works by competing for the enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, that metabolizes ethylene glycol into toxic components. Keep a bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide on hand in case your veterinarian tells you to induce vomiting before bringing your cat in. To reduce exposure of your cat to ethylene glycol, choose a product such as Sierra®, made from propylene glycol, as these are much less toxic.

Mistletoe is poisonous

During the holiday season potpourri is abundant. Potpourri is frequently used to add fragrance to your house by simmering in water in decorative pots. Most potpourri liquids contain natural or essential oils which can cause vomiting, upset stomach, diarrhea, weakness, and possibly liver damage. Some products can also burn the mouth and tongue and should it get in the cat’s eyes or on its skin, the pain can be severe. If treated quickly by a veterinarian, most cats recover within a few days.

Mistletoe can be poisonous to children and pets. Although mistletoe is sometimes used to treat cancer, arthritis, and other conditions and diseases, it can prove fatal when ingested by children or pets. Real mistletoe should never be displayed in homes at the holidays.

Poinsettia is also toxic, however mildly. It is irritating to the mouth and stomach, sometimes causing vomiting, but not fatal.

If you suspect your cat may have ingested a toxic substance, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center which is staffed by veterinarians and veterinary toxicologists, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A consultation fee may be required which helps pay for the Center to operate since it does not receive state or federal funding. Contact them at 1-888-426-4435 or visit their website for information on toxic foods, medicines, battery poisonings, etc. and plants that are toxic and safe.

Taking the Nip Out of Winter
By following the tips below, you can keep your cat safe and warm in the coming months:

  • Place your cat’s bed above the floor in a draft-free location. Placing a flannel sheet or fleece throw over it can help your cat generate heat.
  • Before getting into your car, bang on your car’s hood and/or blow the horn before starting the engine, to make sure there are no cats sleeping inside to keep warm.
  • If your cat goes outside, make sure you wipe his paws off to remove any salt or chemicals from his feet. Keep your cat away from antifreeze which, if made with ethylene glycol, is deadly.
  • If you’d like to heat your cat’s bed, use only cat safe beds designed specifically to be used for cats. You can visit Amazon to find some electric, hot bottle, or self-generating heated beds and pads.

Information on this site is for general information purposes only and is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. This site is not intended to replace professional advice from your own veterinarian and nothing on this site is intended as a medical diagnosis or treatment. Any questions about your animal’s health or diet should be directed to your veterinarian.

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