It’s that time of year! You may be gleefully planning your holiday party—but your unsuspecting cat is in for a surprise. Although some cats remain unfazed by commotion, most thrive on quiet and routine. They want consistency in their home environment.
Your party prep may include moving furniture, hanging decorations, lighting candles, and preparing a feast. Soon your cat’s formerly quiet domain will be filled with unfamiliar people, sounds, and smells.
Parties can also introduce dangers to your cat from things like candles, open doors or windows, or toxic plants or foods. The good news is, it’s possible to provide a harmonious environment for cats and guests alike.
1. Cat-Proof the Party Area
When you’re setting up for your holiday party, think about what could be problematic for your cat. Even if your cat happens to be a social butterfly, it’s a good idea to cat-proof the party area to remove potential hazards.
They bring freshness to your space, but it’s shocking how many common plants are toxic for cats. My cats love to investigate new things—plants and flowers are irresistible. Some flowering plants that are very dangerous to cats are lilies (including stargazer lilies, Easter lilies, Asiatic lilies, and day lilies), azaleas, rhododendrons, oleander, cyclamen (Persian violet), and daffodils.
Other holiday flowers, like the poinsettia, may not be poisonous but are mildly toxic to pets. They can cause uncomfortable mouth irritation and an upset stomach (nausea, drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea) if your cat nibbles them. Christmas tree needles and mistletoe can also cause stomach upset for cats in small amounts; it can be more dangerous in large amounts.
If your halls are decked with balloons, ribbons, or ornaments, make sure they don’t pose a danger to your cat. Curious cats love to paw sparkly and dangly decor or even chew on lights and wires—something that can have disastrous results. Keep string lights and wires well out of your cat’s reach to avoid accidents.
Watch out for open flames, such as burning candles or warmers under chafing dishes. Cats might get too close as they’re busy investigating and singe their fur, burn their nose or paw, or accidentally tip over a flame. They may even be offended by the scent of candles and other fragrances.
Food and Drinks
An opportunistic cat may not hesitate to swipe some turkey, ham, or shrimp. They could develop an upset stomach, choke on bones or shrimp tails, or get a dangerous perforation to the stomach or blockages of the intestines. Some other holiday foods that can cause gastrointestinal problems for your cat include onions, garlic, chives, grapes, raisins, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, or anything containing the artificial sweetener xylitol.
Once your party area is deemed thoroughly cat-proof, it’s time to create a safe space just for your cat.
2. Create a Quiet Retreat
Cats appreciate a safe retreat when things get hectic. A guestroom, den, laundry room—anywhere that’s a bit away from the main party space. Make the space off-limits to guests by posting a polite sign that explains the space is for your cats to relax.
Use their bed or favorite blankets to create spots for them to relax and nap in comfort. Bring in some of their toys and a scratcher. Move their food and water bowls into the room temporarily so they don’t need to navigate through the party commotion to get a drink or a bite to eat.
If the space is large enough, you might even relocate one of their litter boxes so they can go to the bathroom in peace. Just make sure the litter box is not too close to their food and water bowls or their sleeping space—that’s not cozy.
Playing white noise or soft music may help block out loud noises from the party. Pheromone diffusers and sprays can induce calm in cats. You can also sprinkle catnip on their bedding, which can give them a burst of playful energy followed by some mellow time. Place some treats inside puzzle toys or hide them around the room for your cat to sniff out.
You can put your cat away ahead of time or you can wait and see how they react to the party. If you see your cat hiding, cowering, or otherwise looking stressed, place them in the quiet space and close the door.
3. Prep Your Guests
Let party guests know how they can help keep your cat safe and comfortable. One big fear? Escape artists. Your guests might inadvertently leave doors open, providing an escape route for an adventurous cat. To keep cats safe, post signs on the doors that need to remain closed. Something like, “Please don’t let the cat out! Keep door shut!” will remind guests that pets reside in the home.
Cat lovers might want to pet your cat or pick them up for a cuddle. This is great if your cat gets along with everyone and loves attention. But if your cat is nervous, let people know your cat’s preferences—never force them to interact. Allowing your cat to investigate things at their own pace can keep them from feeling stressed. It might also protect your guests from a swipe of your cat’s claws.
Finally, remind guests not to feed your pet anything. Some well-meaning party guests might want to slip your adorable cat a bit of food, but most party food is not healthy or safe for cats. A small sign posted near the food (“Please don’t feed the cat!”) should be a sufficient reminder.
When the festivities are all over, you and your cat can breathe a sigh of relief. If they’re in their quiet space, you can leave them there while you clean up, put away food, and get everything back to normal. Your cat won’t be disappointed to have missed the party. Now is your chance to reward their patience with some tasty treats and cuddle time.
Pet Poison Helpline. Common Poison List | Pet Poison Helpline® Pet Poison Helpline. Published December 2, 2022. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poisons/