Be Mindful of Holiday Decorations Around Cats

Pine needles, berries, etc., can be harmful to pets.

Posted: November 24, 2006, 5 a.m. EST

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With the holiday season kicking into gear, homes can become filled with decorations and foods that pose potential dangers to cats and other pets. Although many cats are curious about the gifts, trimmings, sweet treats and trees, these seasonal goodies can threaten the safety, and possibly lives, of pets.

“Holiday plants, especially mistletoe berries, can be most harmful. Ingested pine needles can puncture your pet’s intestines, and juice or leaves are toxic enough to cause severe intestinal damage,” said Todd Tams, vice president and chief medical officer of Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) Animal Hospitals.

If your pets exhibit some unusual symptoms, and you suspect that they may have ingested parts of a plant, the best course of action is to immediately take them to a veterinarian for care, Tams said.

If items found on Christmas trees, such as breakable tree ornaments, angel hair, tinsel, ribbon, hooks, rubber bands and strings of lights are ingested and swallowed, they can lead to obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract. Hang tree decorations and ornaments high enough from the bottom to make them inaccessible to pets, Tam said.

Also, pets might be tempted to drink water from the base of the tree, but this can cause diarrhea, mouth sores, vomiting and loss of appetite. Owners should secure a tree skirt around the trunk to prevent pets' access to the water and keep them from becoming ill.

“To prevent complications or illnesses to pets during the holiday season, owners should implement simple safety guidelines. Cleaning routinely around Christmas trees and plants, as well as not giving human food as treats, will ensure pets aren’t digesting toxic foods,” Tams said.

For more information about pet health, visit the VCA Animal Hospitals website.

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