Christmas can be such a magical and exciting time! With all the colourful lights, cosy markets, delicious food, special time with our loved ones and, of course, giving and receiving presents, it is only natural that we want to share this festive spirit with our much loved four-legged family members. There are so many possibilities to choose from. From elf costumes to themed treats, through a whole range of fancy new toys, scratching posts and fashionable collars!
Although including pets in our traditions can be fun and create moments of closeness and joy, animals’ needs are different from ours and humanising them can add to the already stressful change in routines, noise, house decorations and presence of new people that characterise the holiday season.
So how can we consider our cats’ needs and give them what they really want for Christmas?
Table of contents
Avoid changes in the cat’s core area
Cats have an organised territory consisting of a core area where they sleep, eat, play and socialise. As well as secondary areas such as hunting or neutral areas. The core area is particularly important in cats’ social structure and well-being as it is the place where they feel safe and in control.
If you can, try to identify where this is for your cat and avoid moving furniture around or rearranging the area. And be especially careful with the objects your cat uses the most; such as bedding, rugs, scratching posts, litter trays and food and water bowls.
Provide a choice of places to hide and add an extra litter tray
Felines are mainly solitary animals. Although every cat is different and being part of our lives can shift this behaviour towards a more social personality, the vast majority of cats will appreciate the choice of interacting only when they feel comfortable to. Hiding places and the option to isolate are essential for cats’ well-being at all times. However this is especially important in the presence of excited guests, loud music and changes in the house dynamics.
Consider choosing a room where no one is allowed in for your cat to isolate if needed. And provide them with extra hiding options such as card boxes covered with blankets or igloo beds.
Cats can have urinary problems as a result of stress. Adding an extra litter tray somewhere quiet not only contributes to stress reduction. But also reduces the chances of your cat holding their bladder for too long in case they are reluctant to use their usual litter tray.
Educate your guests
We humans are, of course, part of the cat’s environment. Although it is great if your guests are cat lovers and can’t wait to give your little one some fuss, pets can find it intimidating to be the centre of the attention, especially if this attention is unwanted.
The best way of preventing this is by educating your friends and family and promoting calm introductions. Ideally cats should be ignored until they approach us. If they stay hidden and choose not to interact, that decision should be respected.
Consider a synthetic pheromone diffuser
Pheromones are molecules cats release to communicate with each other. There are several types of pheromones and each sends a different message, including comfort and safety. There are synthetic pheromone diffusers available in the market that can be plugged in the house to help cats feeling calmer overall or in particularly stressful situations such as Christmas festivities.
Create a cat-proof Christmas house
A great part of caring for a pet is predicting what can happen and creating an environment where the likelihood of accidents is as low as possible. This is especially true during Christmas!
Avoid keeping toxic plants in the house, such as poinsettia, mistletoe, Christmas rose and lilies, which can have catastrophic consequences if ingested. Candles, loose cables, fairy lights and ribbons should be kept out of reach. And human food should stay out of your cat’s belly. If you have a particularly adventurous feline, try to get a Christmas tree with a stable base and consider tying it to the wall.
Christmas is for humans, but I still want my cat to feel special!
There is nothing wrong in wanting to spoil your furry friends on special occasions. And while the precautions abovementioned should be your priority, you can certainly take your cat’s Christmas to the next level safely and in a way that is enjoyable to both of you!
One of the presents cats will appreciate the most is food! As mentioned, avoid offering human food which can not only upset your cat’s tummy but also contribute to unwanted behaviours such as begging. There are several cat treats available in the market, natural or gourmet, from pates to soups, the choice is endless.
New toys are also always a great choice to stimulate and make your cat happy. Especially if they come with your undivided attention included. Try to offer these before or after main celebrations, when your cat is feeling calm and safe to enjoy the surprise.