British Columbia

How to avoid a cat-as-tree-phe this Christmas: Felines and festive decor don't always mix

The holidays can bring hazards into your home that can pose a danger to your feline family members. Veterinarian Sandy Jamieson offers advice.

Trees, decorations and floral centerpieces can all put feline friends at risk

It is recommended cat owners do not decorate the bottom 25 per cent of their Christmas tree and avoid using tinsel altogether to keep their pets and tree safe this season. (Chepko Danil Vitalevich/Shutterstock)

The holidays can be a hazardous time for feline family members, and cat owners should be alert to what poses a threat to their pet at this time of year says longtime veterinarian Sandy Jamieson.

Jamieson, head vet at The Cat Hospital of Kamloops, has seen a lot of Christmas-time calamities involving cats during his 40-plus years in practice. He joined CBC's Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce to offer advice on how to avoid an un-fur-tunate incident this season. 

The Christmas tree, of course, can be a tantalizing toy for a cat.

Jamieson advises not decorating the bottom 25 per cent of the tree if there is a cat in your home. And it is best to avoid that sparkling tinsel altogether.

"Invariably, they will consume it," said Jamieson, who has surgically removed tinsel from curious cats before and says it can do severe damage to the animals' digestive system.

"It lacerates the middle of the intestine," he said. "It's a real baddy."

Watch the carbs

Keeping tinsel out of the house might be easier than keeping baked goods at bay. Jamieson says if you have a cat who can't seem to lose weight it is best these animals don't have any extra Christmas carbs.

According to Jamieson, some domestic cats still carry genetic material from their ancestors in ancient Egypt who subsisted solely on rodents and stored protein as fat. Now, said Jamieson, there are house cats whose bodies have not evolved to metabolize carbohydrates well and instead store it as fat like their ancestors did with protein.

Jamieson said these are the cats whose owners wonder why they don't slim down even when put on a dry food diet.

Best not to let these cats touch the cookies left out for Santa.

Pretty poison

Another booby trap for your furry buddy are the lilies some people enjoy having in their home over the holidays.

Jamieson said the plants are poisonous to cats and while he has managed to save some lily-eating pets in the past, the window of time where they can be helped is short.

"They'll die within a few days from severe kidney toxicity," said Jamieson. "Lilies should not be in the same house as a cat."

Lilies, seen here as part of a Christmas display, can be fatal to cats. (Shutterstock / Popova Tetiana)

It may sound daunting, but Jamieson says it was way more common for cats to get into a lot of trouble at Christmas when he first started as a vet.

"People didn't treat their cats as members of the family like they do now," he said.

But best to keep your tree tinsel-free and your table lily-free so you can stay worry-free and let your felines enjoy the festive season too.

To hear the complete interview with Sandy Jamieson (and his own two cats) tap the audio link below:

Veterinarian Sandy Jamieson points out holiday hazards and offers tips on how to keep your feline friends safe this season. 6:36

With files from Daybreak Kamloops


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.