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For Happy Cats And A Happy Holiday Season: Think Like A Cat

If you love cats, sharing makes us purrrr :-)

UPDATED Dec. 2021. This holiday season, if you want your cat to be happy, think like a cat. While we’re having a jolly good time, cats have no concept of what a holiday is. For most cats the holidays are ho, ho, no! All they know is their owners are home less and acting differently. They spend more time away from home, shopping and socializing. There may be travel, house guests or more entertaining at home.

Cat guardians may be gone for days or even weeks. Homes may have new decorations, perhaps a Christmas tree, gift-wrapped presents, new foods and smells. What we call friends, neighbors or cat sitters, cats may consider interlopers in their home, which is a cat’s territory and cats are very territorial.

A bored or stressed cat can engage in destructive behavior or worse.


This year is especially stressful for many of us and by extension our cats. With overstuffed to-do lists, cats are often at the bottom of the list and over-looked with negative consequences. It doesn’t need to be that way with a little mindfulness.

  • Most cats don’t like changes in their environment like furniture being moved during holiday parties.
  • If there is a lot of commotion, make sure your cats aren’t underfoot with safe places to hide.
  • Cats and curiosity is a mixed bag during the holidays. Cats but intrigued by new items like boxes, packages and wrapping paper or ribbons.
  • The most dangerous things for cats to ingest are ribbons and tinsel. They are choking hazards and can cause intestinal blockages.


  • New smells may entice or be off-putting. Being naturally curious, cats will sniff the Christmas tree, may try to climb it or even pee on it. Drinking the water the tree sits in can be toxic from pine oils.
  • No cat paw can resist shiny dangling ornaments or shiny wrapped chocolates in a candy dish.
  • Cats don’t understand why you’re angry for breaking Aunt Martha’s antique what not, or rolling mandarin oranges under the sofa.
  • To a cat, everything is a potential toy and a potential hazard.

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  • Well-socialized cats crave connection with their human family.
  • Cats need mental stimulation to stave off boredom.
  • Some cats require more attention during the holidays
  • Like dogs, cats can experience separation anxiety while pet parents are away.
  • Being lonely or bored can lead to destructive behavior or litter box issues.
  • Leaving a cat alone for even 24 hours can wreak emotional if not physical damage.

Cats who have other feline companions are usually better off and less lonely than solo kitties but stress can create inter-cat aggression.


The number of times I’ve heard people say, it’s fine to leave kitty alone with some kibble for the weekend is shocking. No, it’s not okay. Let’s put this myth to bed once and for all.

Accidents can and do happen to cats and or the home in a blink of an eye. The following are a few real hazards that are well documented.

  • Cats have an accident or get suddenly ill requiring immediate vet care.
  • Water bowls get spilled, leaving nothing to drink.
  • Toxic products can be pried open with paws. Windows can be opened, screens ripped open.
  • Water pipes freeze and bursting, Fires in the home or nearby. Burglaries.
  • Suffocation or electrocution from cords or decorations. Always unplug Christmas lights before leaving the home. The most dangerous decoration is tinsel. If swallowed, it can be lethal so just say no.
  • Nothing spells holiday blues quicker than an emergency trip to the vet. The best solution is prevention.

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  • Keep cats stimulated and happy with adequate inter-active play, places to perch and hide, vertical and horizontal space to explore and scratch, varieties of fun toys and all toxic or unsafe items removed.
  • If there is too much stimulation and action, make sure there are quiet cat caves and places to get away from it all.
  • When we play and snuggle with our cats it’s a win win. They help reduce our stress levels and happier cats makes everyone happy. Be extra aware of not over-stimulating a cat with over-petting or they may swat or bite.


Prepare for trips or vacations weeks advance or at least not last minute.

If you are going away for more than 24 hours arrange for proper cat care. That means fresh water and food twice daily, litter box cleaned out daily, interactive play time.

  • Write detailed instructions of cat care, feeding, meds, individual cat’s personalities and preferences. Include your vet’s contact info and your nearest emergency clinic info.
  • The time to arrange cat care is today and not the day before you’re leaving.
  • If you have a reliable friend or neighbor to cat sit, great. If not, a professional pet sitter is worth their weight in catnip, not to mention peace of mind.
  • Consider new tech gadgets like “nanny cams” for pets. Monitoring systems allows you to monitor your pets remotely from anywhere to catch live action, record video or take snapshots.

The holiday season is a time of showing love and generosity. In 2018 Americans will spend an estimated $67.00 on their pets during the holidays.

While some of these gifts will be appreciated by our pets, the best gift we can give our beloved cats is our time and care. What do you think your cat would say?


  • Elaine M Hutzelman

    I see these posts are from several years ago, so hope your readers will still take a look. I have never had any issues with the Christmas tree with all the cats I have had over the years. I put the tree up and let it sit there for about 3 days. The cats have a chance to check it out, smell, walk around it, etc. Then after 3 days I decorate it, and they aren’t interested at all. I put only safe cloth or non breakable ornaments around the first foot or two at the bottom, but they are no longer interested in the tree as they already gave it their nod of approval. Tried it again this year with my Harvey survivor, and it was the same story – no interest. Hope your readers can benefit from trying this as I have.

  • Cynthia Southern

    Merry Christmas Layla, Odin, Clyde and any other cats I forgot. I loved this blog post especially the vintage drawing and the first picture stating “All I want for Christmas is you.” My cat Princess sure feels that way. Thanks for all your beautiful cat blog posts during 2018.

  • ellen beck

    We dont put up a tree nor decorations, we also do not leave for any length of time (maybe a day trip) and when we are gone a good friend has a key.

    Lots of good tips for those who do decorate or travel !

    So much to say never enough time…

  • Tara Creech

    This makes me feel better. Our little boy is a year old and we’ve had him almost a whole year and he has been an absolute angel. Well, this is his first Christmas and the day we put up our 9ft artificial tree…was the day the problems started. He immediately started climbing the tree which was damaging it. The next day, we were gone ALL day and he was alone with the tree. When we got home, we discovered broken ornaments and bent branches. Within minutes of us walking in the door, he peed on his cat bed (which is a 5 feet from his daily cleaned litter box). Two days later, we decided to lock him in the mudroom where his litter box and food/water are to keep him from the tree. My husband put a clean towel down for him to sleep on and he immediately peed on it. He put down a second towel and slept on it the whole day until AFTER we got home and then he peed on it. This whole time he was still using his litter box. We installed a Christmas Tree Defender guard and the Feliway diffuser and it worked wonderfully. No more climbing! And the peeing stopped. Fast forward two weeks…we were gone all day saturday baking at my mom’s house, came home, and left again early the next morning and came back that night. We loved on our kitty for a few minutes and then went about our evening getting ready for bed. We walked back into our bedroom and he was sitting on my husband’s side of the bed completely emptying his bladder! So we were up til 3am washing our sheets and comforter…thank the lord we had a mattress protector on! Vet says it’s behavioral and prescribed Zylkene to calm him down. It apparently has great reviews. As of today, he’s only had one pill so far and it takes a few days to get into their system. Then today…I was gone for 3 hours and came home. Loved on him for a few minutes and gave him some catnip on his favorite toy. All was well for 10 minutes. Then he went out into the mudroom and peed on the carpet next to his litter box. But just now, he peed again but only peed in his box. My stressed cat is stressing me out! Really hard to enjoy Christmas when you’re paranoid your cat will pee on something again.

    • Tara Creech

      Update: had a feeling something still wasnt right, so I kept a really close eye on him. A few days after his appointment, he started acting different…moving slower and more vocal. Next morning he started showing classic uti signs. Caught a sample and sure enough blood and overly high pH. Researched it and found out that the blue buffalo he eats can raise the urine pH and cause crystal, uti’s and blockages in some dogs and cats. So he’s now on a different food and a week’s worth of antibiotics. SO GLAD it’s not behavioral!

      • Elaine M Hutzelman

        He was trying to tell you for some time that he had a problem. Now you will know if this happens again that he needs to go to the vet. Hard lesson to learn,even when he was trying to make it very obvious that you wouldn’t miss it.

  • Skeeter and Izzy

    I don’t like to be away from my crew. I had to travel for work and I asked to postpone my departure date because my kid sitter was sick. My Boss made the comment about leaving them home alone with food and I flat out told him that he might do that but I did not! I left on the day that I had proper care in place not before. Thanks for the great reminders! Merlin you do look quite dashing and a bit dapper in the red and white!

    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Twig & Peanut & Romeo >^..^<

  • Sue Brandes

    Great advice for the holidays. Cute photos of your kitties. I had to put my glass ornaments away after Tubby decided to break 2 of them. For some reason they were very interesting to him this year.

  • maggie

    Fortunately none of my cats have ever been tree climbers! The bottom two feet of our Christmas trees have always been decorated with small wooden or felt type ornaments that the cats are free to steal. We’re lucky to work at home so we can enjoy (monitor) the activity.

    They used to say that poinsettias were dangerous, but I’ve read that while the sap can irritate, it’s not toxic. Evidently holly, mistletoe, and lilies are much more poisonous.

  • The Swiss Cats

    Great post and good advice, we totally agree ! We’re lucky, there are no unknown humans at home (just Grandpa), our humans doesn’t travel, and the ornaments of our (fake) tree are plushies mice ! (plushies are more silent than unbreakable balls when we play soccer with ornaments middle of the night ! ) Purrs

  • easyweimaraner

    I hope your tipps will help to make christmas to a fabulous event for all. The cat of my auntie is probably a feline Grinch, he totally hates the christmas tree and acts like the hulk. Fortunately my auntie is a nice cat-person and decided to have an outdoor-tree this year :o)

  • Kathryn

    We leave our boyz with people when we go on a trip, which is rare, because we discovered they really didn’t like our going away. They’d have a weird stare when we returned. And they’d ignore us.

    We don’t use tinsel. They usually knock one ornament off the tree (Mao) but we’ve learned not to hang low-hanging fruit.

    They do get stressed. We can see that when we move. They used to hide for days, but in the last move, they sat on the floor near the bed and looked up at me and howled all night for three days. They wanted to wake me up to tell me how they felt.

  • Sometimes Cats Herd You

    We totally agree about it not being okay to leave a kitty alone with kibble for the weekend. This always upsets us, but the people who do it are the ones who are least likely to want to hear why it’s a bad idea. So frustrating!

  • Summer

    This is all such great advice… although I disagree about us kitties not understanding holidays – well, at least the gift parts! Binga and Boodie tell me that on Christmas mornings past, when my human brought out all the presents for them, it was quite an exciting time! That was holiday enough for them.

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