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In the chaos of getting ready for a Thanksgiving party, it’s easy to forget that little disruptions to your pet’s routine life can lead to big drama. To help you plan ahead, we’ve enlisted the guidance of E’Lise Christensen, DVM, a veterinary behaviorist at NYC Veterinary Specialists, and her colleague Patricia Joyce, DVM. Here’s what they advise:
1. Set up a Kitty “Panic Room”
Set aside a secluded room for your cat to use as a safe haven. Many cats are much more comfortable in their own special space rather than out with visitors, so don’t think of this as a bad thing for your cat. Set it up a few days in advance and spend some time in there with your cat. The room should include elevated resting and hiding areas, a litter box, food, water and toys.
2. Mind the Door
While guests are coming and going, cats may lurk by the door and try to make a break for it. Dr. Christensen recommends placing your cat in its safe haven while your guests arrive and leave.
3. Teach Kids About Cats
Kids often love cats, but cats don’t always love loud, energetic kids. Dr. Christensen advises isolating your cat in its safe haven if there will be many children around. If you have a small group of well-behaved kids, let the kids throw treats or toys on the floor for the cat. Teaching children how to properly play and behave around cats could make everyone happy.
4. Protect Your Guests’ Belongings
Cats usually get stressed when their space is invaded by strangers. This stress can cause some cats to urinate on the new things in the environment. Put your guests’ belongings out of reach.
5. Keep Your Cat on Its Usual Diet
Dr. Joyce says many Thanksgiving foods can make cats sick. It’s tempting to want to share on a special occasion, but your kitty won’t be very thankful if you give it nausea.
6. Snuff Those Candles
With a large number of unfamiliar people in the house, your cat may decide to stay off the floors and jump up to higher vantage points to take in the scene. A candle placed in the wrong spot could be knocked over and burn more than your holiday turkey. Avoid that risk.
7. Beware of Guests Bearing Flowers
People like to bring plant or floral arrangements as gifts, but cats will want to investigate them and maybe even take a taste. Some plants, like those in the lily family, can be poisonous and even fatal. Keep the arrangements away from your cat, unless you know exactly what plants are in them and that they’re safe.
8. Mix “In-law” Pets With Caution
Out-of-town guests might bring the family pet. You may already know that your cat gets along with his cousin Fifi the poodle or Cleo the Abyssinian, but mixing unfamiliar pets should be avoided whenever possible.
9. Don’t Medicate Unnecessarily
Owners of particularly high-strung cats may be tempted to medicate a cat that’s likely to be freaked out by boisterous houseguests, but Dr. Joyce doesn’t recommend it. Instead, keep your skittish feline in its safe-haven room.
10. Consider Aromatherapy
Both Dr. Joyce and Dr. Christensen say products that mimic natural cat pheromones can help keep your kitty comfortable during parties and other stressful times. A pheromone is a natural chemical signal that triggers a specific response, and in this case, the response is to “chill the cat out,” according to Dr. Joyce.
Brad Kloza is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Discover. He is a frequent contributor to The Daily Cat.