Christmas Tree Needles and Your Cat Don't Mix

Tis the season. The lights are up, the tinsel is sparkling, the fridge is stocked and the mistletoe is hung. And the tree is also up, which means you've got a serious health risk ready to ruin your otherwise perfect Holiday for you and your cat. Cat are by nature curious, playful creatures, and some of them will become very mischievous if given the chance, and the little pine needles that fall off your Christmas tree over the course a few week provide a temptation they might not be able to resist. Natural Christmas trees you buys at you local church or vacant lot were most likely grown a few hundred miles away on a farm or in the woods, and are usually treated with herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals to preserve them through the Holidays. The chemicals concentrate in the boughs and the needles can become toxic. If ingested, this chemical cocktail can make your cat very sick. Symptoms range from vomiting and diarrhea to coughing and loss of appetite, which can make for an unpleasant Holiday break. Hopefully your cat will vomit up the needles and not repeat the mistake. But, in the event that the needles make it into your cat's digestive tract, the then the real problems begin. The needles can damage or even puncture the lining of you cat's stomach or intestine, and could result in a very large veterinary bill or even worse.

So, what are the best ways to minimize the risks of this kind of disaster? Here are three easy steps toward keeping your car safe:

  1. Know your cat. Understanding that your cat is prone to accidents and mischief is key.
  2. Sweep Up. If your cat is prone to get into trouble, frequent sweeping up of the needles is an easy way to lower risk.
  3. Deny Access. Keep furniture away from the tree so your cat can't get at the boughs and needles still on the tree, and you should spray the lower boughs of the tree with a pet repellent for further discouragement.

This might seem like a lot of trouble to go through, but consider the alternatives and you'll agree that it is the best gift you can give yourself and you cat this Holiday season. For information on keeping your pet dog from the Christmas tree needles, please visit here.

Does Cat Behavior Change With the Seasons?

All mammals are affected by changes in the environment. For example, have you ever felt sleepy during rainy days? The lower light levels tend to lull us into a more relaxed mood.

Such changes happen minute by minute, day to day, and week to week. Temperature, light levels, colors, odors and everything else that stimulate our senses are often not static. Seasonal changes are therefore more pronounced, so it’s true that your cat’s behavior is likely to change with the seasons.

Dennis Turner, author of The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour, reports that feral cats are particularly active during the spring and summer months. These cats, which have to fend for themselves, are out and about for one-third of the day and three-quarters of the night, only resting at dawn and dusk.

Domesticity, along with spaying and neutering, can affect those behaviors, which are driven, in large part, by hormones. I’ve noticed, however, that even spayed and neutered cats can still have some mating and hunting drives. Both females and males may therefore be a bit more active during the spring and summer.

Warm spring or summer days, however, can counter hormonally induced mating-related activity. On a hot day, you are likely to find your cat sleeping on a cool, comfy spot, and for good reason. In the wild, remaining active in such weather could deplete valuable water intake and lead to overheating.

We all have internal body clocks that help us adjust to gradual changes, along with the more major ones that we associate with different seasons. Consider keeping a cat diary noting your pet’s activity levels at certain times, and what your cat is doing. You will probably start to see predictable patterns over time.

Easy Exercises for Your Cat

If you think our distant human ancestors were extremely active back in the day, imagine what life was like for your cat’s relatives before they enjoyed provided food, cozy laps and other care. Physical activity was survival -- not just exercise.

Most healthy cats need to maintain a certain level of activity for basic physical fitness. Their bodies evolved to handle this -- not a couch potato lifestyle. While it’s difficult to tone individual cat muscles, you can encourage your cat to get sufficient exercise for overall body toning.

The ASPCA offers the following tips for making exercise interesting and enjoyable for your cat:

Stay engaged. Cats don’t usually like when you plunk a toy in front of them and then walk away. They are far more interested in spending time with you, so set aside time each day to encourage your cat to play.

Try leash training. Teaching your cat to walk on a leash is a tremendous health investment. The sights and smells will get your cat excited about walking, and this gives you an incentive to walk more as well.

Invest in climbing objects. Enclosed outdoor areas with cat trees and other objects for climbing can also help to get cats interested in physical activity while staying safe. Consider adding one to your home, if possible.

Determine your cat’s preferred method of play. Some cats like to jump. Some are more inclined to run. Some are stalkers. Purchase cat toys with these preferences in mind. The old adage about how kids prefer to play with the box instead of the toy may hold true for cats. Old Ping-Pong balls, cardboard boxes, paper shopping bags, and packing paper can all be toys to a cat with a little coaxing. Usually if you are interested in an object, your cat will be too.

Is Water From a Christmas Tree Stand Harmful to Cats?

Back in the day, Christmas trees were usually just sold with a basic wooden base nailed to the bottom. You’d haul the tree home, stick it in a corner and then watch the needles dry out as the days went on. By Christmas, the tree would often be more than ready for recycling.

Now, many of us opt for a base that permits the addition of liquids. As Charla Dawson, owner of Dapper Dog and Classy Cat, points out, “The water itself is not poisonous, but if a fertilizer was added to the water, it may be poisonous. This fertilizer may cause the pet to suffer with diarrhea and vomiting.” (Tree preservatives may also be added to the water, helping to keep the tree fresh.) Dawson therefore advises that you cover the base.

A quick and easy remedy is to just put some well-secured foil or plastic wrap over the water in the base. However, some crafty types take this task to another decorative level. One impressive example is a pretty cover made out of burlap, as seen on the DIY Showoff blog. With some imagination, you can probably come up with other clever solutions.

Even if you just put plain water in the stand, I would advise covering the exposed base. The tree, which may have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals, will leach compounds into the water. It’s better to be ultra-safe than sorry when it comes to the holidays and your cat.

If you have a dog, try our tips to keeping your dog safe at Christmas time here.

Go Green With Your Cat

We often hear about the need to reduce our human footprint on the global ecosystem, but you are right to be concerned about your cat’s environmental paw print too. As owners, we control this paw print with the products we buy and the actions we take. Many pet stores are at last acknowledging the green movement. Here are some products you might watch out for:

Biodegradable Cat Litter Many new cat litters look like conventional products and they clump in the same way, but they are flushable and biodegradable. Manufacturers often use natural materials, such as wheat and corn, to create such litters. Wheat, corn and related materials come from renewable resources. They are also safer for your cat, since cats sometimes lick off excess litter and may breathe in litter dust.

Eco-conscious Toys Look for toys made out of recycled plastics, fabrics or other repurposed goods. Safe, natural vegetable dyes and other nontoxic materials are also important to watch out for.

Sisal and Sea Grass Scratchers Did you know that sisal comes from an agave plant? Agave sisalana yields stiff, tough fibers that are used to make everything from agricultural twines to kitty scratching posts. It’s a renewable, fast-growing material, like sea grass. Both of these products are therefore ideal for scratching posts, cat toys and other pet products.

Zeolite Cat Litter Deodorizer Traditional cat litter deodorizers used to be made out of questionable chemicals, but some natural products contain zeolite. This is a natural microporous material that serves as an adsorbent. Zeolite can form in nature when volcanic rocks and ash react with alkaline groundwater.

Natural Cat Foods From a legal standpoint, foods labeled as “natural” must not contain any artificial ingredients, coloring agents or chemical preservatives. Meat and poultry must be minimally processed. Look for the word “natural” on your cat’s food labels.

As you can see from the above, green products are not only good for the environment, but also better for you and your cat. It’s a triple-win trend that must, and hopefully will, continue to grow in future.