Christmas is a time for the whole family to come together and share in the festive fun: presents, Christmas dinner, naps, questionable Christmas specials of TV shows that ended years ago… Of course, our cats are invaluable members of the family, and some items on that list are of particular interest to them, especially the copious amounts of food lying around in the shape of edible gifts, Christmas dinner and plates of leftovers.
So, it’s good to be aware of which elements of our traditional Christmas spread are safe for our feline friends to eat, lest Christmas Day end with an emergency visit to the vet. We spoke to our veterinary consultant Andrew Moore to get his guidance on the issue.
Christmas dinner comes with a whole host of trimmings but the star attraction is the meat: turkey, ham, duck, goose, whichever is popular in your house.
While none of these meats are toxic to cats, they are much richer than their usual food so should probably be avoided. But in case you’re thinking of giving your feline friend a little treat, we’ve got some expert advice from Andrew Moore.
“Small amounts of lean meats like skinless turkey breast can be added to their meal in moderation to add a bit of variety to their festive menu,” he said. “Just be careful not to include additions like goose fat, gravy or stuffing. And remember to remove some of their ‘normal’ food to balance things out.”
Stuffing is incredibly popular around Christmas, with various combinations of sausage meat, chestnuts, sage, bacon and cranberries doing the rounds in most households. Whichever is your traditional favourite, there’s a good chance that it involves onions, which are highly toxic to cats and can cause anaemia or even be fatal in some cases. Chestnuts and bacon are high in fat too, which may cause gastrointestinal issues.
Of the other traditional side dishes, sprouts and swede, carrot or parsnip mash are fine in moderation as long as they don’t contain butter, seasoning and anything toxic such as onions or garlic. Potatoes should never be given raw to cats, and mash or roast tatties are unsuitable as the former contains lactose and the latter is high in fat.
Cranberry sauce is high in sugar, so that should be avoided too.
Christmas desserts, such as pudding, cake and mince pies, are unsuitable for cats as they more often than not contain either dried fruit, nuts or both. “Grapes and any of their dried derivatives - such as raisins and sultanas - are incredibly toxic to cats and lots of nuts can be toxic too,” said Andrew. “Any bowls of nuts or dried fruits should be kept where cats can’t get to them.”
Cats may also be lactose intolerant, so anything containing dairy (ice cream, cream, custard) should be avoided as it can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
Other Christmas dangers
Decorations and edible gifts around the house can pose potential problems if eaten by your cat. Tinsel can get tangled around their tongue or stuck in their stomach, while glass decorations can cause lacerations if they break. Similarly, wrappers on sweets and small parts of crackers and tree ornaments can create choking hazards or get stuck in their stomachs, while anything chocolate can cause seizures, heart arrhythmias and muscle tremors.
Protect yourself and your pet in the event of Christmas calamities with cat insurance from MORE TH>N. Our customers also get the benefit of our 24/7 Vetfone service, which will connect you with a professional to advise on the best course of action for your cat.
Read more tips in our guide to feeding your feline.