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Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.


We all enjoy special foods, particularly over the holidays. During these weeks, our homes are often filled with chocolates, wine and other culinary masterpieces. Many of these items can be quite dangerous for our pets, both feline and canine. For cats, chocolate, caffeine-containing foods and beverages, foods containing onions and/or garlic, alcohol and raw bread dough are among the dangers.

Besides the wonderful foods we share over the holidays, many of us also spend a lot of time decorating our homes and decking out the halls. Although these decorations add beauty to our homes and are a traditional part of the holidays, they can also pose significant risks for your cat.

  • Lilies, Christmas roses, amaryllis, holly berries (and their leaves), and mistletoe are among the dangerous plants often used as holiday decorations. Interestingly, poinsettias (which are often maligned as being extremely toxic for pets) are really only mildly toxic and the risk to pets with this particular plant is somewhat overrated.
  • Ribbons, strings and other similar types of items can pose a threat for kittens and curious cats. If swallowed, these items can cause intestinal obstructions that may require surgical treatment and may even prove to be fatal for your cat.
  • Potpourris are often used to freshen the air and give our homes a delicious scent. However, these items can contain herbs and essential oils that can be dangerous for your cat. Be especially cautious of liquid potpourris.
  • Candles are another decorative hazard. Candles can not only cause burn injuries to curious cats but overturned candles can also pose a fire risk for your home.
  • Electrical cords can also be dangerous to a playful cat. Electrocution is a real risk for any cat that bites into a low-hanging electrical cord.
  • Christmas tree water can become stagnant, becoming a breeding ground for bacteria and other unhealthy organisms. It may also contain fertilizers and other preservatives designed to keep your tree fresher longer. This water may pose a disease threat to a thirsty cat who samples the water.
  • Glass ornaments may be knocked off trees and countertops, resulting in sharp edges that can pose a safety hazard and injure your cat.

Despite our best intentions and well-laid planned, accidents can still happen. It’s a good idea to keep the telephone number for your local veterinarian and closest emergency veterinary hospital on hand. The ASPCA Poison Control Center can be reached at (888)426-4435 and the Pet Poison Helpline is available at (800)213-6680. Program these numbers into your telephone so they are readily available if needed. Hopefully, there will be no need to use these telephone numbers but, if needed, you’ll be glad to have them close.

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Santa’s Helper by Bill & Vicki Tracey / via Flickr

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