Top five holiday poison control center calls (and what this means for your cat!)

holiday poison control center calls

With so many tempting treats around, your mischievous cat may have snuck some pie, eggnog or even rooted around in your guests’ purses or coat pockets during your holiday celebration. It’s not really a surprise that the holidays are a busy time for calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. 



However, you may be surprised at some of the items that make the list:

  1. Chocolate 
    Chocolate tops the list—and for good reason! Chocolate is prevalent in our homes, especially during holiday celebrations. Even wrapped up as a gift under the tree, cats can smell mouth-watering chocolates and may be curious enough to rip apart the gift wrap and sample the sweet treats. The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine (the toxic component) it contains and more dangerous to cats.
  2. Tree preservatives and tree water
    A tree creates a festive mood in your home during the holidays but can also bring added issues for cat owners. Not only can the tree preservative cause gastrointestinal upset, but it can be double trouble if the water is also contaminated with bacteria. The water may also contain pesticides that have leached out of the tree, making it a triple threat.
  3. Poinsettias
    Just as trees add a festive flair, other plants like poinsettias play a big part during the holiday season. The milky sap from poinsettias is primarily a mucous-membrane irritant causing skin irritation and if ingested by your curious kitty, they may drool or vomit.
  4. Medication
    Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and NSAIDs (Advil, Aleve) are toxic to cats. The larger the dose ingested, the greater the risk, but even small doses can be toxic or even deadly for cats. Cold remedies and allergy medications may help you or your guests breathe easier; however, they can cause toxic effects in cats.
  5. Alcohol
    Your cat may sample mulled wine, eggnog and other festive drinks right out of your guests’ glasses, but even spills licked up by your cat can be a problem. Alcohol is quickly absorbed by cats, leading to alcohol poisoning.

People often think that cats are discerning and won’t get into trouble with food or drinks, but cats can be quite inquisitive and indiscriminate about what they consume. A few precautions will help keep your cat out of harm’s way:

  • Avoid leaving wrapped boxes of chocolates under the tree. Keep advent calendars, gift boxes and chocolate figurines out of reach or inside closed cupboards.
  • Make sure your cat can’t access the tree stand water. Use a lid from an ice cream container to slip around the trunk and cover the water. Alternately, look for a cat-friendly tree stand with a built-in cover. Keep your cat’s water bowl filled with fresh water so the tree water is less appealing.
  • Find cat-safe festive arrangements and plants. Poinsettias may be better left out of your holiday decorating—or at least far out of your pet’s reach.
  • Make sure all your guests keep their purses, bags and backpacks closed. Inquisitive kitties can quickly paw open plastic bags containing medications or chocolates stored for later. Keep coats, bags and purses behind closed doors if possible.
  • Keep all drinks out of reach. Move chairs or other furniture to prevent your cat from jumping up to reach higher surfaces to sample alcoholic beverages, the punch bowl or hot chocolate.
  • Remind guests not to give your cat any food. Have fun, cat-friendly treats available instead.

If you believe your cat has eaten something toxic, don’t panic. If possible, figure out what was eaten, then contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 right away.

Wellness questions, toxic ingestion, upset belly—no matter what comes up this holiday, support is only a few taps away. Stay connected with free 24/7 Live Chat!* >>

*Live Chat with a licensed veterinary professional is free for VCA clients through the myVCA mobile app, available at Apple’s App Store and Google Play.