The holidays are here—yay!—and for many, there’s one extra reason to celebrate: the chance to spend this festive season with their new kitten. Across the country, thousands of pet lovers used their time in quarantine to adopt a kitten, making this holiday season the first they’ll get to spend with their fuzzy bundle of joy. Whether you’ve had months to bond with your pet or you’ve only recently brought home this new member of your family, you’ll want to make the most of your first holiday season together.
To help you make the holidays with your new kitten the best ever, we talked to several experts about ways to celebrate and what new cat parents need to know about keeping their fur baby safe during this time of year. From cat-proofing the Christmas tree to unique ways to make new memories, here’s everything you need to know about celebrating the holidays with your new kitten.
Holiday Safety for Kittens
When it comes to keeping your kitten safe during the holidays, it’s best to think of them like a toddler—one who can reach the ceiling, says Jackson Galaxy, a cat behavior and wellness expert and New York Times best-selling author who hosts Animal Planet's “My Cat From Hell.” That means making sure all your festive décor, from Christmas trees to menorahs and beyond, is kitten-friendly. Here are a few tips for safe and festive decorating for the holidays.
Cat-Proof Your Christmas Tree
If you’re planning to have a Christmas tree, you’ll definitely need to cat-proof it. This is one of the biggest challenges pet parents face during the holidays, Galaxy says—but finding a way to keep your cat out of the Christmas tree doesn’t have to be a holiday miracle. Here are the four most important things you should do to cat-proof your Christmas tree, according to Galaxy:
Pine needles can also be toxic to cats, Galaxy says, so consider opting for a fake Christmas tree. They’re just as pretty with less mess and maintenance! If you do opt for the real thing, keep an eye out for your kitten nibbling on the branches. If you think they’ve swallowed pine needles, Galaxy says, “Go to the vet immediately. Do not wait for things to get bad. It's better to be safe.”
Keep an Eye on Your Menorah
Curious kitties may be attracted to the flickering flames of your menorah—or, if you have an electric menorah, to the cords. Pet parents should use extra caution when celebrating the Festival of Lights, says Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH, of Animal Acupuncture.
"Candles can cause burns, and electric cords if chewed can cause burns and/or shock,” she says, so cat parents who plan to use a menorah should place it out of reach of their kitten.
What counts as “out of reach” will vary depending on your pet—but when you’re dealing with serious hazards like fire and electricity, it’s best to be extra-cautious. Don’t just set your menorah on a high shelf and consider yourself done, Barrack advises. (Remember what Galaxy said about treating your kitten like a toddler with the reach of an NBA superstar?) Instead, choose a room that’s off-limits to your kitten and keep your Menorah there.
Keep Ribbon and Tinsel Out of Reach
The holidays are a season of sparkles, and it’s tempting to decorate your home with strings of glittery things to make your living space more festive. But when it comes to strands of ribbon, tinsel, or other string-like things, Galaxy says, it’s best to be especially cautious.
“Remember that tinsel, ribbon, string, Mylar, etc., are all things that kittens will potentially put in their mouth,” he points out. “If swallowed, that could cause a trip to the emergency room.”
Keep these items out of reach, he advises. That means keeping them in a separate room or other place you’re sure your kitten can’t access—or finding other ways to decorate.
Avoid These Popular But Hazardous Holiday Plants
Use caution when decorating with holiday plants. Some of the most common varieties can be dangerous for cats and kittens, says Dr. Liz Bales, VMD. Among the biggest offenders: Lilies, which can be poisonous to cats even in small quantities. Pet parents should seek veterinary care immediately if they suspect their cat has eaten even a tiny amount of a lily flower, leaf or pollen, Dr. Bales says. Because lilies are so toxic to cats, the best way to keep your cat safe is to keep these plants out of your home.
And while lilies may be among the most dangerous holiday plants, they aren’t the only hazardous greenery for cats. Popular holiday plants like poinsettias and mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and other health issues. Though they’re not highly toxic like lilies, they can still make your cat very sick if eaten in large quantities. If you do decide decorate with poinsettias or mistletoe, it’s best to keep them in a place your kitten can’t access.
Holiday Fun with Kittens
Now that you’ve made sure your home is super safe for your new kitten, the fun can begin! Check out these ideas for celebrating the holidays.
Add Cat Treats to Your Holiday Baking List
As you plan your holiday baking marathon, don’t forget something special for your kitty!
“Everyone likes to make (or at least think about making) homemade treats for their dogs, but cats are frequently overlooked when it comes to homemade cat treats,” says Amanda Williams, DVM, chief veterinarian and medical director of Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch in Jupiter, Florida. “Being able to make a treat that is wholesome, dye free and contains healthy ingredients can be fun, and if you have a cat who is treat- or food-motivated, then this is something that can help with bonding as well!”
And the holidays are the perfect time to try out a new recipe, she adds. “Incorporating this into your annual cookie baking for the holidays will give your cat something to look forward to when everyone else is eating their evening desserts.”
Here are some of our favorite Chewy Eats recipes you can make for your kitten this holiday season:
Turn Memories Into Mementos
Whether you’re decorating a Christmas tree or a Hanukkah bush, hanging a personalized ornament is a sweet memento to mark you and your kitten’s first holiday season together. Check out the Chewy shop for lots of options for personalized pet ornaments.
If you’re not the holiday tree type, you can display a personalized pet picture frame or a blanket with your pet’s photo you can break out every year during the holidays. Think of it as a gift for both your kitten and yourself!
Gift Your Kitten Their Very Own Advent Calendar
Nothing says “25 days of Christmas” like an advent calendar. While you’re popping open your advent calendar, why not let your kitten get in on the fun, too? Now both you and your pet can look forward to a daily surprise together.
“Advent calendars for cats tend to include both treats and toys, leading to a daily interaction with your cat that will help build on your bond and encourages them to be more social as well,” Dr. Williams says. “During a busy time of the year when our minds are on shopping, cooking, etc., it is nice to have a daily reminder to spend time with your kitties as well! And the toys help to stimulate their prey drive and can provide both physical and mental stimulation improving their overall well-being.”
Looking for a kitty-approved advent calendar? The Snif-Snax Advent Calendar Salmon & Seaweed Cat Treats includes 25 days’ worth of goodies that are actually good for your kitten, packed with omega-3 fatty acids to keep your kitty both fit and festive.
Or, if you’re crafty, make your own. Get the DIY here.
Set a Daily Affirmation with Your Feline Friend
Let’s be honest: We could all use a little extra positivity right now. So why not use this special time with your new kitten to start the practice of setting a daily affirmation each day? Experts say that affirmations can improve your mindset and increase your feelings of self-worth—gifts you can use long after December 25.
David Neuwirth, founder of scent brand Pet House, suggests lighting a candle—we personally love this lemon & verbena option that says “Pets leave pawprints on your heart”—and snuggling with your kitten for a few minutes while you set your daily affirmation. Your kitty may not truly understand the value of your daily affirmations, but they’ll absolutely enjoy the extra love they’re getting! (Just remember to keep the candle safely away from your kitten.)
Make Opening Gifts Extra Fun with Catnip
Admit it: You’re going to spoil your new kitty with gifts galore this year. When it comes time to open all their new toys, Sara Ochoa, DVM, shares a little secret to making it extra fun.
“I like to wrap packages with a toy and a little cat nip inside. I give these to my cat and let him destroy the wrapping to get to his new toy. He then will spend hours running and playing with these new toys,” she says.
However you decide to spend this festive season with your new kitten, make sure it’s filled with lots of love, snuggles and playtime. For more cute and unique treats, toys and other gift ideas, check out Chewy’s Holiday Shop.