Your Kitten's First Holiday Season

The holidays can be perfect for gathering together and sharing joys. But imagine what the holidays must be like for a kitten. So many distractions, so much going on! So many things to play with, bat at and explore, from decorated fir trees to ribbons and bows to guests coming in and out. To make sure her first experience is a positive one, take a look at the holidays from your kitten’s point of view. And be sure to read our Health Watch article: How to Give Your Puppy a Merry and Very Healthy Holiday.

A Decorative Environment

Your halls are decked, your tree is up and the trimmings are on. From your kitten’s viewpoint, a big tree with all those decorations and ornaments means there are so many new things to paw at, pull, climb on and potentially break. This year, you may want to hold back on too many appealing decorations, and take a more minimalist approach until your kitten is a little less energetic and curious.

Cats are notorious for getting into places you couldn’t imagine them reaching or finding. Don’t underestimate your kitten’s abilities to climb shelves, scale tree branches, or squeeze in a tight spot. Take a good look at your decorations, where they are placed, and how attractive they may be to a mischievous kitten. Watch your kitten carefully when she first encounters your holiday decorations—see what attracts her, and how she behaves. You may need to do some rearranging once you notice what she does, and where she can reach.

Be very careful of candles—while they may be the perfect holiday accent, the flickering flames can attract a cat’s curiosity, and result in singed whiskers, tails—or worse. Never leave your kitten unmonitored in a room with lit candles. Reduce the number of candles you use this year to make kitten-supervision easier. Or do without them altogether. There are now many lighting alternatives that provide the same candlelight ambience, like electric votives, that are purrfectly kitten-safe.

Possibly the best way to avoid kitten problems is to have your holiday decor in only one room with a door you can close, and keep your kitten out of that room. That way you’re sure your kitten will never be left unattended and can’t get into trouble on her own.

Avoiding Temptation.

There are so many temptations for a kitten during the holidays. Why make it harder for her to behave? Don’t leave wrapped presents under the tree where she can rip and tear the ribbons. Don’t leave out appetizers – or appeteasers – on a low coffee table that’s easy for a kitten to jump on, walk over, sniff at and delicately munch. Be sure to keep garbage lids on; that pail will look very appealing to a kitten’s sense of play when overflowing with ribbons and packing materials like bubble wrap. Keep an eye on open garbage cans when there are guests around, and remove full garbage bags from the house, above all with turkey bones that not only smell tempting, but are dangerous for a kitten to nosh on.

Creating a Safe Space

Big holiday parties are no place for a tiny kitten. Keep your young cat away from the fray by putting her in a room with her food, water and kitty litter. Ideally, it should be a place without decorative distractions or any valuables she could hurt. Either lock it or put a polite “keep out” sign on the door, so a guest looking for a bathroom won’t accidently open it and let her escape.

A small, intimate family gathering may be more conducive to a kitten’s social abilities—provided she isn’t afraid of a lot people. As long as you or someone responsible is regularly looking out for her welfare, she can join the fun.

Train Your Guests.

It may be easier to “train” family staying with you over the holidays to behave well around your kitten than vice versa. Ask them to not feed her off their plates, no matter how forlorn her expression or cute her curiosity. You can even create a sign with your kitten’s photo to remind guests not to sneak her your snacks: “STOP before feeding me. I may act hungry but I just ate.”

Quality Kitten Time

Your cat is young only once. There’s nothing like experiencing a kitten’s boundless joy and wonder at the world. If you have time off during your holiday, it could be a prime opportunity to bond with your kitten and observe her behavior and emerging personality. Plus, extended games with a cat dancer or kitty ball before guests arrive will tire her out, making her much less of a handful to contend with once your party gets going.