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What Should I Do If My Cat Is Unwell This Christmas?

With over forty years of experience in veterinary practice, we have seen a whole host of festive fiascos. Here are our tips on how to avoid a blue Christmas and enjoy the celebrations safely.

It must be every cat owner's worst nightmare, the relatives are due to appear any second, the turkey is in the oven….and the now limping cat has just swung down from the top of the Christmas tree bringing half the lights with them.

Crikey, the vet won’t be open today … will they?

The good news is we have an emergency care provision 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. That includes Christmas and every other bank holiday of the year. You can always check our website for our usual opening hours.

How will I know if my cat requires emergency care?

You know your own cat, and chances are you will know when something is wrong and they need medical help. ALWAYS ring the clinic or our designated emergency care provider if you are concerned. We would much rather put your mind at rest with a quick phone consult than have your cat sitting at home with a possible medical emergency and you worrying if they need to be seen or not.

Some of the most common emergencies, requiring immediate care include;

  • Excessive bleeding, or any continuous bleeding for more than five minutes.

  • Blood from the mouth, nose, rectum, blood in the urine or coughing up blood

  • Difficulty breathing, continuous coughing or gagging or blue gums

  • Injury to the eye

  • Pain or difficulty passing urine or faeces or unproductive straining

  • Suspected ingestion of a foreign body or toxin e.g. antifreeze, chocolate, rat poison (more details below)

  • Refusal to eat or drink for 24 hours or more

  • Staggering or seizures

  • Severe lameness, not bearing weight or obvious fracture of bones

  • Unconsciousness or collapse

  • Severe vomiting or diarrhoea e.g. frequent or inability to keep food or water down

  • Bloating of the abdomen

  • Obvious signs of pain, distress or anxiety

  • Heat stress or heat stroke (uncommon during cold months but included for completeness)

Please note this list is NOT exhaustive, if you are genuinely concerned about your pet contact your veterinarian.

How do I contact the Out of Hours care provider?

When our SimplyCats clinic is closed please contact Wear Referrals, our out of hours care provider on 01388 777770. Our 2021 Christmas opening times are noted below.

Christmas Eve Close at 12 pm

Christmas Day Closed

Boxing Day Closed

Monday 27th (Bank Hol) Closed

Tuesday 28th (Bank Hol) Closed

Wed 29th Dec Open as normal

Thurs 30th Dec Open as normal

New Years Eve Close at 6 pm

New Years Day Closed

Sun Jan 2nd Closed

Mon Jan 3rd (Bank Hol) Closed

Tues Jan 4th Return to normal opening hours

Wear Referrals is staffed by a dedicated team of veterinary surgeons and nurses, who only work during the night, so they are fresh and ready to help you and your pets. Many are studying towards, further qualifications in emergency and critical care. Rest assured, following treatment all medical notes will be passed back to your team at SimplyCats.

Which common hazards do I need to avoid at Christmas time?

If you think your pet may have ingested a toxin remember, SPEED:

  • Stop the pet from eating any more suspected poison.

  • Phone the vets.

  • Emergency appointment.

  • Evidence – bring labels/samples/vomit.

  • Don’t delay.

The most common Christmas hazards include;

Medication - keep any human medication out of reach, our pets process these drugs differently from us. Many can be harmful or even deadly

Xylitol - an artificial sweetener also known as E967 can be fatal to cats even in small amounts. Xylitol can be found in sweets, jams, peanut butter and even toothpaste

Batteries - Lithium button batteries pose the greatest risk, but alkaline batteries also need intervention ASAP.

Mouldy food - Mycotoxins found in mouldy food raided from the bin can be lethal to pets.

Yuletide plants - Many plants and flowers used to decorate our homes are toxic to our pets. These include poinsettia, mistletoe, holly, amaryllis, ivy, Christmas cactus and of course lilies.

Decorations - Pets can be attracted to the bright colours, lights and textures of decorations. If chewed these can cause intestinal blockage and even electrocution. Salt dough decorations also pose a high risk.

Onions and garlic - both members of the allium family, and extremely toxic to pets. Beware of gravy granules as these too include onion and garlic powder.

Nicotine - Including vape and e-cigarettes is bad news for our pet’s health too and needs immediate attention from a vet.

Alcohol toxicity - this can also occur from eating unbaked bread dough, the yeast ferments in your pet’s stomach!

Chocolate toxicity - Different types of chocolate contain a chemical called theobromine in different quantities. The toxic dose of theobromine in cats is 200 mg/kg. As the chart below shows, baking, semi-sweet, and dark chocolate pose a greater risk to a cat than milk chocolate. White chocolate does not contain cocoa solids, so only contains extremely low levels of the chemicals needed to produce a toxic effect in a cat.

Grapes - Including currants, raisins and sultanas can be dangerous and cause kidney failure but there is a large individual pet variation, so do not panic but do speak to your vet if you think your cat has ingested any.

Antifreeze - contains ethylene glycol which causes kidney failure. The sweet taste is appealing to cats, who may lick any accidental spills.

The Animal Poison Line is an advice line run by the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) and is the only 24-hour specialised emergency telephone service in the UK dedicated to helping pet owners who are worried their pet may have been exposed to something harmful or poisonous. They can be contacted 24/7 on 01202 509 000 there is a fee payable at the time of the call, for more details click the link.

Remember, our cats may not enjoy the many changes to routine that Christmas can bring. Strange visitors, sounds and smells can heighten stress and anxiety. Just like us, sometimes it can all be a bit much and somewhere to hide from Great Uncle Bob’s cigar smoke and animated storytelling can be a welcome oasis.

Providing your cat with a hidey-hole away from the main thoroughfare, with an extra litter tray, food and water can really help. You could also consider a pheromone diffuser to promote a feeling of calm.

What can I do to prepare for any potential problems?

Just like making a Christmas dinner, preparation is the key! Hopefully, you won’t need to reach for the phone or make a late-night visit to the vet with a case of tinselitis, but just in case the following steps are a sensible idea;

  • Make your home as ‘hazard proof’ as possible

  • Order any repeat medication your pet needs in advance

  • Save the clinic’s number to your phone, if you have the emergency cover number save that too.

  • Ensure the clinic team is kept up to date with any change of address, phone number or insurance policy.

  • Make sure your insurance policy document details are up to date and easy to find

  • Make sure your pet’s microchip details are correct, mishaps can happen while visiting relatives and pet’s get lost in a strange area.

  • If you are travelling to visit family remember to pack your pet’s essentials too and note the details of a local vet.

Please remember, ALWAYS contact your vet if worried about your pet. Speaking from experience, we would rather be telling you ‘It’s nothing to worry about’ than ‘I wish you had contacted me last night’

The SimplyCats team would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support and wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy healthy New Year.


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