Cats and dogs are part of our family, which means they’re part of our celebrations too. Awareness and a little bit of safety proofing can keep the holidays fun for everyone and avoid the potential for illness or injury. Actually, a lot of these tips are relevant for toddlers too, so I think I’m already ahead of the game!
The tree is the festive centerpiece in most homes over the holidays, but there are some potential dangers here too. Read on for some tips to save your tree and your pets from disaster!
- Make sure your tree is anchored to a wall or to the ceiling so it can’t be tipped over by a curious pet (or child!).
- If you’ve got a live tree, make sure your pet can’t get into the water in the tree stand. Stagnant water may contain diarrhea-causing bacteria and make your pet sick. Avoid adding fertilizer or Aspirin to the water as they can also be toxic to animals who accidentally drink the water. Aspirin is particularly toxic to cats.
- Make sure tinsel is high up on the tree, or better yet don’t use any. Its sparkliness is very attractive to kitties, but they’re prone to swallowing it which can lead to vomiting, an obstructed digestive tract, and even surgery.
- Keep pet areas free from pine needles as they can actually puncture small holes in your pet’s intestine if swallowed.
- Be cautious about stringing lights on the tree’s lower branches. If your kitty tries to climb the tree, she can get tangled up, and if your pets bite on the wires they could be electrocuted.
- All those new electrical cords on the floor can be mistaken for toys. Cover up or tape down any exposed cords, and unplug your lights (not just turn them off) when you’re going out or going to bed.
- Edible tree decorations like popcorn strings are just too tempting to animals. They’re dangerous to the integrity of your tree if your pet tries to yank it off, and dangerous to your pet’s intestines if he eats it.
- Keep glass ornaments up high and thoroughly clean up any broken ornaments. Glass shards can injure paws, mouths, and intestines if they’re accidentally ingested.
- To keep your pet away from the tree entirely, try putting sticky mats, bubble wrap, or loosely balled up aluminum foil under the tree (how festive!). You can also try balancing a can or bottle with pennies in it on a low branch so it makes a loud noise and scares off your cat if she tries to climb the tree.
People food really isn’t for pets. Keep these tips in mind when entertaining and preparing holiday treats.
- Make sure chocolate and other holiday treats containing xylitol, caffeine, and macadamia nuts are kept out of reach.
- Keep those holiday cocktails where your pets can’t inadvertently help themselves. Alcohol can cause vomiting, weakness, coma, or even death in the smaller bodies of our furry friends.
- Make sure garbage cans are pet proofed. Bones and fatty or spicy foods are tempting but can make your animals sick. The ASPCA has a more complete list of toxic people foods.
Certain plants are toxic to animals and should ideally be avoided altogether (or at least kept far out of reach). Most of us have heard that poinsettias are dangerous. The truth is they are mildly toxic and may cause some tummy upset or skin irritation, but they’re really not that big of a deal. These other holiday plants are much more of a concern.
- Holly can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and the spiny leaves can injure your pet’s mouth if he tries to eat them.
- Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and even seizures or death in large amounts.
- Lilies are actually one of the most toxic plants for pets, especially for cats. True lilies like Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese Show lilies are particularly dangerous. Just one or two bites from these lilies can cause acute kidney failure in cats. (Sadly, my sister-in-law lost her cat from lily poisoning.)
The holidays are a very busy season for most of us, with lots of visitors and changes to the normal routine. Do your best to keep your pets’ feeding and exercise schedule as regular as possible.
- When entertaining or travelling, provide a quiet space (a separate room or even a pet carrier) for your pet to retreat to. Make sure he has access to fresh water. Stressed out dogs pant more and may need more water.
- Make sure your animals are wearing current ID tags in case they escape out the door when guests are coming and going.
- Be aware that fireworks, poppers, and clanging pots and pans at New Year’s can scare your pets and possibly damage sensitive ears. Make sure your pet has a safe, quiet area away from the noise.
More Pet Safety Tips
- Keep candles up high where pets can’t accidentally knock over. Use a screen if you have an open fireplace.
- Snow globes often contain antifreeze which is acutely poisonous to pets even in small amounts. If you break a snow globe, clean up the spill immediately. Keep pets away until the area is clean and dry.
- Keep your pets out of the area while you’re gift wrapping. Ingested paper, ribbon, string, or tape can cause intestinal blockages.
- Once the kids have ripped open all their presents, make sure all the string, ribbons, little elastics, twist ties, and packaging materials are off the floor so they can’t be snacked on.
Wishing you and your furry friends a safe and happy holiday!
“That question mark face” by Rosana Prada is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Cuki állatbébik (3. évad)” by Lwp Kommunikáció is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Christmas Anticipation” by David J Laporte is licensed under CC BY 2.0