Pet Safety During the Holidays

Dec 17, 2021

Over Thanksgiving weekend, my cats are got back their favorite toy of all time. We put up the Christmas tree, and they think it’s their personal playground.  Every year, we put the tree in a corner, tie it securely and hope for the best. 

The holidays can be hazardous and/or stressful to our pets.  If we’re not thoughtful, the decorations, the gifts, the food, and the guests can create a non-pet friendly situation.

Amaryllis, poinsettias, mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, and holly are among the common holiday plants that can be dangerous and even poisonous to pets who decide to eat them.  Water additives for trees can be hazardous to your pets. Do not add aspirin, sugar, or anything to the water for your tree if you have pets in the house.  Broken decorations can create a hazard to pet feet and tummies.  The wire hanger on a tree decoration can be an enticing toy, but could be deadly if eaten accidentally.  Tinsel, if ingested, can block intestines.

One of my cats is addicted to chewing on plastic bags and gift ribbon.  He will tear a box apart to get to the ribbon, chewing and eating the ribbon.  As much as I love ribbons on my gifts, our house is now a ribbon-free zone. 

A burning candle looks particularly fun to some cats.  One of my cats will bat at an open flame until she knocks it out.  She has burned her paw, but still wants to play with the flame.  We now put all candles out of reach of the cats.  If a candle is on a low table, we enclose it in a hurricane lamp to keep it out of trouble.  A candle should never be left to burn unattended.

Some pets love to chew on electrical cords. Anybody who has seen “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” knows the dangers that a tree lights can pose to a curious cat. Cord covers or organizers can help keep your baby from getting shocked.

Holiday foods can be a special problem.  High fat content foods are very dangerous to our pets—even a small bit of turkey skin can cause trouble.  Many foods that are healthy for people are poisonous to pets, including onions, raisins and grapes.   Most people now know that chocolate is dangerous to dogs and cats.  But, other candies can contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that can cause liver damage.  The yeast in baked goods can cause bloating in a cat or dog stomach.

Make sure that holiday drinks and any other intoxicants that you might have are kept away from pets.  A curious taste of spiked egg nog or “special” brownies could lead to a very sick fur baby. 

Holiday visitors and house-guests can cause stress and unexpected dangers in a pet’s life.  If you have a houseguest, make sure that they keep any medications or toiletries safe from curious noses.  A guest who does not normally live with a cat or dog might forget how enticing a tube of toothpaste or a roll of antacids can be. 

Make sure that your pets have a “safe zone” to escape to if guests get to be too much.  A quiet room with their crate or a nice bed to hide under might be the perfect place to spend the evening when the house is full of revelers.  And, watch the door as your guests depart.  This might be just the opportunity that your furry Houdini has been watching for!

Our pets are members of the family and enjoy our celebrations.  With a little forethought, the holidays can be as much fun for our pets as they are for the humans.