The holidays are a busy and exciting time, but your pets may not always be the first thing on your mind during this season. While many pets are adaptable to the holidays and can find them exciting just like you do, there are some hazards you will want to look out for to make this season safe and fun for everyone.
1. Seasonal Plants
Most of us love to decorate with festive holiday plants, but unfortunately, most popular seasonal plants are off-limits to cats and dogs. Poinsettias, holly, ivy, and mistletoe are all moderately toxic to animals if ingested.
Even pine needles can pose problems if ingested, such as upset stomach or even perforations. Keep dangerous plants out of reach, watch for missing leaves or berries, and opt for artificial whenever possible.
2. Fires and Candles
Warm fireplaces and the glow of candles evoke strong holiday memories. For playful and curious pets, however, they can be a serious risk. Keep candles out of reach where a pet cannot knock them over or brush past. Always use a secure fireplace screen. Snuff out candles and douse fireplace embers completely before leaving your pet unattended with them.
Most decorations look like toys to pets and should be used with caution and supervision. Tinsel and other shiny, stringy ornaments should be watched closely or avoided entirely if you have a cat. It can cause internal blockages if ingested. Pets can get tangled in decorations and have to potential to strangle or hurt them.
Be wary of small decorations that can be swallowed completely and especially any edible ornament such as popcorn strings or dough ornaments. Choose durable ornaments over a glass ornament that can be broken and leave shards. Artificial spray-on snow is very toxic for pets and shouldn't be used anywhere that they can reach it.
When you are decorating, keep your pet occupied with a favourite treat or a new toy. This can help curb your pet's overwhelming desire to chase or bat at decorations while you are shuffling them around the house. The safest method is to separate your pet from the areas that you are decorating. Never leave excess decorations floating around the house as this will just encourage your curious pet to investigate.
What are the holidays without brightly coloured bows and presents wrapped under the tree? Ensure your pet’s safety by keeping certain gifts out of sight until the special day.
Edible gifts such as those containing chocolate, candies, or baking should not be accessible. Chocolate, coffee, liquor, and other “people” foods can be toxic to pets (even in small quantities). Keen noses might also pick up on scented candles and soaps and mistake them for food, so keep these gifts tucked safely away.
It's hard to resist the temptation to wrap their presents and let them unwrap them on Christmas morning. Ribbons and bows, as well as wrapping paper, can cause harm if ingested by your pet.
Ribbons can contain wires that can puncture, or cause blockages if swallowed. Pets should be closely monitored to prevent them from eating any of the wrapping materials. Make sure that scraps are quickly discarded or put out of reach. This way you can enjoy unwrapping your presents without worrying that your pet is getting into trouble on their own.
Electrical cords are everywhere around the holidays. Keep cords away from chewing pets by taping them to walls, using cord protectors, or by hiding them behind furniture, under carpets, or under a tree skirt. Taste deterrents or indoor repellents can keep pets from chewing cords and away from trees or other decorations.
When left alone, pets who have a habit of chewing on wires should be quarantined away from these areas of the house. Unplug decorations when you aren't home just to be safe.
The holiday hustle and bustle affects more than just people. Believe it or not, stress can actually get to your furry family members, too. Keep things as consistent as possible to ease any stress on your dog or cat. Amidst your busy schedule, keep pet mealtimes and exercise as routine as you can. Try puzzle toys or automatic feeders to help keep both of you on schedule.
Make sure you schedule some time just with you and your pet. Whether it's a lovely walk in the snowy streets or cuddling on the couch, your pet will appreciate that you take the time just for them - even when you're busy. Be careful how much time your pet is spending at home alone. If you can't make it home to play with, exercise, or feed your pet on certain days, ask a friend or hire a dog-sitter to do just that.
Is your house a whole lot busier than usual? Make sure your pet has a quiet place to retreat to. Even if your pet likes to be the center of attention, you may want to give him some mandatory quiet time so he can relax. For pets that already suffer from anxiety, try a combination of exercise and calming remedies, like a Thundershirt, to help ease the tension.
The tree is the staple of your holiday décor, but it presents hidden risks to your pet. If you have a live tree, make sure treated water is out of reach of thirsty pets, as it can cause uncomfortable gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea or vomiting. Watch that your dog or cat is not ingesting pine needles that can puncture and cause stomach discomfort.
Keep your tree stable and sturdy, making sure it is also away from any nearby furniture that could be used as a ladder.
Automated spray repellants or other training aids are products that may help you safely keep your dog or cat away from the tree or other holiday decorations.
Another useful tool for keeping pets away from your beautifully decorated tree is called Sticky Paws. Place Sticky Paws strips near the base of the tree or other decorations to keep your cat from trying to climb or scratch at them.
Want more tips for protecting your stunning Christmas tree? Check out How to Keep Your Dog Away From Your Christmas Tree.
8. Holiday Foods
Food is a big theme around the holidays, but that can spell trouble for your pet if you aren't keeping a close watch. A lot of human foods that are toxic to pets, like chocolate, alcohol, nuts, and sugary desserts and are most common during the Christmas season. Table scraps such as gravy or fried foods can cause severe digestive issues which can lead to potentially more life-threatening illnesses.
We tend to cave to our pet's sad eyes and offer them small pieces of our delicious holiday favourites, so be mindful of which treats you choose to share. Try keeping some pet-safe goodies available so that you or your guests can safely treat your pet, while you treat yourselves.
Cooked bones, while not human food, can be a hazard to pets over the holidays too. Cooked bones, in comparison to raw bones, are brittle and can splinter, potentially causing intestinal blockages or perforations if ingested. Choose items from your meal prep that are safe, like turkey giblets, and prepare them separately for your pet. This way you can both enjoy holiday meals without risking your pet's health.
Avoid open bowls of food and don't leave food, boxes of chocolate (particularly chocolate liqueurs), alcohol, or leftovers where they can be accessed by a curious pet. Keep garbage secure, both indoors and out, for your pet's safety and others. Disposing of turkey carcasses should be done especially carefully, as most poultry bones, cooked or raw, can splinter and be very harmful to your pets.
During the Christmas season, you are likely to have at least a few more people around your house than usual. Make sure that any new visitors get prepped on pet rules and the safety risk of disobeying those rules. Guests who are giving table scraps to pets are usually well-meaning, but it's important that they know why the rules are there.
Keep a close watch on any new children around your pets. Kids can misinterpret your pets signals and are oblivious to the risks involved. When stressed or frightened, pets that are usually even-tempered can become aggressive or stressed so mind your pet's behaviours and look for signs of fear.
Unless you know them and are able to keep a close watch, say no to visiting pets. New visiting pets can add stress to an already anxious pet, which could result in aggressive behaviour or acting out. If visiting pets are unavoidable, try separating different areas of the house where pets can be while unattended. Only allow interaction when you are able to give them your full attention.
Follow these simple guidelines, and you can make the holidays a breeze for your pets. They deserve to celebrate too, and now you can share your holiday spirit with all of your family members, furry or not. Enjoy your holidays and stay safe!