Keeping the Holidays Safe for Pets

Posted on November 20th, 2012 in Pet Care, Pet Information, Pet Safety

After the sun fades on summer, and we start planning our holiday calendar, we have more time indoors with our pets. You’ll want to share the good times of the season with your dog or cat, but there are a few important safety tips to keep in mind. Seemingly harmless traditions and decorations can become hazardous for animals; with proper caution you can ensure less stress all around for you and your furry family members.

Secure the Christmas tree.

This sounds like an obvious one, but it’s often overlooked. Christmas trees, whether they are artificial or real, can easily fall over and injure a pet if they’re not secured properly. Young kittens will try to play with a tree (particularly if it is a real one), causing the tree to completely collapse if it is not sturdy.

Skip the easily breakable (or edible) ornaments.

Those beautiful glass ornaments that you see in specialty shops can cause your pet harm. They’re certainly glamorous to see during the holidays but if they drop from the tree or mantle and shatter, your pets can step on shards and injure themselves–or worse, try to ingest the pieces.

Instead, get creative with safe, fun decorations that won’t cause a crash if they somehow get jostled.

Oh, and leave out the popcorn strands andtinsel. Pets tend to eat them and get sick. Popcorn is a choking hazard for dogs and cats. Tinsel is not toxic but is known to cause gastrointestinal foreign bodies in cats. Basically, some cats will ingest the tinsel and it will get caught in their intestines or stomachs. At this point the only treatment is surgical removal.

Photo Courtesy

Place electrical wires out of reach.

During the cooler, darker months we use more artificial lights in the home for decoration and ambiance. Make sure that your pet’s safety isn’t compromised by leaving wires for decorations and lights in areas that your pet is likely to hang out.

Pets love to chew wires but chewing on a wire that’s plugged into an electrical outlet can result in a burned tongue, missing teeth, or even death by electric shock.

Don’t leave candles unattended.

Most of us are accustomed to blowing out candles when people are not in the room to enjoy the glow, but forgetting can cause a dangerous hazard to your family and your home. A candle can easily be knocked over by your pet and cause a fire. Plus, cats can easily burn themselves pawing at a flame. Make sure candles are lit with supervision at all times in your home.

Keep sweets and festive beverages out of reach.

Trays of cookies, candies and other holiday goodies are tempting for everyone, not just your upright guests. Make sure not to leave unattended sweets and snacks within your pet’s reach–and think about your pet’s size and ability to reach things. Remember, chocolate is toxic to dogs.

Also keep in mind that holiday beverages shouldn’t be offered to pets. While it might seem amusing to give the dog a sip of beer, alcohol is not healthy for your dog or cat. So make sure the cocktails, beers and wine stay on the top shelf–as well as nonalcoholic drinks like cocoa or hot cider.

Holiday plants can be dangerous.

Here’s something you might find surprising: holiday plants can often be toxic for pets.

Holly, mistletoe and poinsettias look beautiful on display around the home, but if your kitty or dog tries to eat the plant the results could be less than appetizing or in the worse cases, fatal.

The Humane Society keeps a list of houseplants that can be dangerous to your pet.

Give pets a quiet retreat during holiday mayhem.

A bunch of boisterous friends and relatives, loud music and general holiday party chaos can be more fun for you and your guests than for your pet. Be kind to your pet during the season; set aside time to walk your dog, brush your cat and just separate from the madness for some quality time together.

If you’re planning a party, create a cozy place, away from the crowd, where your pet can hang out, whether it’s a room or a separate portion of your home.

Keep in mind that unfamiliar people can be disconcerting for your pet’s comfort. Cats in particular have a tendency to enjoy their solitude, but you know your pet’s habits and limits better than anyone else, so respect them during the holidays.


Jay Acker heads up a team of writers producing safety training courses and other materials for business customers. They make safety training kits, courseware and safety posters for

Leave a Reply