Cat pawing at ornament in Christmas tree

There’s a lot going on during the holidays, with decorating, gifting and cooking. Don’t let pets get lost in the shuffle — keep pet-proofing top of mind while you prepare for the festivities. You can’t watch them every second of the season, but you can take precautionary steps to avoid trouble. Keep reading to find out how.

  • Keep Your Pet’s Routine

    Remember to make time to give your pets the regular attention they need. Take dogs on long walks and continue to provide treats and toys they love. A dog with nothing to do often becomes a dog that gets into everything. Keep feeding times on the regular schedule that they are used to.

    Helpful Tips

    If your pet is anxious around groups of people or strangers in your house, keep them in a separate room away from guests or in a crate, kennel or other enclosed area.

    Your door may be opening constantly, welcoming guests. Keep an eye on your pet to ensure they don’t escape during the opportunity.

  • Decorate with Pets in Mind

    Your holiday tree looks beautiful and festive but it can also be very attractive to dogs and cats. It doesn’t matter if your tree is alive or artificial — pets will be drawn to it and can potentially be harmed by the decorations on it or by the tree itself. Ornaments can be knocked off and broken (a problem in itself) and the pieces possibly consumed by pets, which can make them sick or worse. In addition, pine tree needles are indigestible and sharp and can cause digestive problems. Then there’s the tree stand full of water to worry about; pets should not drink the water in the tree stand. Keep pets away from your tree by using a barricade or pet gate around the tree, or block access to the room itself, if possible.

    Helpful Tips

    Secure the tree to the wall or ceiling using string or wire and an eyebolt to keep the tree from being knocked over by adventurous cats or rowdy dogs. You can use this safety feature and easily hide it so that it doesn’t detract from your tree’s appearance.

    Don’t place the tree in high-traffic areas where it could get knocked over by pets or where they have easy access to electrical cords. Trees are usually best placed in a corner or in front of a window for optimum decorative effect.

    If you can’t keep pets away from the tree, choose ornaments carefully. Avoid using those made of glass or other easily breakable material or put those ornaments high up on the tree out of reach. Avoid using popcorn strings, cookies, real candy canes and other edible items to decorate the tree. Tinsel and ribbons are out as well. If pets ingest these, they can block their digestive systems and lead to potential injury and expensive surgery.

    Other holiday plants such as holly, poinsettia and mistletoe are toxic to pets as well. So, keep those up high or remove them completely when in doubt.

  • Pets and Fire Safety

    With the holiday season comes roaring fires, candles and electric lights — things that often don’t mix well with rambunctious pets. Because a fireplace is an open flame inside your house, it is a feature that demands caution and respect. Keep all flammable objects away from your fireplace, so that pets don’t accidentally knock them into the flames. Pets love to play with Christmas trees, stockings, tinsel and garland. Keep these items away from the fireplace to decrease the chance of something going up in flames because of a playful pet. Generally speaking, don’t let garland and tinsel hang over the mantel close to the fire anyway. Keep candles in glass containers in places pets can’t reach.

    Helpful Tips

    Use a fireplace screen to keep pets away from fireplace flames and to keep sparks and embers from falling or popping out of the fireplace onto your rug or carpet.

    Consider using flameless candles for decoration.

    Safety Alert!

    Don’t leave burning candles unattended, or make sure that pets are out of the room when they’re lit.

    Keep electrical cords for decorations, lights and appliances covered and out of view so that pets aren’t tempted to chew them. If you notice pet damage on light strings, for example, replace that string. Damaged wire sheathing can leave the wiring underneath exposed, which can shock or burn pets, or start a fire. If you must run electrical cords along the floor or anywhere that pets may have access, secure cords with cord covers or tape so that pets won’t be as enticed by them.

  • Watch What They Eat

    Keep pets away from the bountiful supply of holiday food you’ll no doubt have on the table or in the kitchen. Don’t give pets scraps from the table. “People food” is not good for them and easily can make them overweight in no time at all. It also can make them sick or choke. Poultry bones in particular can be very harmful to dogs; they can choke on them or they can splinter and cause internal injuries. Remember to keep candy and chocolate out of reach. Chocolate, especially, is toxic to cats and dogs and even a small amount can be harmful. If your pet eats any chocolate, mints, or chewing gum, call your veterinarian for advice or treatment.

    Helpful Tips

    You’re bound to have extra trash during the holiday season. Don’t neglect taking it outside; pets can tear into bags for scraps, which can harm them and make an awful mess.

    If you’ve wrapped a package of treats as a gift for your pet, don’t leave the package sitting within the pet’s reach. They can usually smell what’s inside the gift-wrapping and won’t be able to keep themselves from ripping it open to get to their treats.

    Watch pets carefully for any signs of upset stomach, such as diarrhea or vomiting, or any other sign of unusual discomfort. Take your pet to the vet if you see these warning signs for more than a couple of days.

    There are a number of other troublesome holiday items that pets may consume. Watch out for:

    • Batteries
    • Snow globes (often contain antifreeze)
    • Styrofoam and other packing materials
    • Plastic wrap or bags
    • Twist ties and other small items from gifts and packaging
    • Children’s toys
    • Medicine

    That’s all there is to it! Here’s to a happy holiday season for you and your pets.

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