Learn 38 holiday pet safety tips! Find out how to keep pets safe during the holidays and get useful tips for how to pet-proof the Christmas tree and how to choose pet-safe holiday decorations. You’ll also learn what holiday plants are toxic for pets and what holiday foods can be dangerous for cats and dogs. This pet safety guide comes with a free printable checklist to help you plan a stress-free Christmas for you and your furry friends!
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Holiday Pet Safety Tips – How to keep your pets safe during the holidays
The holiday season is an exciting time for pets and pet owners. But with the excitement come many dangers for pets, like breakable ornaments, poisonous plants, holiday lights and chocolate treats. In this comprehensive pet safety guide, you learn more about holiday dangers and find useful holiday pet safety tips that will help to keep dogs and cats safe this Christmas season.
In this post, you learn helpful tips about:
- holiday dangers for pets
- how to pet-proof the Christmas trees
- pet-safe holiday decorations and ornaments
- holiday plants that are poisonous for pets
- dangerous holiday foods
- how to keep pets comfortable during the holidays and parties
Free printable holiday pet safety checklist
And to help you get organised for the holidays, I asked Cyna to create a printable pet safety checklist. The printable includes a checklist for pet-proofing the Christmas tree and gift tags to mark gifts and other items that could be dangerous for pets.
You can download the free printable at the end of the post.
Christmas Tree Pets: Tips for how to make a Christmas tree safe for pets
Christmas trees and holiday decorations are new, unusual objects and can spark curiosity in your pets. My cats are very inquisitive and inspect every new décor piece I put in my home. To make sure that pets are safe during the holidays, we need to take a few precautions to make Christmas trees safe for cats and dogs.
The Christmas tree
For many of us, a decorated holiday tree is an essential part of Christmas. Unfortunately, Christmas trees can be a safety hazard for dogs and cats. How do you pet-proof a Christmas tree? Use these tips to pet-proof the Christmas tree:
Real Christmas tree or artificial Christmas tree?
Are real Christmas trees safe for pets? When it comes to Christmas tree safety for pets, artificial Christmas trees aren’t necessarily safer or better than real Christmas trees. Here is what you need to know:
Are real Christmas trees poisonous to pets? If ingested pine needles can be mildly toxic for pets. Fir tree oil is irritating to the mouth and stomach. Both kinds of trees can lead to an upset stomach, drooling and vomiting.
Artificial trees are also dangerous if consumed because artificial materials aren’t digestible and may contain toxic substances. If choosing an artificial tree, opt for a natural-looking one because glittery or sparkly trees can make pets curious.
If you see your dog or cat chewing on the Christmas tree, stop them immediately and monitor them closely afterwards to check for symptoms.
Christmas tree height
If you’re a dog owner, choose a Christmas tree according to the size of your dog. Tabletop trees are perfect for small dogs as they most likely won’t be able to reach a Christmas tree displayed on a table. 5 to 6 feet tall trees are ideal for bigger dogs.
Secure the tree Christmas tree
Whether you choose a real or artificial Christmas tree and regardless of height, make sure that the Christmas tree is secure to minimise the risk of frisky pets knocking it over. The best place to display a Christmas tree in a home with pets is a corner.
Low ornaments and decorations will seem like toys to pets, so hang them high enough that pets can reach them. I also recommend using a heavy-duty tree holder and possible putting a Christmas tree fence before the tree.
Many cats are passionate climbers and love climbing Christmas trees. I recommend keeping your pets away from the Christmas tree if you aren’t around. I set up my Christmas tree in a room that I lock when I’m not home and can’t supervise them.
Is tree water poisonous for pets? Yes, tree water can be toxic for dogs and cats. So cover up the water reservoir and don’t let your pets drink tree water. Preservatives, fertiliser, and pesticides are often used in tree water to keep live Christmas trees fresh. Some people also add floral preservatives or aspirin to the water to keep the tree fresh.
Remove fallen needles daily as fallen needles, both from artificial and live trees, can cause intestinal obstruction. I already mentioned that pine and fir needles can be irritating for pets when eaten. Dry needles are also sharp and pointy, which can lead to punctures and gastrointestinal pain.
Pet-safe decorations – Christmas decorations and pets
As you decorate for the holidays, it is important to think about holiday decorations and Christmas ornaments that can be dangerous for pets. Most decorations aren’t a problem if they are out of your pet’s reach. But keeping large dogs or investigative kittens from playing with decorations can be quite tricky to manage.
Here are a few holiday decorations pet-owners should stay clear off:
Decorate your tree with simple ornaments. Try to avoid overly sparkly or shiny ornaments as they can draw your pet’s attention. And forego glass ornaments because shards of broken glass can result in internal damage when eaten.
Shatterproof ornaments made of paper, wood or fabric, are safe decorating options for pets. And use ribbon instead of metal hooks to hang embellishments.
Is tinsel bad for animals? Glittery, stringy tinsel is every cat’s dream toy. But tinsel isn’t a cat-safe holiday decorations. If ingested, tinsel can cause vomiting and obstruct the digestive system, which can only be remedied by surgery. So if you have cats, leave tinsel off the tree.
Holiday lights and wires
Make sure to keep holiday lights and wires safely out of your pet’s reach. You don’t want to you’re your dogs eating Christmas lights. Some pets are chewers and love to nibble on cords and wires of holiday lights or other Christmas ornaments, which can cause an electric shock. Playing pets can also get entangled in the lights and be hurt in the process. It might be work investing in pat-safe Christmas lights.
To minimize the fire risk, never leave lit candles unsupervised, even more so when pets are present. A swipe of the tail or paw can cause burns, or a burning candle could get accidentally tossed over and cause a fire. If you have a fireplace set up a screen to avoid injuries.
Use appropriate candle holders and place candles on a stable surface, out of the animal’s reach. As an alternative, use flameless candles or artificially lit candles.
I recommend avoiding using food as decorations. Gingerbread men, candy canes, holiday cookies, and popcorn garlands make cute decorations, but they are like an all you can eat buffet for pets.
My cats love unwrapping presents and tearing apart wrapping paper. To control the chaos and avoid your furry friend ingesting or becoming entangled in ribbon, bows or yarn, quickly dispose of packaging materials after unwrapping gifts. And don’t leave scissors laying on the floor.
Air fresheners and essential oils
Who doesn’t love a home that smells like Christmas? Pet owners should use air fresheners like room spray, scented candles, wax melts of pluggable diffusers only sparingly when pets are around. Cats and dog can react very sensitive to artificial fragrances and aerosols, so use these products with caution.
The same goes for essential oils. While essential oils are a natural alternative to artificial fragrances, they are pretty potent, and not all essential oils are safe for cats. Even pet-safe essential oils can lead to headache or vomiting if your pet is overexposed.
If you want a safe holiday home fragrance idea, try my Christmas stovetop potpourri recipe.
Holiday plants – Plants that are poisonous to pets
Decorating your home with fresh plants and foliage looks very festive and plants, like poinsettia or amaryllis, are popular holiday gifts. But some of these ornamental plants can be poisonous for cats and dogs.
The level of toxicity ranges from mild to severe, and the symptoms will depend on how much your furry friend has eaten. Intestinal upset is the most common sign. Puppies and kittens face the highest risk for plant poisoning.
We already mentioned Christmas trees and let’s at look other holiday plants that are best avoided when pets are around:
- Christmas trees – As mentioned above, Christmas tree and evergreen needles have mild toxicity, which can lead to stomach and mouth irritation, drooling, vomiting, or diarrhoea.
- poinsettia – The sap of poinsettia are considered mildly toxic or irritating and cause vomiting or nausea if ingested.
- mistletoe – Mistletoe can be severely toxic, even fatal, for pets, and you should immediately seek help from a veterinarian if your dog or cat has eaten mistletoe.
- holly and ivy – Holly berry and ivy ingestion is dangerous for pets and can lead to diarrhoea, convulsion and seizures.
- Jerusalem cherry – Consumption of this holiday plant can cause intestinal pain in pets.
- azalea – Azaleas are another flower that is toxic to cats and dogs when eaten, leading to diarrhoea, vomiting and weakness.
- amaryllis, lilies and daffodils – Plants from the lily and daffodil families are highly toxic for cats and dogs, the bulbs in particular.
Holiday foods that pets should avoid
Christmas is the time of get-togethers, delicious food, and loads of homemade cookies and sweets. But foods that are delicious and perfectly safe for us can be hazardous for pets. What holiday foods are dangerous for pets and should be avoided?
Make sure pets don’t have access to people holiday food and keep them away from unattended plates of food. Fatty foods (e.g. gravy and meat scraps) can cause inflammation, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting. Bones can splinter and can cause serious internal damage if swallowed. To be safe, don’t slip your pets leftovers and ask guests to do the same.
Treats and cookies
Keep sweets out of your pet’s way. Treats and cookies containing chocolate, caffeine, macadamia nuts, grapes, or raisins can be harmful and lead to poisoning. Sugar-free sweets that contain the sweetener xylitol also pose a danger to the health of pets.
While it’s a sweet tradition to leave cookies and milk out for Santa, your pets might feel encouraged to take a bite, too. So put Santa’s treats somewhere pets can’t reach, like a mantle or bookshelf.
Holiday cocktails and alcoholic beverages
If alcoholic drinks are part of your holiday celebrations, make sure to keep away from pets. Alcohol consumption can make pets severely ill. My fellow Brits, remember that fruit cakes are often soaked in rum and are therefore a no-no for pets.
My friend Cari put together over 30 dog treat recipes on her blog, where you can find inspiration for holiday pet treats and pet stocking stuffer ideas.
Pet care during holidays: How to make your pet feel comfortable during the holidays
The holidays are filled with joy, laughter and time spent with family and friends. In the bustle of the season, it’s easy to forget these festivities aren’t always pet-friendly.
Here are a few tips and tricks to help make your pet stay comfortable during the celebrations and at holiday get-together:
Keep up your pet’s routine
Try to continue your pet’s daily routine as much as possible. Feed and walk dogs at their usual times. Make sure their bowls are filled with food and water. If your pet is easily excitable, give them a little exercise before parties and holiday get-togethers.
The holiday season is filled with excitement but can become quite hectic at times. Just like us humans, pets get stressed if it gets too much. Take a few minutes to pet and talk to your dog or cat and be reassuring and loving.
Part of my Christmas morning routine is to cuddle and play with my cats before the shenanigans start.
Provide a safe place for your pets
Create a safe, quiet space for your pet to retreat if you’re entertaining and having guests over. Set up their bedding, kennel, scratch post, or crate in a quiet room with fresh water and some toys.
With guests coming and going, it can be easier for pets to run away. Ensure that your pet is wearing an ID tag and that the microchip information is up-to-date.
New Year’s Eve
I’m not a big fan of fireworks, but my cats are terrified by the flashing light and loud noise. Try to keep animals away from the action as much as you can. If you know that your dog or cat is fearful, have someone stay with them when the firework starts to keep them calm.
Have you more tips to add to this list of holiday pet safety tips? Drop a comment and let me know!
Holiday Pet Safety Tips Checklist
Tab or click the button below to download your free printable holiday pet safety tips checklist!
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Great tips for pet owners!
Thank you so much!
Great tips! It is so important to keep our pets safe and some of these we don’t even think about! My puppy just turned two years old and is still into everything!
Thank you, Heather! I’m glad the info is useful to you!
Really informative and great tips for pets! We have dogs and a cat, but thank goodness the cat has no interest in the tree. I was really nervous last year waiting to see.
Thank you, Jenny! My cats love Christmas decorations and like to use the tree as a scratch post lol.
These are great tips! Our cats in the past have never been as curious as the one we have now. He keeps us on our toes! He learned to open the front door yesterday, so that will have to be our main concern!
Thank you, Cherryl! My two cats have always been very curious, so I know from experience that cats can keep you busy. 🙂
I’ve never even thought about some of these safety issues. My sister has a new puppy so I need to share these with her too.
Thank you, Alli! I learned most of the tips on the list from past holidays, I hope the list will be useful to your sister.