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Keeping Your Pets off Santa’s Naughty List: Pet-proofing and Other Holiday Tips

By Kristen Bieling

 Keeping Your Pets off Santa’s Naughty List: Pet-proofing and Other Holiday Tips

Despite spending the last year jumping on the kitchen counter, scratching the sofa arms, chasing each other up and down the stairs at 3 a.m., and harassing the neighborhood birds, my cats are positive they’re on Santa’s nice list (and they aren’t wrong…). The holidays can be such a joyful and fulfilling time spent indulging with friends and family but can also be stressful when you have pets in your home. With the proper precautions though, you can keep your sanity and keep your pets off Santa’s naughty list.

Munchies and Liquid Holiday Cheer. Just like we feebly attempt to watch our waistlines around the holidays, we should watch what our pets ingest too. Table scraps in general should be avoided, but especially any items containing chocolate or xylitol as those are especially toxic to animals. Other toxic or harmful items include onions, grapes/raisins, coffee/caffeine, unbaked bread dough/yeast, salt, raw eggs, and nuts. Also take special care to discard bones and produce seeds/pits. Turkey bones, for example, can splinter when ingested and wreak havoc on our pets’ internal systems. Additionally, the essential oils in peach pits and apple seeds can cause nervous system depression if a high quantity is ingested. Secure all trash away from pets to avoid any accidental harm.

Although wine, beer, and other liquid holiday cheer flows freely at many holiday parties, pets should not partake even by accident. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), as little as 1 ounce (less than a standard, bar-sized shot) can kill a pet and PetMD indicates that, for cats, even a little over a tablespoon can kill an adult.

Santa’s Helper Tip: If you’re hoping to treat your pet like you treat yourself, consider a veterinary-approved snack or toy and extra cuddles.

O’ Christmas Tree. Inquisitive by nature, animals are likely to take interest in the tree we bring into our homes. Ensure pets do not chew or ingest on the limbs as pine needles can cause intestinal blockage or puncture. Secure all wires and cords out of reach from your pets higher in the tree or use a “cord keeper” organizer to hide the cords. Consider securing your tree to the wall, which will prevent damage to both your special ornaments and pet should they decide to climb it. Also, take care not to let your pet drink the water in the tree stand. This can not only dry out your tree and create a fire hazard in your home, but the needles and any water treatment chemicals can be harmful to pets.

Finally, Christmas decorations and ornaments are likely to catch the eye of a frisky kitty, but items like tinsel and ribbon can be particularly dangerous to them. When ingested, these items can wrap around a cat’s tongue or worse, their intestines, potentially causing an intestinal blockage. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends forgoing tinsel if you have a cat in your home.

Santa’s Helper Tip: According to the AVMA, hanging a lemon-scented air freshener on the tree may deter cats from climbing it.

(Don’t) Meet Me Under the Mistletoe. Holiday plants add some festive color and scent to your home, but use caution when deciding which ones to buy. When ingested, many plants can cause pets abdominal discomfort or worse. Keep ivy, mistletoe, juniper, and holly out of reach of pets. Lilies, although known as an Easter plant, are especially toxic to cats. According to the ASPCA, lilies “can produce severe toxicosis and acute kidney injury (AKI). In fact, all parts of the plant are toxic and there are documented cases where exposure to the pollen alone has caused AKI.”

In addition to plants, other scented holiday items like candles and potpourri can be harmful to pets. When in doubt, it’s best to keep all potentially dangerous items out of reach.

Santa’s Helper Tip: According to the ASPCA and Humane Society, poinsettias, a vibrant holiday favorite, are not as toxic to pets as many believe. Ingestion may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, but are “generally overrated in toxicity.”

Load up the Sleigh. Should you plan to leave your home for the holidays, make plans for your pets well in advance. Consider and research all options to determine whether it’s best to bring them with you or leave them with a pet sitter or kennel. Regardless of the option you choose, ensure all pets have updated contact information on their collars and tags. Should you cross paths with Santa while flying this season, ensure your pets meet all requirements of your destination country. This may include vaccinations and microchips. Refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your airline’s website before departing.

When hosting visitors in your home, inform everyone, especially first-time visitors, that you have pets. Remind your guests to be mindful of your animals, especially when opening or closing doors. Consider providing a separate room for your pets to rest, especially if you have cats or other small animals. Include all their necessities, such as a litter box, clean water, food, treats, toys, and bedding.

Santa’s Helper Tip: Consult your veterinarian with any questions prior to traveling. They are best equipped to help you make the right decisions regarding travel for your pet.

With a little forethought and planning, the holidays can be, as Andy Williams put it, the most wonderful time of the year! Wishing you all a happy holiday season and a healthy new year!

About the Author: A lover of all things Christmas, cats, and cycling, Kristen Bieling eagerly counts down to December 25th each year. She lives in Arlington with her 2 cats, Atticus and Harrison. They make the rules and she just follows them.


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