Pet Safety Tips for the Holidays
By Jane Koska
Part of the fun of the holidays is that we get to do things we don’t do the rest of the year – decorate with shiny and sparkly baubles, bring beautiful winter greenery into the house, enjoy tasty seasonal food and drink. Many of us are more likely to welcome friends and family into our homes during the holiday season, too.
Our pets are an important part of our households, and it’s natural to want to include them in the festivities. But the holiday hullabaloo can be stressful and hazardous for animals, and as responsible pet owners, we should keep some safety tips in mind. This article isn’t a comprehensive list of dangers, but an overview of some general areas to think about: parties and houseguests; food; and decorations. Check out the links at the end of the story for more detailed warnings and recommendations.
Holiday parties are noisy and exciting, and may stress or upset pets. To help your pet stay comfortable and safe, here are some things you can do.
- Tell your guests that you have pets. People with allergies or other health conditions need to know beforehand so they can prepare for or skip the get-together. Warn people in advance if your pet is prone to biting or scratching when scared.
- Set some house rules about interacting with pets. It can be hard for animal-loving guests (like me) to not give pets attention. Some of us just want to pet any animal we can! Make sure your guests know if a quiet play or petting session is okay. Also, if your pet is shy, encourage people to respect their space and not force attention on them. If a pet runs away, people shouldn’t follow.
- Give your pet a safe space away from the commotion. This can be a room, crate, or carrier. Stock the room with the things your pet needs – water, food, toys, a cozy blanket, litterbox, etc. If you can, make this room off-limits to visitors. Let your pet retreat here whenever they want.
- Watch the exits. When you’re busy with hellos and good-byes, your pet may decide to make a break for it out an open door. Keep an eye out for furry escape artists!
Treats and Trash Cans
Just think of all the delicious holiday goodies there are – and remember that all that deliciousness is for people, not pets. Nobody wants their pet to have an upset tummy and leave a “gift” on the carpet or elsewhere. Here are some simple tips to minimize pet digestive issues.
- Keep your pet on their regular diet. Also, be judicious with treats, and stick with the kind your pet enjoys the rest of the year. If pup or kitty is gifted with a stocking full of goodies, don’t let them gobble everything at once.
- There is a long list of human foods that pets shouldn’t have – too many to talk about here. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to not feed pets people food at all. And that’s a lot easier than memorizing or googling all the things that are off-limits to our furry friends!
- Clear food from tables, counters, etc., as soon as you’re done preparing it or eating it. Don’t forget the snacks on the living room coffee table, too. When you’re discarding scraps, especially bones, put them in a closed trash bag inside a closed trash container. It’s also a good idea to move food-related trash into an outdoor garbage can when possible.
Deck the Halls
Warm, glowing, sparkling, shiny. There are so many beautiful holiday decorations we use to adorn our homes. Pets see holiday decor as new and fascinating objects to touch, sniff, and taste – and they can put themselves in danger. Even the best-behaved pup or kitty can – or should that be “will”? — get into mischief. Here are just some of the things to look out for.
- Choose plants carefully. According to the ASPCA, the consumption of any plant material may cause vomiting and gastrointestinal upset for dogs and cats. Some common, hazardous, holiday plants are amaryllis, mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, holly, and poinsettia. For more information, ASPCA’s database of hazardous plants is linked at the end of this article.
- Consider flameless (battery-operated) candles. Traditional candles pose a fire hazard if a pet tips them over – and flames can burn whiskers on curious noses. There are flameless candles that look incredibly realistic, with the bonus of no dripping wax and no need to find a match or lighter.
- Be judicious or avoid using ribbons, tinsel, yarn, and similar products. I’ve known cats who could find anything remotely ribbon-like no matter where it was in the house and start chewing on it immediately. If a pet swallows something like ribbon, it can cause an intestinal blockage – and an emergency trip to the vet.
By keeping safety in mind and taking the time to learn about holiday hazards, pet owners can focus on what’s important – being thankful for our furry friends and enjoying their company.
And one last reminder, this time about a holiday hazard for humans – trying to dress your cat in a holiday outfit may lead to chaos and mayhem.
Humane Society: https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/holiday-safety-tips-pets
ASPCA toxic and non-toxic plants database: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants
About the author: Jane Koska gave up using ribbons on gifts many years and five cats ago and hasn’t taken her glass Christmas tree ornaments out of storage since she acquired two tabby kittens in 2021.