Holiday Pet Safety Tips

Happy Dogmas! Merry Catmas! Wait… isn’t that what people say? No matter, a little decorating can clear that right up and put us all in the holiday spirit. But since some decorations can be dangerous for our favorite furry friends, let’s talk about some holiday pet safety tips to help keep our fur-family safe.

Austin is safely snuggled in his bed under his tree.

Austin is all snuggled in his bed under his tree. As an older pet, he already knows the rules about holiday decorations, but if your pet is younger and more active, your holiday picture may be a little different…!

Choosing a Tree

First thing’s first: pick your the tree! Whether you’ve always had good luck with pets and trees or your tree gets knocked down every year by inquisitive, excited dogs or cats, there are some basic holiday pet safety tips everyone should know. For instance, it’s important to think about whether you’re going to have an artificial tree or a live tree. Live trees are often treated with chemicals to make them last longer. Those chemicals can leach into the water at their bases and be lapped up by thirsty dogs and cats. Of course, that’s dangerous to them, so you want to be sure you cover that water with a tree skirt or aluminum foil or saran wrap (or something that your pet won’t disturb). The better choice is an artificial tree without the dangerous chemicals. But those trees can have dangers, too. Some artificial trees come with fake snow – flocking – that is toxic to cats and dogs when ingested. Plus, whether the tree is alive or not, the needles can fall off and be eaten, which can cause intestinal upset.

Where to Place Your Tree

So you picked your tree… Did you think about making sure Kitty and Fido can’t knock it down? When choosing a spot for your tree, make sure you find a place where you can anchor it to a wall or the ceiling. Anchoring your tree gives it stability and makes it less likely that you’ll come home from a holiday party to find your tree laying on the floor and your pets busy trying to blame one another for the mess! For some households, a tabletop tree might be the answer, particularly if puppies are young and still full of puppy energy. Putting a small tree on a table keeps it out of Puppy’s reach while teaching him it isn’t a toy. However, if you have a house full of cats (like I do), a small, tabletop tree will simply become another toy laying on the floor!

Calli sits under a real tree with roots.

Calli loves her tree! Her family has a real tree, but instead of getting a cut tree, they got one with its root ball that can be planted after Christmas. This choice means they can enjoy the smell and look of a real tree without having to worry about chemical preservatives in water that kitties (or doggies!) might drink. Of course, they still have to clean up lots of pine needles!


And if your tree is laying on the floor, that means the ornaments are, too. Did you make sure you didn’t use breakable ornaments? If not, there may be glass scattered across your floor that your furry friends can cut themselves on. That means in addition to anchoring your tree, you need to make sure you put any breakable, sharp, fragile or edible ornaments (that often have ingredients that are unsafe for our pets in them) at the TOP of your tree so they’re harder to knock off and turn into toys. Of course, you could avoid the issue entirely by using soft or plastic, non-breakable, non-edible ornaments. Additionally, after you’re done hanging the ornaments do a safety sweep to make sure all the metal hooks are off the floor and safely affixed to the tree. Those hooks can be a choking hazard to our pets.

Just Say No to Tinsel

Finally, when putting up and decorating your tree, be sure to avoid the tinsel. This is a big one – especially in a house with cats, though it’s equally dangerous to dogs. Tinsel is pretty and shiny, and when light glints off it, Kitty may think it’s a special toy just for her. It can even be cute while she plays with it. But if she eats it, she can end up in the kitty emergency room with an intestinal obstruction requiring surgery. Just say NO to tinsel. There are other wonderful choices for blinging up your tree. If you’re in New Orleans, what about using some of those hundreds of Mardi Gras beads you have laying around? (You know you do.) They’re shiny and sparkly, and they won’t send Kitty (or Fido!) to the hospital.

The Dude loves sitting under his tinsel-less Christmas tree!

The Dude loves his tinsel-less Christmas tree! It’s got plenty of Mardi Gras beads decking it out and lots of non-breakable ornaments toward the bottom of the tree. Plus, there’s no dangerous ribbon or bows on any of the packages (that he’s sure are all his!) under the tree!

Other Holiday Pet Safety Tips

These are just a few holiday pet safety tips you need to watch out for when decking your halls for the holidays. Seasonal plants like poinsettias, mistletoe, holly and lilies can be poisonous; many of our favorite holiday foods and treats (chocolate, alcoholic beverages, rich fatty foods) are hazardous for our furry friends, and unattended candles are made more dangerous when they can be knocked over by pets. There’s no reason not to decorate your home for the holidays, just be sure to remember Fido and Kitty when you do, so that everyone in the family has a joyous season. If your pet does get into something and needs to see a veterinarian, remember that we are open for emergencies 24/7 every day of the year.