Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas might be the most wonderful times of the year, but they can also be some of the most dangerous for cats and dogs. From deliciously rich holiday fare to enticingly shiny decorations, the holiday season brings plenty of risky temptations for animals. Even if you are vigilant all year with your pets, it’s easy to get distracted with the extra responsibilities and extra people coming and going this season. Don’t let a pet accident or emergency put a damper on your festivities. Follow our expert advice to help keep your animals safe this holiday.
Danger 1: Your Cat Climbs in the Christmas Tree
Solution: Don’t let your kitty turn your Christmas tree into a playground. If possible, set up the tree in a room that can be closed off with doors. Another strategy? Dr. Marty Becker suggests creating a moat of foil around the base of the tree. Most cats hate walking on foil. And it’s a good idea to secure your tree to the ceiling with fishing line to keep it from crashing down if your cat does decide to climb it.
Danger 2: Guests Slipping Your Pet Holiday Food
Solution: Your guests may not know that feeding rich holiday fare to pets can lead to pancreatitis, a painful and potentially life-threatening condition most commonly caused by overindulgence in fatty food. Make it clear to visitors that giving leftovers to your animal is not OK, no matter how much he begs. And your guests may think it’s harmless to give dogs and cats leftover turkey, chicken, beef or fish bones, but that’s not the case. Meat bones can shatter or splinter and perforate the intestinal tract or cause intestinal blockage. Dogs can also choke on large or oddly shaped bones, like T-bones.
It’s also a good idea to teach your dog to stop begging at the dinner table, so guests won’t be as tempted to give him their leftovers.
Danger 3: Menorahs, Candlesticks and Other Lighted Decorations
Solution: Keep your animals in mind as you light candles, menorahs and luminaries. It’s tradition for the candles on the menorah to remain lit for at least half an hour, but leaving your pet alone with burning candles while your family opens presents could be disastrous. To keep your pet safe, place your menorah on a stable surface she can’t reach and consider securing her in a crate. The same goes for any other lit candles in your home — never leave your pets unattended with them. Consider replacing tapers and tea lights with flameless candles. Though a battery-operated or plug-in alternative may not be as dramatic or beautiful as a candle, it could prevent a harrowing trip to the vet ER.
Danger 4: Tinsel, Garlands, Glass Ornaments and Other Tree Trimmings
Solution: Besides candles, the other dangerous decorations you need to worry about are glass ornaments, tinsel, ribbon, loose electrical cords and potpourri. Cats are especially attracted to tinsel and ribbon, which can be dangerous if accidentally ingested. If you have a curious and playful pet who tries to bat at or play with ornaments, replace glass or fragile ornaments with plastic or nonbreakable ones. Or, better yet, place them out of reach where they can’t be chewed or swallowed. Additionally, secure loose or dangling electrical cords so your animal doesn’t bite them. And if you want to fill your home with the scents of the season through potpourri, keep it out of reach of pets. Liquid and dried potpourris can be toxic for cats and, in some cases, for dogs as well.
Danger 5: Your Guests Don’t Know How to Properly Interact With Pets
Solution: Chances are, you’ll have plenty of family and friends stopping by this holiday season. Some of your guests may not be comfortable around cats and dogs or won’t know the proper ways to pet your animal — especially children. This is a great time to teach kids how to approach and interact with your animal. Supervise each interaction, and watch your cat or dog for signs of distress, such as trying to escape or growling.
Not every pet can be as sociable and outgoing as many Golden Retrievers. Family and friends dropping by could overwhelm your dog or cat. Teaching your pet to be comfortable in his crate or securing him in a room until your party is over can help relieve his anxiety. Pheromone sprays can be another great stress reliever.
Danger 6: Holly, Mistletoe and Other Holiday Plants
Solution: Think twice about decking the halls with boughs of holly and mistletoe. These plants might get you in the holiday spirit, but they can be toxic to pets. Other foliage that can be dangerous includes amaryllis and lilies. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are actually not all that harmful, but it’s still a good idea to keep them away from pets.
If you suspect your animal has ingested a poisonous plant, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s poison control hotline at 888-426-4435.
Danger 7: Your Pet Is Getting Dangerous Toys as Gifts
Solution: Your favorite furry companion deserves something special this holiday season, but some toys, even ones created for cats and dogs, can be dangerous. For dogs, avoid toys that are small enough to be ingested, linear objects like strings and ribbons, and toys stuffed with beads or beans. For cats, steer clear of toys that have strings, ribbons or yarn, and take off any plastic eyes or noses on toy mice. When in doubt, follow your instincts and keep a seemingly suspect toy away from your animal.