The holidays are a wonderful time for pet parents and pets alike. All the decorations, parties and yummy-smelling food... it’s the most wonderful time of the year! But hidden in holiday celebrations are a number of accidents waiting to happen when it comes to pets. Keeping your pet healthy, safe and happy during the holidays requires a little attention to potential hazards.
Many people believe that poinsettias are highly toxic to animals. It is true that poinsettias are toxic. However, a pet would have to ingest a large quantity of the plant to be potentially deadly, unless the pet – or human! – is allergic to poinsettias or latex. (Humans who are allergic to latex will be irritated by poinsettias because they contain a compound that is chemically similar to rubber latex.) Poinsettias taste terrible, so it’s unlikely a pet would eat more than a bite. Eating a small quantity may result in nausea or vomiting, so ensure that pets steer clear as much as possible.
Mistletoe, holly and many live evergreens, however, are a different story. These can be mildly to moderately toxic to animals, even when eaten in a small quantity. If you choose to incorporate these items into your holiday decor, keep them as far out of reach of pets as possible.
If you decorate a Christmas tree, make sure that the bottom third is decorated with wooden or plastic ornaments – playful pets often bat loose glass ornaments they can reach. If you have a live tree, make sure the base of the tree is covered so that pets can’t drink from the water – pine sap is dangerous to many pets if ingested. Sweep frequently around the base of the tree to remove pine needles, sap and loose ornament hooks.
Most cats will do whatever they can to climb the tree. If your cat is repelled by the scent, bitter orange oil around the base of the tree should help curb that desire. Apple cider vinegar and bitter apple can also be spritzed on the limbs, but do so before the tree is decorated. All animals have the potential to knock over a tree. Hook or anchor the tree to a wall and choose a tree base that is wide and stable.
Do not put items on or around the tree or in your decor that are attractive to pets. Popcorn garlands, candy canes and other candy decorations are cute, but often smell tasty to animals. Similarly, don’t put gifts under the tree for your pets. If your pet spies or smells a new carrier, new toys, catnip or food around the tree will only encourage your pet to venture closer.
Tinsel and metallic garland can be disastrous to a pet’s digestive system. Pets often think the shiny substance is a perfect plaything and will inevitably try to eat it. I speak from experience here – you do NOT want to spend your holiday chasing after a cat to try and retrieve bits of tinsel. The same goes of metallic or plastic confetti.
As a safety measure for both you and your pets, don’t leave unattended lights on or candles burning. Aside from being a fire hazard, some pets are prone to chewing on cords. Rodents, cavvies and rabbits have always had this problem, in my experience. Discourage this by safely taping cords to baseboards, walls and the floor whenever possible. Birds love to peck at shiny objects, particularly the little bulbs of stringed lights. They look just like delicious berries!
Try not to let your pet bird around any lights unattended. Carefully watching your pet around these hazards is important. Keep lit candles up and out of the way of pets. Cats in particular have a keen knack accidentally getting their tails in the way of open flames (not that I would know from experience or anything.) Quick action to smother the flame and tend your pet’s burn is essential to ensuring that your pet and home are safe in the event of an accidental tail fire. Keep a vet emergency line on speed dial at all times for just these sort of events!
Having a happy and safe holiday with your pets is easy with a little supervision and some thought about what pitfalls to avoid around the house. Here’s wishing you and your pet a happy, healthy holiday season!