How To Pet Proof Your Holidays with 11 Life-Saving Tips

Do you pet proof for the holidays? Thanksgiving weekend seems to be a popular time to break out the holiday trimmings, not just in terms of munchies, but decorations, too. There ARE safe foods for cats and dogs, but dangers abound as well.

pets christmas

This sweater no longer fits Bravo–maybe we’ll hand-it-down to Shadow-Pup!

Two year’s ago, we’d recently lost our Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty. This year, with Karma-Kat playing tag constantly with the Bravo-Dawg and the new pup Shadow, we’ve decided to forgo the tree. What about you?

Holiday homes become pet playgrounds at this time of year. Cats delight in un-decking the halls and climbing the tree. Dogs eat decorations and baptize the tree. The result is a Christmas that’s anything but merry. Refer to these tips to keep your pets safe and your holiday happy.

cat rolling in fresh catnip

Pet Proof Plants from Pets

Dogs and especially puppies chew nearly anything. Cats rarely eat plants, but they do claw them and then lick/groom away the residue. Beware of holiday floral arrangements that contain pet dangers. Lilies can cause kidney failure. Holly and live mistletoe cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy if ingested by your pet. Poinsettias are NOT deadly but can cause nausea and/or mild vomiting. Choose pet-safe plants and set them out of paw-reach. Or consider using silk or plastic holiday plants make an equally showy statement without the poison potential. Check out this list of dangerous plants.

Pets & Fire Hazards Don’t Mix

Fireplaces offer extra warmth and atmosphere to holiday gatherings but can prompt singed whiskers or burned paws. Candles prove irresistible especially for kittens who paw-test everything to see what it is, or meet it head-on to sniff and explore. That’s not just painful for pets, it’s a fire hazard for your entire family should Fluffy knock over the Menorah. Instead, electric candles are available for decorating purposes. I love the ones that we use! If you must have the real thing, ensure pets are safely out of the way and candles out of paw-reach. Be sure the fireplace screen is secured against curious pets, too.

Keep poisonous grapes out of dog reach.

DANGER! Grapes are highly toxic and can quickly kill dogs.

Treats Toxic to Pets

Gobbling any sort of candy may cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. Also refer to these common pet poisons. You can find a list of SAFE holiday treats for dogs here.

Read on for tips–or watch this short video for the good stuff (be sure to SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel!)

  • Chocolate poses special dangers. Too much chocolate, which contains a stimulant called theobromine, can kill your pet. Keep holiday candy out of reach, in latched cupboards, to keep your canine glutton from over-indulging. Valentine’s Day is another time to keep pets safe.
  • Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Affected pets may vomit, act lethargic or uncoordinated and these signs may progress to seizures.
  • Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours. Almonds, pecans and walnuts have so much fat in them, they can cause diarrhea in dogs, or even lead to pancreatitis.
  • Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. Avocado can cause heart damage and death in pet birds.
  • Flavored aluminum foil, grease-smeared turkey strings, and cellophane candy wrappers can be dangerous to pets if swallowed—dogs and cats rarely unwrap treats before eating. Refer to this post on dealing with swallowed objects. Eating raw yeast bread dough also causes problems when the dough rises in the tummy.

Refer to FIRST AID TIPS here for 7 top pet poisons!

pet proof holidays to keep pets safe

Pet-proof your holidays to keep your fur-kids safe!

Pet Proof Christmas Trees

Cats consider the tree a feline jungle gym with cat toys that swing, sparkle, and invite paw-pats and biting. Some dogs take “aim” at the tree just as they would your outside shrubs and baptize the greenery. Drinking from treated water in the base can poison pets. Eating tinsel and ornaments can prove deadly, and dogs often chew through electric chords with shocking results.

  • Smaller trees can be set on table tops, inside of baby playpens, or in a room protected by a baby gate. Situate breakable and dangerous decorations on the top of the tree out of reach of inquisitive pets.
  • Make the area around the tree unattractive to keep paws at bay. Clear plastic carpet protectors and place under the tree—nub side up. That makes cruising or lounging under the tree uncomfortable. The soft “tacky mats” available from home product stores designed to keep throw rugs from sliding around work well to keep small pets away because they dislike walking on sticky surfaces.
  • Use your pet’s smell sense to keep her away from the tree. Citrus scents are off-putting to cats so scatter orange or lemon peels (or potpourri) around the base of the tree. Vicks (menthol smell) also works as a good pet repellent. Dip cotton balls in the ointment and stick in the lower branches of your tree. They’ll look a bit like snow and blend in with the rest of the decorations.
  • Create a “pet safe” tree decorated with dog toys and catnip mice. Place these within paw reach on lower branches and reserve the off-limits decorations for the top of the tree.

What other steps do you take to help keep your fur-kids safe during the holidays? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!


How To Pet Proof Your Holidays with 11 Life-Saving Tips — 32 Comments

  1. Amy — Thanks for this much needed reminder & these great tips! Always interesting about citrus. Citrus would not have worked with Lucky. He liked to eat orange slices when allowed!

    • Hi Brenda, interesting about Lucky. There’s always those exceptions, right? Magical-Dawg loved orange slices and OJ when a pup, but won’t touch it now. And the cats…forgettaboutit! LOL!

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  3. Great tips and post. It’s so scary how pets can get into things and be harmed. Pet proofing is so important and key.

  4. What great tips. Pet proofing is something most people forget. My cats always trashed a few ornaments in early years. Kilo was pretty good last year, although he helped clear some snacks left on a table- luckily they were mainly raw veggies and crackers so no damage. He has stolen chocolate in the past (he is a ninja and can jump and climb higher than expected). I didn’t think of the water around the tree. I did leave him toys near it to play with and kept the poinsetta up high.

  5. Thanks Amy for the reminder. People get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, they don’t always think about how many dangers there are to our pets.

  6. This will be interesting for us – not over the holidays but at our in home wedding reception in August. Luckily most of our guests have tiny dogs too and should be able to manage. We did hire a pet sitter/trainer to help out.

  7. Our tree is two metres tall and it stands in a tall box so we hope that all but the most insane cat will keep off it. Well, most of our cats aren’t, not really…. We don’t leave anything whre the cats can reach them, and they have chocllate, and nuts * phew *

  8. Great reminder and we will reread the Christmas tree tips….last year one of our pups decided that a little potty on it might be fun! Dogs…. we love them! Thanks for sharing – and we’ll share with our readers!

  9. It’s always great to plan ahead for the holidays and events. All great and very important tips. Here’s hoping everyone has a happy and safe holiday season! Pinning!

  10. Great tips to remember about how to keep our pets safe this upcoming holiday season. I remember when we had our first cat, we could only decorate the top half of the tree because he would pull all the decorations off and we were afraid he would eat some of them! The tree looked funny, but the cat was safe!

  11. Such a good post. It only takes a micro-second for things to go terribly wrong for our pets over the holidays, being proactive is the only real solution to keep things safe, happy, and healthy!

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