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.
Four year’s ago, we’d recently lost our Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty. Last year, we lost Bravo. But with Karma-Kat playing tag constantly with Shadow-Pup, we postponed putting up a tree until this year. This weekend, I’ll put up the outdoor lighted wreaths, well out of pet-paw reach. 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.
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 to 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 you secure the fireplace screen against curious pets, too. We hold our screen-curtain middle opening together with metal binder clips.
Treats Toxic to Pets
- 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.
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.
You may also enjoy my annual holiday story, Why Tabby Wears an “M.”
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!