The holidays are a wonderful time, and for many people, even more wonderful when they're shared with their pets. But the decorations we use to make our homes feel more festive can pose particular dangers to our furry friends. Here's what you need to know to make your holiday home safe for your pets.
How to Make Your Christmas Trees Pet Safe
Christmas trees are one of the loveliest parts of the holidays. But they pose a long list of hazards, starting with the tree itself. Needles that fall from real trees can sicken pets who happen to eat any.
The water at the base of the tree can also cause digestive problems for pets that help themselves to a drink. Because of these risks, PETA recommends buying an artificial tree rather than a real one.
Artificial Christmas Trees and Pets
If you're worried about the environmental impact of a fake tree, you can limit the damage by buying a well-made tree and using it for at least five years before replacing it. If you decide to upgrade before that, pass along your well-loved tree to someone else. Perhaps a newlywed couple, a college student, or a local library or clinic would like a Christmas tree but can't afford one. No matter what type of tree you use, make sure rambunctious pets can't easily knock it over.
Pet Safe Christmas Tree Ornaments
You also need to consider the ornaments you put on the tree. Avoid glass ornaments. If they get broken when knocked off by curious pets, shards of glass can cut tender little paws.
Tinsel is definitely a no-go. According to the pet poison helpline, tinsel (as well as ribbons, yarn, and anything stringy) can cause severe damage to your pet's intestines if swallowed. When it comes to tinsel, just don't. Also, be sure to keep any ribbons that may have come on gifts out of reach of your fur babies.
Keeping Your Pets Away from Your Christmas Tree
The safest approach is to keep your pets well away from the tree. If you have dogs, you can place a pet fence around the base of the tree or even put your tree inside a playpen intended for a baby.
This won't work for cats, of course. Most cats can climb or jump over anything shorter than a refrigerator. But you might be able to keep them away from your tree by placing Sticky Paws tape around the base of the tree.
Cats usually won't walk over anything sticky. Cats also tend to avoid citrus smells. If your kitty doesn't like citrus, try tossing some fresh orange or tangerine peels underneath the tree, or if you have wooden floors, mop around the tree's base with a citrus-scented floor cleaner.
Pet Safe Holiday Lights
Remember the poor cat in the movie Christmas Vacation? Don't let your pet end up that way! Reduce the risk posed by lights by ensuring all cords are hidden and out of the reach of nibbling pets, and unplug lights when you're not around to supervise. For cords you can't hide, try using cord protectors.
For the menorah, consider using electric lights rather than open flames. It's not as authentic, but it's much safer. If you do use candles, don't leave them unattended, and be sure whiskers and fur don't get too close.
Because lighting a candle each day is a key part of the Kwanzaa ritual, electric candles may not do the trick. In that case, just be sure to keep your pets away from the candles, and don't leave candles lit when your pets are alone in the room with them.
Pet Safe Holiday Plants
Unfortunately, many of the plants that make us feel most festive can make our pets feel sick. Mistletoe, poinsettias, English ivy, and holly can be dangerous to pets, with varying degrees of toxicity. Use artificial versions instead, or create new traditions with pet-safe substitutes, such as spider plants and Swedish ivy. Luckily, according to the ASPCA, the Christmas cactus is safe for cats and dogs.
There's no need to do without holiday decorations if you share your home with animals. A few precautions will make the holidays happy for everyone in the family, no matter whether they have two legs or four.