7 Pet Safety Tips to Follow for a Happy, Healthy Holiday

Keep your four-legged friends healthy and happy with our holiday safety tips.

Young laughing couple in sweaters sitting on carpet near fir tree with dog and holding presents.Photo: Shutterstock / Click and Photo

From the tree to the turkey, the poinsettias to the presents, we love the holidays. Unfortunately, some of our favorite merry-makers can be dangerous to pets. It can be difficult keeping Fido and Felix safe from the tempting treats (and tree branches) that deck the holiday home. Don’t worry, though; we have a handful of holiday safety tips to keep your pets happy and healthy.

1. Steer clear of mistletoe and more

Many favorite holiday plants are poisonous to pets. Mistletoe, holly, and potted lilies, amaryllis and daffodils can cause major intestinal upset in cats, dogs, birds, rabbits and other small animals. To be completely safe, it’s best to avoid bringing these plants into your home. Surprisingly, poinsettias are only mildly toxic and are not considered a big danger, but they may have been treated with pesticides that could make a pet very sick.

2. Be careful with the tree

Fir and other evergreen trees are considered mildly toxic to pets. Oils from the needles can irritate your pet’s mouth and stomach, and needles from any evergreen are very difficult to digest. If possible, keep pets away from the tree when you’re not home (at least until you can gauge how interested they are in nibbling the branches or light cords and batting the ornaments).

Also, be sure to cover the tree’s water. Even if you don’t use any special additives, the tree itself may have been treated with pesticides or fertilizers. It’s best to err on the side of caution and keep the water covered to ensure your pet doesn’t slurp up any bad stuff.

3. Toss the tinsel

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year for cats: boxes to play in, tissue paper to crinkle and more ribbons than they know what to do with. Boxes are ideal—and photogenic—for kitty playtime, but you should toss the ribbons, garland and tinsel. While your feline friend may have fun chewing these sparkly decorations, they can pose a serious risk. Once swallowed, ribbons can become twisted inside a cat’s belly and can require surgery to remove. Do without any of these kitty distractions and stick to minimalist decor and gift wrapping.

4. Just say no to table scraps

While it may be tempting to let a pup lick your plate, it’s best to avoid giving any people food to a pet during the holidays. Fatty foods, like turkey skin and gravy, can give dogs and cats quite the bellyache. Too many grease-laden foods can cause pancreatitis, a condition that can affect a pet’s energy levels and gut. Make this ban clear to guests of all ages, too, as Fifi may be begging from Uncle Philip or a pint-size niece while your attention is elsewhere.

Other foods are plain poisonous to pets. Besides the basics, like onions and chocolate, there are a host of holiday ingredients that you should keep away from your four-legged friends. Grapes, raisins and currants (main ingredients in our favorite fruitcakes) can cause kidney failure in dogs. Want to know about more foods to avoid all year round? Check out our list of doggy dining don’ts.

5. Banish bones

Sure, it may seem natural to toss the drumstick bone to Max, but don’t do it. The small brittle bones from poultry, pork and beef can easily splinter and cause major intestinal issues for your pet. Save the bones to make a tasty homemade stock, and opt for a rawhide chew for the pup instead.

6. Provide a pet-friendly hideout

Although we love the holidays, they can be particularly stressful for pets. The new faces, unfamiliar smells and noise levels can really push animals out of their comfort zone. To help Fluffy and Fido cope, provide them with a safe haven away from all the hubbub. A spare bedroom or quiet corner will be a welcome retreat for shy or overstimulated pets. Make this area welcoming with your pet’s favorite blanket, food and fresh water. Also, let guests know that when pets are in this safe zone, they are not to be disturbed. This will keep your animals feeling relaxed.

7. Have an up-to-date ID

With all the comings and goings during the holidays, it can be easy for a pet to slip out of the house. Before the Christmas season gets into full swing, have your pets microchipped and make sure their tags have your up-to-date contact information. If your cat doesn’t typically wear a collar, it might be wise to have it don one for the holidays—the jingle bell will help you keep tabs on its location (and it’s a little festive, right?). With a watchful eye, we’re sure, you won’t have to worry, but it’s always best to be prepared.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.