Caitlin UltimoHolidays / Pet Parenting

Holiday Pet Safety: Pet-Friendly Holiday Decorations

No matter which holiday you celebrate, there is always the chance that your pets will be tempted to feast on the traditional goodies or knock over the seasonal décor around your home. Real Christmas trees, freshly picked holly berries, strung popcorn, boughs of mistletoe, desserts, fragile ornaments, candy-filled stockings and flame-lit menorahs are routine this time of year. However, to ensure holiday pet safety, there are alternative ways to decorate for the holidays without giving up special traditions. From dog-friendly plants and cat-safe plants to durable ornaments and secure displays, we will guide you through some important holiday pet safety tips for your decorations.

Beware of Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats

During the holiday season, many people use a variety of festive plants to adorn their home with, but the most common choices are often poisonous plants for dogs and cats. So, how do we keep that holiday cheer while creating a safe environment for pets?

Silk plants and faux trees are great alternatives for pet-friendly homes. Artificial Christmas trees are safer for dogs and cats because they eliminate the threat of your pet consuming pine needles, which are mildly toxic and can cause intestinal upset. An artificial tree can also be securely attached to the wall or ceiling for extra stability. You can use invisible wires, which work great for holding your tree in place without affecting the look. Artificial plant centerpieces and boughs of faux mistletoe give off the holiday feeling without bringing poisonous plants for dogs and cats into your home. Although not lethal to your pet, poinsettias are known to cause discomfort if ingested. When in doubt, rule out real plants and keep any tempting items out of reach. A happy, healthy pet makes for a less stressful holiday season for all.

Read our complete guide to poisonous plants for dogs.

Blow Out the Flames

Candle lights are another popular festive addition to the home, but can easily be switched out for pet-friendly, battery-operated lighting. Window candle lights, menorahs and the burning of holiday-scented candles all present a hazard of being knocked over by an energetic puppy or a climbing cat. There are plenty of battery-operated candles available that give off a similar ambiance to preserve the aesthetic of customary holiday lighting without presenting any hazard to your pet. Keeping lit candles in pet-free rooms or at unattainable heights are other viable options. Battery-operated lighting also produces no soot on ceilings, which will keep your home looking clean.

Simplifying Your Ornaments

Ornaments add that special look to the branches of any tree, giving a sparkle and shine that fills everyone with holiday cheer. However, fragile and breakable ornaments can cause injury to your animals if they are eaten or stepped on. The easiest way to adorn your tree while keeping pet safety in mind is to use more durable ornaments instead of glass or ceramic ones. If you still find yourself with a few pieces that are fragile or small enough to be ingested, place them at the top of the tree with secure wiring strongly connecting them to the branches. It is also important that ornament hooks be wrapped around the branches tightly, as these often fall to the ground and present a choking and internal puncture risk to pets.

Kelly Arbogast, Animal Behavior Consultant, AS, BA, CPDT-KA, AKC CGC Evaluator, APDT, CAP1, OSCT and owner of Doggonit Training in New Hampshire, says, “I suggest puppy owners to put a doggie play pen around their tree for puppies’ first Christmas. And, of course, put the decorations up higher so that they cannot reach them.” Another crucial tip is to refrain from using edible adornments on the tree. Any edible temptation can lead to trees falling over, the smashing of ornaments and ingestion of toxic foods.

Whether it be decorating the tree, lighting the menorah or furnishing your home with other personal family holiday decorations, holiday pet safety should always be kept in mind. By providing a safe environment for your four-legged friends, this holiday season can be free of close calls and trips to the animal hospital. Above all else, be aware of the location of decorations, and so that the pets of the house will not be tempted or able to reach them. Use artificial alternatives to both greenery and lighting to prevent potential pet accidents so you can have a festive and fun holiday celebration.

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Leah McCormack is a New England native and dog lover. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City with her bachelor’s degree and started her animal care business, Winni Pups. Her published articles and features can be found in The Boston Globe, The EveryGirl, The Improper Bostonian, Mane Addicts, WGSN and Chewy!