The holidays are a special time of year, bringing together loved ones for joyous celebrations. The tree is trimmed, lights adorn the home and families feast together upon scrumptious holiday spreads. Our furry friends are just as enthralled by the occasion, with more time to play with and snuggle up next to family members, exciting decorations and gifts to explore, and plenty of accessible leftovers and treats to nibble on.

Unfortunately, not all of our beloved festive elements are safe for our pets. Some of our favorite decorations and foods can make them sick or pose hazards to their well-being. If your family is celebrating its first holiday season with a dog or cat in the home, take these nine pet-safety tips into consideration for a safe and festive season for all.

Stabilize the Christmas Tree

Dogs and cats are curious creatures. Once the Christmas tree enters the home, there’s no doubt they will be likely to explore. And, yes, sometimes even indoor play can become rowdy. Take extra care this year (and the years ahead) to make sure the tree is stable and secure in its stand, and that the base is large enough to support the size of the tree. As an extra measure, you can tie your tree to a door frame. The last thing you want is to watch as a movie-like scene plays out in your living room and the tree comes crashing to the floor—or worse, lands on top of your pet or a small child.

Get Rid of the Tinsel

Tinsel can be a fun element to decorate your tree with, but it’s no friend to your pets. Both cats and dogs might be tempted to eat this sparkly trimming and, if they do, it can cause intestinal blockages. This year, get rid of the tinsel. And, while you’re at it, make sure your other holiday decorations don’t pose threats: keep homemade ornaments with food-based materials higher up on the tree, set smaller trinkets out of reach and clean up any broken ornaments as soon as possible.

Hide the Wires and Cords 

The wires and cords for your holiday decorations and lights should always be tucked away. Curious pets can suffer electrical burns if they choose to bit into one of these cords. If you have extra cord at the end of a string of lights, try to wrap it up and tuck it beneath a rug or tree blanket. This goes for your outdoor lights, as well. Ensuring that excess cords are wrapped up and taped down, tucked under mats or along the home’s siding will keep your pets—and you and your guests—safe from electrical mishaps and falls. 

Say “No” to Festive Plants

A red poinsettia and a handful of mistletoe or holly might seem like the perfect finishing touch for a holiday party. Unfortunately, these plants and others (amaryllis, balsam, pine, cedar) can be dangerous—even poisonous—to our pets. Unless you can be absolutely sure your pet has no access to these plants, it’s probably best to keep them out of the house.

Check out the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ full list of toxic and non-toxic plants for cats and dogs.

Don’t Leave Leftovers Unattended

In most homes, the meal is a central feature of any holiday gathering. The event can span hours, from appetizers to dessert, and often incorporates more than just a single room in the home. As tempting as it might be to leave the mess of leftovers and dishes behind for an hour, this opens up the perfect opportunity for your pets to fill their tummies, too. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, table scraps can be extremely dangerous for pets, especially turkey and turkey skins, gravy, meat fat, bones, onions, yeast dough and more. Be sure to promptly clear the table and keep these human-only foods out of reach from your furry friends.

Careful with the Treats

Sweets are a holiday must-have for most people, and they’re often amply found throughout the home during gatherings. We all know chocolate is dangerous to pets, but so are artificial sweeteners found in many candies and store-bought baked goods. Be sure to keep these sweets and treats in secure containers and resist sharing the sugary goodness with your pet.

Watch the Door

As guests come in and out of your home for an evening of celebrations, make sure to keep the doors to your home closed so that your pets don’t find their way out into the cold without you. It’s a great idea to microchip your dogs and cats in case one were to ever go missing, and an identification tag and collar can help make for a quicker return. If your pet doesn’t already have one, look no further for the perfect holiday gift idea!

Let Your Guests Know

You alone can’t be responsible for every door left open, plate of leftovers set on an unsupervised table and uncovered treats brought into the home. When hosting a holiday gathering, be sure to let your guests know that you have pets and that the doors need to stay closed and foods and treats minded. Other pet owners will be more than happy to oblige by the simple rules, and those who don’t know the dangers of holiday edibles and decorations won’t mind the guidance.

Find a Good Pet Boarding Facility

In the case that you’re leaving town for the holidays and can’t take your pet with you, make sure he has the best care possible, making his holiday most comfortable. If a house sitter is not feasible, consider a professional pet boarding facility. Your dog or cat will be in good hands with plenty of playtime to pass the days you’re away.    

Though there are plenty of cautions to be mindful of with pets in the home around the holidays, the love and playfulness of your pet is well-worth the extra considerations. Don’t forget to include your pets in the holiday celebrations. Special toys and pet treats will let them know they’re a part of the fun.

(Photo ©Nagy-Bagoly Ilona/123 RF Stock Photo)

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