For many of us, that means lavishing our abodes with colorful decorations like ivy, ornaments, and stockings galore. With a pet in the home you can still decorate until your heart’s content, but you’ll need to stop a moment and ask yourself if you decorations are putting her in danger. Here are a few holiday items that pet owners should leave on the department store shelf.
Candles are just an accident waiting to happen, especially when you light the flame. Like most animals dogs and cats are naturally attracted to light and there’s just something about the gentle flickering of candlelight they find hard to resist. If your dog or cat gets too close they could easily burn themselves on the flame, or they could accidentally knock it over in their excitement and burn down the whole house during playtime. Instead, choose electric lights that aren’t easily chewable and place the menorah in a spot your pet can’t reach.
Adorning your home and tree with Christmas lights is practically a must if you’re a fan of the holiday, and owning a pet doesn’t mean you have to abstain from this particular tradition; it just means you need to be more careful about where you hang them. Make sure any lights you put on your tree are out of your pet's reach as biting into them could give her quite a nasty shock. Cat owners in particular need to be careful as we all know about their penchant for climbing Christmas trees, so maybe consider locking your fuzzy friend away from the tree when you’re not home.
Ornaments pose a threat to pets for many reasons, not the least of which is their potential for causing serious cuts and choking hazards. Dogs easily swallow tiny ornaments and glass bulbs knocked off the tree can get embedded in your pet’s skin. Keep them out of reach or opt for ornaments that won’t easily break. You might also want to avoid ornaments made of anything edible, as that’s just asking for your pet to tip over your tree. Plus, they’re usually old and could wreak havoc on your pet’s tummy if she manages to eat them.
Holly berries pop up in a lot of wreaths and strings of garland typically hung throughout the house during this season. If ingested in large doses they could pose a serious threat to your dog's intestinal system that could result in hefty medical bills and, worst case scenario, in death. It’s best to leave them out and replace them with something your dog won’t want to eat. They do make plastic alternatives, which are okay as long as your pet can’t get to them. Also a bad choice? Mistletoe.
Tinsel, while pretty, is an absolute no-no when you have a pet in the home. Few things will disrupt your pet’s intestines better than this stringy material will. Once it gets inside your dog or cat’s digestive tract it’ll wrap itself around the intestines and cause an obstruction, which will require immediate surgery if you want your dog or cat to live. Since it’s shiny it also immediately draws your pets’ attention and even one strand of it is enough to cause problems. This is one item for which there’s absolutely no excuse for having in your house if you have a pet.
Whether you like to spray fake snow on your tree or throughout the yard to capture that special winter feeling, it’s something that you need to be extra careful about using with a dog or cat at home. While ingesting small amounts probably won’t harm your furry friend, too much of it can become toxic. Use it sparingly on tree branches that are out of your pet’s reach and only in parts of the yard where your dog doesn’t roam.
Few things are more enticing to dogs and cats than pieces of hanging cloth. Table runners and clothes that drape far over the sides of your table are easy to grab and hard to resist, so maybe only have them out when you can constantly monitor your pet. Save them for get-togethers with family and friends rather than having them out at all times, otherwise you might come home to find your nice china in pieces on the floor, some of which your pet could swallow.
Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.