If you’re like me, you adore furry friends. Amid the hustle-bustle of the holidays it’s easy to overlook or forget precautions related to their safety. As a cat owner for years, I know my felines loved glittery Christmas balls, bows, ribbons and wrapping paper. It’s one matter for frisky felines to ‘sled’ across the carpet on a piece of wrapping paper, another to bat a glass ornament until it falls and shatters, creating a safety hazard for soft paws. That’s why I’m pleased to have guest blogger, Cadence Blue, here today with a post about keeping your pets safe through the holiday season. I hope you’ll read through her tips and suggestions!
Holiday Pet Safety
by Cadence Blue
GREAT BIG thanks to Mae for letting me share a non-writing related topic this week
With the holidays approaching I thought it was time for us to start thinking about pet safety.
Christmas time with its sparkly, shiny, glittery decorations and Christmas plants and trees present a wonderland for kitties and doggies. It is up to us as responsible pet parents to make sure that this wonderland doesn’t end up endangering our pets and causing enormous vet bills. No one wants a costly emergency during the most wonderful time of the year.
So let’s go over some things we need to pay attention to:
Lilies are beautiful but can cause kidney failure in cats if they eat them. They are not toxic in dogs. Poinsettias are not poisonous and deadly to pets as urban legends claim, but they, along with holly and mistletoe will all cause stomach upset in pets. Silk plants are a good alternative if you want to avoid this problem or, keeping real plants out of reach of curious furries.
The Christmas tree is the main foliage most everyone will have in their house. All real trees will cause stomach upset and can be toxic if enough is ingested. Trees with long, thick needles can cause injury to the digestive tract of a pet that eats them and doesn’t chew them well. The needles aren’t digestible and can puncture the stomach as well as nearby organs. I have no personal experience with this issue but it has happened (according to my vet as well as my online research), so it’s important to be watchful of pets when they are around the tree. If your pet appears to be in distress with vomiting, drooling and/or pain, seek medical attention right away.
Where real trees are concerned the absolute most dangerous thing is the water they sit in. Many tree lots spray the trees with insecticides and fire retardants, which, along with the natural sap of the tree, get into the water—all of which are poisonous to pets. Also, it may have been recommended to add aspirin to the water. There is debate over whether this helps or hurts the tree. The National Christmas Tree Association (yes, there really is one!) says plain tap water is best and for cat owners it is the best option because aspirin is DEADLY to cats. (Aspirin is safe for dogs in small quantities. Ask your vet).
It is very important to cover the water your real tree is sitting in.
Cat owners may want to consider anchoring their tree so it doesn’t fall over if kitty goes on a climbing expedition.
Artificial trees can cause stomach upset and blockages because the fibers they are made with are not digestible.
Keep pets away from the tree if possible. I realize it isn’t always possible. We live in a small apartment. In cases like that you can buy pet repellents and spray the area around the tree. I don’t have a lot of faith in those but if they’ve worked for you then it is a good option. Another option is Bitter Apple spray. It’s non-toxic to cats and dogs, non-sticky and extremely bitter. Spray it on the tree where your pets can reach, especially the very bottom branches. Dogs and cats despise bitter flavors. We had mixed results with our cats and had to re-apply it a couple times when we noticed them munching on the tree. I still feel it is a good option as a deterrent.
Christmas decorations pose another health hazard to pets who like to bat at them and eat them. Most experienced cat owners know that THE TOP NO-NO DECORATION is tinsel. Those shiny, dangling strings hanging from the tree branches are just too irresistible to kitties. They pull them off and eat them and it ends up tangling in the digestive tract, knotting up the intestines. Your cat (or dog) will die without veterinary intervention. That intervention involves stomach surgery to remove the tinsel. Some owners, unable to afford the cost, have to euthanize their pet—not a very merry Christmas for anyone.
Any stringy decorations, or even cat toys like fishing rods, pose the same hazard. My cats much prefer the cord on their fishing rods to the actual toy at the end. It is for that reason I never leave my cats unsupervised with those kinds of toys. Garland is another one you need to watch out for, though it can be sprayed down with Bitter Apple along with other tree ornaments to keep pets away. It is important to supervise pets around the tree at all times and place plain decorations at the bottom, like ornaments with no thing-a-mabobbers hanging off them. Plain plastic balls are best for those pet-reachable low branches. If you use glass ornaments watch out for any that fall and break so there aren’t any cut paws or mouths. Glass in the digestive tract is also a hazard.
We plan to buy some thick cardboard to block off the living room for times when we are away or when we are sleeping. More expensive room dividers can be found on Ebay if you want something decorative like an Oriental screen.
Here you mainly need to watch out for the ribbons because they’ll tangle in the pet’s stomach like the things I mentioned earlier. Even my older cats like to gnaw on ribbons when the gifts are out under the tree. For this reason I put the presents out last minute and keep a big bag on hand to immediately discard wrappings when a gift has been opened.
If you see your pet eating wrapping paper you should discourage it, especially if the paper is thick or if it is foil. Dogs sometimes eat paper and it can block their intestinal tract. Tissue paper on the other hand makes a marvelous toy that they can shred and jump about in safely. My cats will eat little bits of it and I haven’t had any problems, but do watch out for puppies and dogs having a feast of it. I sometimes offer a few sheets of tissue to divert my pets’ attention from items I don’t want them to play with.
My cats also enjoy those bows you stick on the top of presents. They bat them around and carry them in their mouths. I will replace them with new bows if the old ones come unraveled. Remember: those bows are just long pieces of ribbon so stay alert if you let your cats play with them. In twenty years I’ve had no problems with my cats playing with bows but every cat and dog is different in their habits. Always keep an eye on them.
My cats like table scraps and they’ll get some. They like rich holiday food the same as we do, but if you share, do so sparingly to avoid upset tummies.
Cookies and candy:
This is more for dogs, but there are cats out there who like sweets too: chocolate is toxic to both cats and dogs unless it is white chocolate. I’ve seen dog treats that are dipped in white chocolate. Don’t freak out if your cat or dog wants to lick a little chocolate from your fingertips or a bowl but don’t feed it in large quantities or habitually. (We used to have a cat that enjoyed milk chocolate – just use common sense when sharing).
Last, keep the telephone numbers of local vets in a place where you can find them, ESPECIALLY an emergency clinic that is open during off-hours. If you’re having an emergency you don’t want to have to search for important telephone numbers. Better yet, program them into your cell phone. If you think your pet has swallowed something don’t wait! Seek help.
I am definitely not trying to scare people off decorating their homes. Just be aware, know your pet and his/her habits and what dangerous things he is attracted to and take precautions accordingly. A little common sense and a watchful eye go a long way!
For even more tips please visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and their article on holiday safety, good no matter what country you live in
I hope you found this information helpful!
Now that you are armed with information, go forth and decorate, and have a safe and happy holiday with your pets!
If you have some safety tips to share, please feel free! There is no such thing as too much information on this topic.
Cadence Blue has been entertaining family and friends with her writing for many years. Circumstances beyond her control caused her to step back from the art form for a time and she is just now making a tentative comeback as an aspiring indie author. When not writing she enjoys doing graphic design and video editing.
Cadence is married and is both mother and play companion to her four black cats, who demand much of her time and energy.