Holiday Pet Safety

cat-christmasIf 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:

Christmas foliage:
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.

XmasCat_3Keep 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.

Wrapping supplies:
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.

Christmas treats:
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 🙂

Direct link:

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.

Cee_2 crop8Blogger Bio
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.

Links to connect with Cadence:

Cadence Blue’s Fan Videos 
Email Cadence at:

19 thoughts on “Holiday Pet Safety

  1. Excellent post Mae!! Thanks so much for posting something that is dear to my heart, as well as important for our precious four legged babies! Also, no onions, no garlic, no avocados or grapes or raisins or any concoction that has those ingredients in them!!!


  2. Great post. 🙂
    Gotta say though… Cats eat sweet things for other reasons than it being sweet. They lack the taste buds for them. (Yep, cats can’t taste sweet things.) For cats it’s texture, rather than taste.
    The one thing to bear in mind is to keep the leftover turkey away from prying paws. Bird bones are brittle and sharp, they splinter and get stuck very easily.
    Apparently raccoons are unaware of this. When on holiday in Florida, our 18lbs (thawing!) turkey mysteriously disappeared (through the rather large raccoon-shaped hole in the screen door) one Christmas many years ago… We weren’t hunting for it, as the thieving little beasts dragged the half-frozen bird directly into the path of the alligators living out back…


    • Wow, what a story, Silke! Those were indeed some large raccoons that hauled that bird off, LOL. I loved your description of the ‘thieving little beasts.’ I guess they were in for a real surprise with the alligators.

      Thanks for the info about cats. Every bit of info helps when it comes to our furry friends!


    • Thank you for the extra tips! It’s good to have these replies to help, otherwise my post would have been a mile long. I change up the safety post each year and I may add about bird bones for my 2013 post 🙂 We never let our cats chew bones for that very reason.


  3. Our three cats passed on within one month of each other. The vet declared since they had always been together their hearts were broken when the first cat had to be put down. Of course by the time we’d lost all three, the vet might as well have buried Tom and I as well. We love our two Shih Tzus and I have a large collection of holiday theme collectible teddy bears I place around the tree skirt. I’d always blamed my dog for being the one that helped herself to a particular teddy and gently placed it back under the tree each time we returned home. Then, one evening I walked out of my office, and there was Tom’s dog. Tom’s dog is ever so proper and has that look that tells you he would never do anything such as steal a teddy bear, but I caught him red handed. Now we leave each of them a special teddy of their own to play with each year under the Christmas tree. Thanks for this informative post. Our pets make our lives complete.


    • Lovely stories, Sheri. I lost two cats within months of each other, although it was a longer stretch and my vet said the same thing. The cat that survived was simply heart-broken because they’d grown up together.She lost most of her hair and dropped from 15 lbs. to 6 lbs. because of ’emotional stress.’

      Great story about Tom’s dog, especially the ‘ever so proper’ part, LOL. It sounds like both of your Shih Tzus have attachments to teddy bears. Nice that you give them each their own for the holidays!


  4. Hi everyone,

    Wow, such wonderful comments! I love reading the stories from people whose pets are a huge part of their lives. Sheri, we lost a cat on 1-11-11 and then, exactly 7 days later on 1-18-11 we lost another and I can relate to wanting to go with them. Every time I cuddle a new kitten I know that somewhere down the road they’ll break my heart when they leave…but it’s worth it for the love they give while they’re here. Putting out special gifts for them, yup, we do that! Deborah, you’re absolutely right about the foods you mentioned. I have cats who love avocados so we have watch them. Thank you all for the comments. You’ve all made my day 🙂


    • Cadence, it would be heart-breaking to lose precious ones so close together. You’re right about somewhere down the road there’s bound to be grief, but they bring such joy to our lives. You wrote a wonderful post. Thank you again for being my guest blogger today!


  5. Wonderful post Mae and Candace! I learned a long time ago that no matter what, my cat will climb the tree, real or fake. She never has climbed a real tree out in the yard, but put up a Christmas tree and she’s in it. I also learned the lower branch decorations are never safe. I lost several glass ones before I discovered what happened to them. She won’t play once they fall and break, but an intact one gets full use. Now only plastic balls go below the last two or three branches. She won’t let me wrap a present without help, but she doesn’t care for the paper if it’s not being used. The dogs usually just like to lay on the forbidden skirt every chance they get. Oh- and my cat and hubby’s chihuahua (one of four small dogs) will inevitably sleep in the pile of gifts if left alone for more than five minutes! Last year I had to rewrap four or five. Thankfully, our babies don’t eat or get into things that will hurt them, but we are ever watchful for that ‘first time.’


    • I loved these stories, Calisa! It is so true about cats not caring for wrapping paper if it isn’t being used. I used to try to give mine their own special piece so they wouldn’t interfer with my gift wrapping but, of course, what I was doing was far more fun. I also learned that trick with lower branch decorations and changed them all to non-breakable. Thanks for sharing such adorable stories!


  6. Great pet safety announcement. As a mother of two very vibrant doggies, I’m always having to keep an eye out. I know I keep and extra close eye out for my pets when we have company. My darlings can be charming beggars, so folks may get tempted. The problem is that they aren’t always aware of what may be toxic to my babies. I prefer to tell them not to feed my girls.


    • I used to do that with my cats, Kitt, and would ask guests not to feed them. Onyx never bothered begging for food, but McDoogal were notorious, especially when it came to lunchmeat or ice cream.I’m glad you look out for your darlings! 🙂


      • We give ours table scraps (as I said in the post) but that’s a personal choice for each pet parent to make. Ours lurrrve deli meats like ham and especially roast beef. We have a cats-only vet (who I think has at least 20 cats of her own!) and she feeds her kitties table scraps. We haven’t had issues with it. I often say our cats are the most spoiled creatures on earth. They eat our food and sleep in our bed (they leave us a bit of room on either side) and steal our chairs for themselves. I love that “cattitude”!

        It’s been so great reading your responses and tips. My post is richer thanks to you!


  7. Pingback: Cat-Friendly Holiday Festivities Made Easy | Purrfect Angels News

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