Pet-proof Your Home for Holiday Safety
By Jason Carpenter
Owning a cat or dog is a joy, but like with most joyful things in life, taking care of them requires a bit of sacrifice. With the holidays fast approaching, you want to keep your pets in mind as you begin creating a festive atmosphere. Keeping your pet safe should be your main concern, as there may be hidden dangers lurking in your decoration box that can be harmful to your beloved animals. Plus, you want to keep your precious family keepsakes and expensive heirloom holiday decorations safe from curious pets. Follow these holiday safety guidelines to keep your pet safe this season.
Lights and Electrical
As any cat or dog owner knows, animals are prone to chewing things. Cats, in particular, can’t resist attacking dangling cords and strings. Make sure your holiday lights and cords are out of your pet’s reach. A cord protector or coating the wires with a chewing deterrent should also do the trick. Non-toxic, foul-tasting sprays are sold at most pet stores.
Pets love to be involved in whatever you’re doing, so prepping your holiday lights may be difficult with a dog or cat sniffing around and swatting every bulb that comes out of the box. While you’re unstringing and testing holiday lights, keep pets in a closed room or behind a safety gate.
The best thing you can do is to give your pet an acceptable alternative for chewing and playing. Make sure your dog has plenty of chew toys or other healthy chewables. To exhaust your cat’s hunting instincts, have a daily play session with a toy on a string, or simply leave its favorite toys around the house.
Protect your pet by keeping lights and breakable ornaments on higher branches, and beware of climbing kitties. You don’t want shattered ornaments littering the ground where your cat or dog can injure their paws. Tinsel is dangerous when ingested by animals, but if you love the sparkle, place it in out of reach locations. Finally, be sure to sweep up pine needles often, as they can damage your pets’ intestines if swallowed.
Your favorite holiday items may be poisonous to your pet, so keep this checklist in mind when planning for the festivities.
- Mistletoe: Ingesting small amounts of mistletoe can cause your pet to drool, vomit or have diarrhea, but ingesting large amounts can cause more serious complications.
- Poinsettia: The milky sap of poinsettia plants -- a holiday favorite -- can also make your pet sick. While usually not life threatening, your pet may still have uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues.
- Chocolate: Even a small amount of this tasty treat can be potentially fatal for dogs when ingested. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate and seizures.
- Potpourri oils: Liquid potpourri and essential oils can harm your pets’ stomach and skin, causing irritation and redness. Instead, opt for holiday-scented candles in cinnamon, peppermint, wintergreen and pine, placed in stable, out-of-reach locations.
- Turkey and chicken bones: These
can be choking hazards for dogs, so choose a healthy rawhide bone instead.
Jason Carpenter is a New York-based writer who has two pets: Veda, a rescue dog from Louisiana and Zeke, an adopted Bronx alley cat; his work has appeared in This Old House, Men's Health, Consumer Reports and other publications that appreciate good tips and tools.