Pet Holiday Decor–DOs & DON’Ts
It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and every retail outlet is already decked out. Many will spend the weekend decorating their home for the holidays. Now’s the time to consider pet safety in your ornamentation! Most of us were taught never assume, so we’ll start with basics to keep your pets AND young children safe.
The most obvious–to me–& dangerous are decorations that use electricity. Outlets and cords cannot be accessible to kids and pets who don’t understand the danger and could be seriously injured by playing with or chewing on them. If you must have lights and powered ornaments on your tree, try to string them above the reach of pets & kids, try to tuck away the electrical cords and duct tape them all the way to the outlet. In addition to the touching/chewing consideration is the fact that they can be used to pull down the entire tree with imaginable disastrous consequences!
You may not have considered the indoors tree itself a hazard but it is. It’s novel, attractive, offers new levels (literally) of possibility and if it’s a real tree, smells great. It’s practically irresistible. Anchor it to the floor and possibly to the ceiling as well to prevent tipping. If it is a real tree, it will requiring periodic watering. Be aware of the hazards of water & electricity. The tree is treated with preservative chemicals which end up in the pot for the tree’s water, and they are toxic. Ensure the liquid is inaccessible to the pets, and is changed regularly to prevent bacteria build-up (I’m not kidding). Many families preserve the tree (and gifts) with decorative fencing.
Tree and free-standing ornaments should be pet friendly. Fragile items that break into sharp pieces should not be used or should be above the reach of the pets. Same for garlands & tinsel; if ingested, can cause intestinal blockage resulting in thousands of dollars of vet bills and may be fatal. Take it as read for hooks, ornament hangers, tacks, staples, gift ties and bows–and tree needles! Of special interest to baby boomers who grew up with the bubbling tree lights: the liquid is often toxic methylene chloride (anti-freeze)–it’s fatal to pets. Same for snow globes; I’d avoid these at all costs. Other dangerous/toxic tree decor includes artificial snow, aluminum foil, cellophane and any small balls or bells which can be ingested. And if your holiday decorating includes a menorah, get one that is unbreakable and never allow it (or any Christmas or Advent candles) to burn unsupervised. Change the battery on your fire/CO2 detector while you’re decorating. Vacuum daily around the decorations. Consider pet-repellent sprays to deter your darling from the area. Try to envision decor from your pet’s viewpoint–it all looks like new toys, and the tree looks like a new kitty condo! Since that’s not true, consider giving your pet new holiday toys to draw away his interest. Don’t neglect to follow the same rules for outdoor decorating!
Holiday flowers and plants–mistletoe and holly cause serious digestive trouble. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not actually toxic but are enough to make you spend valuable holiday time cleaning up pet vomit. However, the most popular holiday lilies may cause kidney failure in cats.
Holiday food presents another pet safety issue. Just 8 oz of dark chocolate can kill a small dog–or cat. Cats don’t have the same sweets receptors as dogs, so they aren’t as attracted, but if they do ingest it, they’ll be just as dead. So don’t leave bowls of candies unsupervised. And speaking of sweets, alcoholic sweet beverages such as eggnog are attractive to dogs, and can cause harm. Don’t leave leftover beverage glasses around–rinse’em & put’em in the sink or dishwasher. Other foods which are absolutely toxic: macadamia nuts, grapes & raisins. Beware of ANY nuts–I learned the hard way one Christmas night that a cat will eat cashews, and you will spend A) the night and B) $1000 at the emergency vet if he does. (And you’ll clean up the bloody vomit when you get home.) Nuts can hide in stuffing too. When you’re disposing of the bird’s carcass, ensure it’s completely encased in trash bags and taken out to a covered trash container inaccessible to the pet–don’t allow your cat or dog to ingest nut-tainted stuffing, or bird bones which break and cause serious harm starting at the mouth all the way to the other end.
One other toxic ingestible item: nicotine. I’m sure you don’t smoke around your kids and pets but you may have guests who do. Ingested nicotine will probably kill your pet via cardiac arrest, or cause serious intestinal symptoms. Make sure all to dispose all tobacco products promptly.
We still have more holiday issues to discuss, but get back to your decorating and have fun & check back soon for more pet safety!