So, the holiday season is officially underway and that means lots of holiday hazards for our pets. I figured out long ago how crafty and mischievous dogs, cats, birds and other pets can be around the holidays, and with more than 20 furry and feathered critters, this makes decorating the house for the holidays very tricky.
Envision this: the birds are landing on the Christmas tree and pecking at the shiny ornaments. Meanwhile, one cat is trying to climb the Christmas tree, while another is mauling the Christmas lights on the banister. And then there’s the dog, who’s found a whole bunch of new chew toys – wrapped gifts – under the tree and he’s discovered what a wonderful ripping and crinkling sound the wrapping paper makes as he unceremoniously tears the paper to shreds. That’s what the holidays were like at my house when I tried to get festive a few years ago. Needless to say, we’ve had to “pet-proof” the house in a big way during the holidays to avoid putting our pets in danger.
So here’s a few of my own holiday pet proofing tips, to avoid placing your dog, cat, bird or other pets in harms way this holiday season:
Tether the Christmas Tree – If you have dogs or cats, it’s really a good idea to secure your Christmas tree with a couple of wires attached to eye hooks. This will prevent the pets from knocking over the Christmas tree. It creates a huge mess. Take my word on this one. I’ve written a step-by-step guide for tethering the Christmas tree for anyone who’s interested.
Use a Dog Gate Around the Christmas Tree – If you have a young, energetic dog who likes to play and run in the house, you may want to buy one of those dog pens to put around the Christmas tree. Tethering the Christmas tree will prevent the dog from knocking it over, but it won’t prevent him from knocking off the ornaments and pine needles! This is also a great solution for dogs who like to chew on the Christmas tree – it’s a recipe for a very upset stomach and a vomiting dog. Again, take my word on this one!
Avoid Garland and “Icicles” – Garland and those strands of shiny “icicle” are a recipe for disaster, especially for cats and birds. If a pet eats icicles or garland, it can cause intestinal obstructions, so avoid these decorations at all costs.
Don’t Put Gifts Under the Tree – Some pets will rip apart gifts just to hear the crinkle of the wrapping paper, but this problem can be largely avoided if you put a dog pen around the tree. If you do put gifts under the Christmas tree, be sure they don’t contain any food items – your dog will smell the food from a mile away and it could lead to a pet poisoning incident if the gift contains gourmet chocolates or coffee beans.
Unplug Christmas Lights – Some cats will really enjoy chewing, batting and clawing strings of Christmas lights, so unplug them when they’re not in use and inspect the string of lights for chewing or clawing damage before plugging them in again.
Avoid Toxic Plants – Many holiday plants are toxic to pets. So before you bring a plant into the home for the holidays, check to be sure that the plant is not toxic. Some common holiday plants that are toxic to pets include mistletoe, poinsettia, holly berries and even cedar Christmas trees.
Avoid Glass Ornaments and Decorations – Glass ornaments and decorations will pose a huge holiday pet hazard if a pet breaks the ornament or decoration, sending shards of glass everywhere (and I mean everywhere – you’ll find bits of ornament well into July).
One easy way to keep glass and other breakable decorations intact involves using a bit of poster putty to secure a decoration on the coffee table or other hard surface – this will help keep the breakable decoration in place if a dog or cat bumps into the decoration or the table that it’s situated on. If your cat is walking on tables, mantles and other places where holiday decorations are situated, get a cat alarm that’s triggered by motion. It’ll buzz every time the cat jumps onto the surface, sending him running. Cat training alarms work wonders during the holidays and the rest of the year too.
No matter how cautious you are as a pet owner, accidents do sometimes happen. So just be ready to swing into action if your pet is injured or sickened as the result of a holiday hazard. Keep the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline number (888-426-4435) on-hand and know where the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic is located – just in case.