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Holiday Decorating Tips For Pet Owners

December 15, 2023

Happy Holidays! Do you like to go all-out with decorations, or do you keep it simple? Whether you’re setting up elaborate TikTok-worthy light shows that attract visitors from far and wide, or simply adding a few pretty candles to your windowsill, don’t forget about your beloved pets. Fido and Fluffy can be super mischievous, especially during this festive season. A local Watertown, WI veterinarian offers some tips on this below. 

Making Your Tree Safe For Pets 

The tree itself is actually a concern. For one thing, many of the decorations are themselves unsafe. Anything small or sharp poses a risk to playful pets. That includes many ornaments and ornament hooks, manger pieces, small figurines … the list goes on. 

If you get a real tree, the tree could actually be toxic. Many trees that are grown commercially are treated with things like fire retardants, pesticides, and fungicides, which are all poisonous to pets. The water could also be contaminated, as these chemicals could leach into it. The tree store may have given you a packet of ‘food’ for your tree, but that may contain chemicals that aren’t safe for your pet. If you have a real tree, cover the water bowl. 

You should also pick up fallen needles and tinsel, as these are choking hazards for kids and pets. They can also cause serious internal injuries if swallowed. Ask your Watertown, WI veterinary clinic for more information.

How Do I Keep The Cat From Destroying My Tree?

There’s no completely foolproof way to keep Fluffy out of your tree. Kitties certainly have a knack for getting into mischief. In fact, if you tell your feline pal to leave the tree alone, she’ll probably make a beeline for it. However, there are ways to make it seem less inviting to your playful pet.

First and foremost, decorate carefully. Only hang a few things within paws’ reach. The ornaments should be dull and unbreakable, like that fabric snowman your niece made you. Anything sharp, shiny, or fragile should go on the top part of the tree, as should the bulk of the lights and tinsel.

You may want to consider blocking off your feline friend’s access to the tree altogether. This can be accomplished with a puppy gate (which you can also add some festive touches to) or strategically placing presents in Fluffy’s way. 

Choosing the right spot will also help. A corner is a good choice. Don’t put the tree near sofas, desks, chairs, or anything else your kitty might use as a launch pad. A scent deterrent can also be useful here. Citrus is often recommended, as many kitties hate its smell. Just keep in mind that you may have to reapply it regularly.

You can also consider switching to an artificial tree. Your cat won’t have much luck climbing wire trunks and branches, and you won’t have to worry about her drinking the water.

Choose Pet-Friendly Holiday Plants

Seasonal plants, such as holly, ivy, and mistletoe, feature prominently in many types of holiday decorations.  Unfortunately, many of those pretty seasonal plants are toxic to pets.

  • Winter bouquets often feature peace lilies. Unfortunately, they are deadly to cats. In fact, any plant in the true lily family, which includes Day, Tiger, Easter, Asiatic, and Japanese Show lilies, is toxic to kitties. In fact, the entire plant is poisonous: even just nibbling on a leaf or consuming some of the water can lead to organ failure in cats. 
  • The amaryllis, also found in many winter displays, can also cause intestinal blockages, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, depression, abdominal pain, drooling, tremors, and anorexia. 
  • Yew plants should be kept away from cats and dogs, as they are highly toxic and can cause tremors, difficulty breathing, vomiting, seizures, and even death.
  • Holly and mistletoe plants can both cause vomiting, diarrhea, and depression. 
  • Last but not least, we have poinsettias, which can cause stomach upset, vomiting, drooling, and oral irritation.

If you use real plants, keep them in high spots where your pet can’t get to them. Fake plants are a safer option, but they also can be dangerous. Some are treated with glitter or paint, which aren’t safe either. Others have small pieces, whether it’s a plastic ‘berry’ or a cute little elf figurine, which are choking hazards. Ask your Watertown, WI  for more information.

Keep Candles Away From Pets

Pets and fire are never a safe combination. That vanilla-scented candle may smell amazing, but it is definitely not safe for cats. Always put candles in high places, out of the reach of your pet’s cute paws. The same applies to wax burners and potpourri burners. 

Settling down with a cozy crackling fire? Put a sturdy grate in front of fire pits or fireplaces for pet safety.

Keep Ribbons And Ropes Away From Playful Pets

Ribbons and strings pose a huge safety risk to pets. For one thing, they can choke and entangle your pet. That alone is a reason to be cautious, but it isn’t the only reason. If ingested, ribbon and strings can result in serious internal injuries as they pass through your pet’s gastrointestinal system. These injuries can become life-threatening, often requiring surgery.

Tinsel, light strands, ribbons, strings, garlands, and popcorn strands are some of the items to watch out for here. Handmade or cloth items can also be dangerous if they unravel. 

Guests: Take Simple Steps To Keep The Peace

Are you having guests over in the next few weeks? Guests should never pose a threat: the main concern is that there could be a mishap. This could be anything from someone accidentally letting Fido out, or stepping on Fluffy’s tail. Ask guests to keep their rooms closed. This can prevent common mishaps, such as Fido chewing on their shoes or Fluffy leaving a hairball in a suitcase.

If your guests are allergic to pets, set out tissues and over-the-counter medications for them. It’s also a good idea to vacuum and dust thoroughly, and change your air filters.

Holiday Pet Care Hack: Keep Them Occupied

It’s also important to distract your Fido and Fluffy by giving them something fun to occupy themselves with. Toys and treats are both ‘pawesome’ gift options for our furry pals. Spending time playing with your cute pet will also help. Hopefully, after a fun play session, your little buddy will be tired enough to be more interested in napping than wreaking havoc.

Consider Your Pet’s Personality

You may also want to adjust your decorating plans to suit your pet and their personality. For instance, if your dog is very anxious, putting a huge singing Santa in the yard may not be a good idea. As for Fluffy, well, if your kitty is a champion at smacking things off tables, then putting a set of fragile elf figurines on your coffee table will probably just result in you finding broken elves all over the floor. 

Conclusion: Pets can love the holidays just as much as we do. Just keep in mind that many decorations can be dangerous. Take some simple precautions to make sure that your home is not just cozy and inviting, but also safe during the holidays. 

Season’s Greetings From all of us at Animal Health Center Watertown! Please feel free to contact us, your local Watertown, WI pet hospital, for your pet’s veterinary care needs.