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Pet-Proof Holiday Decorating for Everyone

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The holiday season is a special time of year. We have all sorts of excuses to be extremely festive and eat our favorite foods until our hearts — and stomachs — are content. We get to see family and friends and share in the magic that comes with that time of year. 


For many of us, our pets are also a very important part of the holidays. But sometimes it can be tricky to keep them safe and happy for the entire duration. There are all sorts of new smells, decorations, and people in the house which can lead to a curious pet getting themselves into a bit of trouble. 

Fortunately, keeping your pet safe during the holidays is relatively easy with a bit of extra thought and some diligence. Keeping them out of the kitchen and away from tempting holiday foods, taking care with decorations, and not overwhelming them with too many new people can go a long way. There are plenty of other ways to keep your beloved pet involved during the holidays.  

Holiday Treats

When we think of the best parts of the holidays, the delicious foods and treats we don’t get very often always top the list. All those great smells filling the house are tempting for us, which means they can be especially tempting for our pets. However, keeping them out of holiday foods can be the difference between a great holiday meal and an emergency trip to the vet on Christmas Eve.

The vast majority of us know that chocolate and grapes are bad for our dogs, but there are a wide variety of other foods that should be avoided, such as: 

  • Bacon grease and other fatty meats
  • Chicken bones
  • Alcohol
  • Avocados
  • Onions
  • Cabbage
  • Any types of candy
  • Coffee
  • Nuts

And the list goes on. 

Some pet parents work with their pets all year to train them to stay out of the kitchen and/or off the counters, which is a great way to avoid any catastrophes. Other options include putting your pet outside, in the kennel, or in another room while food is out; giving them their own special treat while people are eating; or watching them for any signs they are going to make a grab for something. As a final failsafe, especially if your pets are particularly good at nabbing bites of human food, invest in pet insurance just in case you have to make the emergency vet visit, after all.



Holiday decorations can be a lot of fun and help everyone to really get into the holiday spirit, but they can provide numerous, dangerous temptations for your pets. Common decorations such as Christmas lights and other electronic holiday items, for example, can lead to a lot more electrical cord around the house and can be an alluring chew toy. Other things such as tinsel, ornaments, and small tabletop decorations are also interesting additions to the home that pets could get into trouble with. 

Even holiday DIY projects can pose some level of hazard to pets if not managed carefully. Popular projects such as staining wood in holiday colors or creating Christmas shutters, for instance, have risks such as exposure to toxic chemicals, paint, and sharp tools. The best way to avoid issues with these types of projects is to keep your pet out of the space as much as possible — which not only protects your pet, but also the decorations, themselves!

It may come as a surprise, but even things such as holiday plants can pose a substantial health risk to our pets. Popular plants such as holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, and lilies are toxic to pets and, if ingested, are likely to lead to stomach discomfort at best or an emergency vet visit at worst. If there is no way to keep a pet safely out of these decorations, it may be better to just avoid them altogether. 

Flurries of Activity

Other than indulgent meals, the best parts of the holidays always include seeing friends and family that don’t come around very often. Holiday parties and get-togethers are really what the season is all about, after all. Unfortunately, that isn’t always what is best for your pet. 

It may be necessary to have a discussion with guests about the boundaries and rules put in place for your pets. For instance, feeding Fido table scraps is not something you commonly allow — and it shouldn’t be allowed when guests are over, either. It could also be necessary to clearly communicate to parents the rules you have for children that may want to play with your fur-baby (i.e. — no pulling the cat’s tail, ever).

A lot of pets can start to feel stressed and overwhelmed during larger gatherings, which can lead to poor behavior. Be sure to create a “safe” space that your pet can go to in order to get away from all the action if they need to. Additionally, help your guests understand what your pet needs by teaching them ways to tell if your pet is stressed and wants to be left alone, or if it is wanting to continue to be part of the party environment. 

The holidays are a ton of fun, and having a pet should enhance the experience, not ruin it. Keeping your pet safe and happy during the holidays can make your life a lot easier, and the events that come along with the season more fun. Doing things such as taking steps to keep your pet out of holiday foods, protecting them from decorations, and preparing them for holiday guests can make a huge difference!

Jori Hamilton is a writer from the pacific northwest. You can follow her on twitter @Jori Hamilton and see more of her work at writerjorihamilton.contently.com.

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