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Humane Society of Greater Rochester

‘Tis the season for festive decorations, wrapping of gifts, and treats galore! For families with pets, celebrating the holidays can mean finding ways to enjoy the décor and festivities while ensuring the safety and comfort of animals in the home. Here are our top tips for celebrating the holidays safely with your furry family members!

Christmas Tree Décor

Christmas trees are a beloved holiday decoration, and can be decorated in a way that’s safe for pets!

For those celebrating Christmas – particularly those with pets – putting up a tree in the home can present a number of challenges. From curious cats who like to climb, to sneaky dogs that may try to steal ornaments, families should consider their pet’s safety when it comes to decorating the tree. One particular type of tree decoration to avoid this holiday season is tinsel. This thin, shiny metallic string can be very intriguing to cats, but very dangerous if consumed. Tinsel can ball up inside of an animal’s intestines and cause dangerous, even deadly, blockages.

Water in the base of a Christmas tree can also pose a potential threat to dogs who may be tempted to take a drink. Chemicals are sometimes added to this water to keep a tree fresher longer, and this water can sometimes develop bacteria that is harmful if consumed. Make sure to keep your pets away!

Poinsettias, Holly, and Other Seasonal Plants

Some favorite holiday plants are actually dangerous if consumed by pets.

While poinsettias make for beautiful holiday décor, this red flower with bold green leaves is toxic if consumed by cats and dogs, and causes irritation to the mouth and induces vomiting. Holly, which is often used in garlands or wreathes, can also cause vomiting or diarrhea in cats and dogs. Because of the waxy appearance of this particular plant, it can be easily replaced with fake holly in decorative arrangements!

Mistletoe is another holiday favorite that is actually particularly dangerous if consumed by pets. Mistletoe, with its small rounded leaves and white berries, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, slowed heart rate, decrease in blood pressure, and even difficulty breathing. The faux version of this plant is also a great option to hang over your doorway for a holiday gathering – keep the cute tradition, and protect your pets!

Curious if a plant is safe to bring into a home with pets? Check out the ASPCA’s Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant Database. This can also be accessed on your mobile phone, so if you are out shopping for plants and want to check on a plant’s toxicity before even putting it into your shopping cart, you can!

Cords, Lights, and Candles

Be mindful of cords and string lights that pets may be tempted to chew.

With more décor around the house than usual, pets may be tempted to play with, tug, or even chew on strand lights and loose cords. To avoid electrocution or fire, tuck away any cords connected to holiday décor and avoid low-hanging strands of lights towards the bottom of the Christmas tree. Some faux Christmas trees come with built-in lights, which solves the issue of having to string lights around the tree and risk chewing!

Pet owners should also be mindful of candles left unattended. Whether on a table, in a Menorah, or in a holiday display, wagging tails or curious paws could come into contact with direct flame or knock over candles causing burns or fire. Also, never leave your home while candles are still illuminated. Pet owners might consider using fake candles, which often look quite realistic and eliminate risk of fire!

Sweets, Treats, and Holiday Eats

Make sure that holiday sweet stay out of reach!

Cookies, cakes, candies, champagne, and more—all of our favorite holiday treats, and all potentially harmful if consumed by our pets. When baking sweets, be sure to keep both the ingredients and final products out of reach of pets. Sugar, chocolate, and anything sweetened with xylitol can be toxic to our pets. Consider preparing a Kong or frozen treat for your pet to enjoy while you bake—keeping them busy and distracting them from what you’re working on.

Similarly, alcoholic beverages shouldn’t be left unattended during get-togethers or holiday celebrations, as alcohol consumption can be harmful to pets and cause vomiting, discomfort, and even seizures.

Wrapping Gifts

When wrapping gifts, make sure to put away any leftover strings or ribbons.

What’s more fun than wrapping presents and putting them under the tree? Some pets may think wrapped gifts are fun too, especially if they are tied with bows or ribbons. Cats may be attracted to strings attached to gifts and attempt to chew them, which could lead to internal blockages and expensive veterinary bills. Be mindful of leaving wrapped gifts under the tree with accessories that may be attractive to your pets.

Additionally, when wrapping gifts, make sure to clean up any string or ribbon scraps from your wrapping station so that inquisitive pets don’t find them!

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Cold weather can pose dangers for our furry friends.

With snow falling and temperatures dropping, going outside with our pets becomes more of a challenge. Pet owners should be on the lookout for things like chapped paws, snowballs stuck in fur, and residue from road ice left on feet, legs, and bellies. Here’s where you can learn more about cold weather pet safety.

As always, if you ever see a pet without adequate shelter or you feel is in danger from being left outside, give our Humane Law Enforcement Department a call at 585-223-6500 to report suspected animal cruelty.

Have a happy and safe holiday, pets and people!