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Holiday Tips for Pets: How to Keep Pets Away from Decor and Other Hazards

Two boston terriers in Christmas costumes in front of the Christmas tree.
Genevieve Morrison/ Getty Images

Whether it’s your dog chewing Christmas ornaments or your cat playing with tinsel, your favorite holiday decorations can be hazardous to your favorite furry friends. But with the proper safety measures, you can prevent unexpected vet bills. Here are our top holiday tips for pets, so you can keep your four-legged loved ones safe (and your season merry and bright).

How to keep your furry friends safe this season: 10-holiday tips for pet owners

Support your tree

You’ve probably seen plenty of cute pics of cats and dogs poking out from between the branches of a toppled tree. While that’s good for a giggle online, it’s definitely not a scenario to which you want to come home. When it comes to holiday tips for pets, we can’t stress enough how important it is to give your tree some extra support. Putting it in a weighted pot, elevating it on a pedestal, or simply adding weights to the base can help it stay upright. For extra safety, move your most fragile ornaments to the highest branches.

Avoid edible tree decorations like popcorn garlands or candy ornaments. While they might look cute, they can attract your pet to the tree. And don’t add anything to your tree water to preserve it because your pets could lap it up. A tree skirt can help deter a particularly curious pet from drinking the tree’s water.

Tuck away their presents

If you wrapped up a bone or catnip, don’t put it under the tree with the rest of the presents. Your pets can smell those tasty treats inside, and the temptation might become too much to bear. And once your pet has unwrapped one present, it’s harder to protect the rest. Instead, keep pets’ gifts in a secure, inaccessible location until it’s time for them to be opened.

Jessica Peterson/ Getty Images

Tie up cords

Stringing up holiday lights can be a lot of fun. Worrying about the electrical safety of those cords is decidedly less so, which is why this is one of the most important holiday tips for pets.

To keep your chew-happy pet from getting to light cords, you can mount the cords higher up the wall and out of your pets’ way. You can also cover them with a heavy-duty cover, or swap out your plug-in lights for battery-operated ones. It’s easy to tuck the battery packs away from pets by stuffing them into tree branches, stockings, or other protected areas.

Mind your holiday plants

A lot of the holiday classics are potentially harmful to pets, including poinsettias, holly, and mistletoe. Before you bring something living into your home for the holiday season, do a quick Google search to check if it’s safe for your pets. You might be surprised by the results – but you’ll be glad you learned the potential risks now, rather than via a trip to the vet. It’s easier to skip these toxic items altogether than to have to worry about ways to keep pets away from holiday decor all season long.

Go flameless

Candles are a holiday tradition – and hazard. An open flame is pretty risky if you’ve got pets roaming around, especially when you have guests over, overstimulating your furry friends and distracting you from their activity. Avoid this potential catastrophe by swapping out real candles for battery-operated ones. The newest options look shockingly like real flames and can even be scented. Changing out your candles gives you one less thing to worry about during the hectic holiday season.

Jessica Peterson/ Getty Images

Create a drop-off zone

While you’re cognizant of the hazards the holidays pose to your pets, your guests might not be. And during the holiday season, it’s not uncommon to have chocolate in a coat pocket or purse, or tempting tinsel topping a gift. When you’re hosting, designate a room where everyone can put their jackets, bags, and gifts. Add a sign to the door (you can decorate it with holiday flair!) that reminds everyone to keep the door shut. That way, you protect your pets from risks you can’t control.

Secure your trash

With all the holiday baking and cooking you’ve got ahead of you, your trash is probably going to fill up with some pretty tempting scraps. If you have a pet who loves to paw through the trash, this is a time of year worth taking extra precautions to avoid that. Bones are especially interesting to pets, but when chewed, they can break up and pose a serious threat during digestion. Move your trash to an inaccessible area, put something heavy on top of it, or invest in a trash can with a secure lid to protect your pets.

Forget the tinsel

This may be one of the most important holiday tips for pet owners. Tinsel may be pretty to look at, but it can be incredibly dangerous for your pets. Whether it’s a cat or a dog, your pet might be tempted to eat the tinsel, which can wreak havoc on their digestive system and land you at the vet with a serious, serious problem. Forget the tinsel completely as long as you have pets in the house to avoid any scary mishaps.

A crossbreed dog is looking into a bag with christmas presents
Brigitte Blättler/ Getty Images

Keep the booze out of reach

You know how much your dog loves to eat absolutely everything — alcohol is no different. Your dog might catch a whiff of your spiked eggnog or hot toddy and not be able to resist lapping up a taste, but alcohol won’t do him any favors. Keep your booze where your pets can’t get to it, so you don’t accidentally make them sick. Alcohol affects animals differently than it does people and could result in a trip to the vet with a sick pup.

Give them a safe haven

Holidays can be just as overwhelming for your pets as it is for you. There might be a lot happening in your house, between decorating, cooking, and hosting family. If you have a pet that stresses out easily — and acts out because of it — make sure they have a safe space to hideout.

Some animals might tear into holiday decor or gifts or food simply because of the stress of it all, so set up a cozy nest for your pet to hideaway. A happy pet is a well-behaved pet!

The bottom line

With a little prep work and a collection of holiday tips for pets, you and your fur family can have a happy season. Just make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your pets away from holiday decor and hazardous things — like sweets and booze — and giving them a safe place to steal away when the festivities get to be too much for them!

Frequently asked questions


How do I keep the pets away from my Christmas tree?


The best option for this is to not give your pets access to the tree at all. Set up a barrier, whether it’s a gate or something similar, or close a door to the room the tree is in so your pets can’t even get to it.


Is a Christmas Tree poisonous to cats?


Yes, Christmas trees can be mildly toxic to cats if they bite it. The oils in the tree can cause irritation inside your cat’s mouth, so don’t let them chew on any pine needles or tree trunks.


How do I keep my dog away from Christmas presents?


Set up a barricade so your dog can’t get to the presents. You can also not put presents under the tree until Christmas morning or keep them out of reach from your dog.

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