The holiday season is usually a great time for pets and their owners—friendly faces everywhere, lots of time spent relaxing at home together, and several cozy nights under a blanket admiring the decorations. No matter how you like to celebrate, the holidays can be the ideal time to bond with your animal and enjoy the season together.
We all want to ensure the holiday season is a safe and happy one, both for us and for our pets. That’s why it’s essential that you’re informed of some of the potential hazards that come with the season, and take the necessary proactive steps to prevent them from becoming issues, or worse, emergencies.
It never hurts to be proactive when it comes to this time of year. Let’s go over the best steps to take for each animal’s safety and care this holiday season.
Proactive Holiday Care Tips for Cats
Cats are known to be independent, curious, and even sometimes on the feisty side. This is all part of their charm, but they’re also traits to keep in mind when creating a safe holiday environment at home. There are five ways we suggest to prevent holiday emergencies for your feline friend:
1. Choose safe decorations—and place them wisely
As curious animals, cats are at a high risk of becoming enticed by certain holiday decorations. If you’re decorating your home this year and have a cat, it’s a good idea to take some extra precautions to keep them safe.
Christmas lights, glass decorations, power cords, and candles should be well out of your cat’s reach to prevent them from getting a cut or an electric shock. You should also avoid stringy or fragile decorations altogether, as some cats love to play with them, to the point where it potentially leads to injury.
2. Make sure your tree is secure
Cats love to climb, but this instinct can sometimes land them in trouble! If you’re setting up a Christmas tree in your home this year, you’ll need to consider the fact that your cat might try to climb it. Ensure the base is very secure, and avoid putting any decorations on the lower branches to prevent your cat from pulling the whole thing down.
3. Avoid poinsettia (and other more hazardous festive plants)
The holidays tend to be accompanied by a few varieties of festive flora. But did you know that some of these can be hazardous to your cat? The festive plants that are most important to avoid bringing into your home are:
It’s best to keep these plants out of your house altogether if you have a cat at home. But if that’s not possible, ensure they’re kept in a room your cat won’t have access to.
4. Keep human food well out of reach
What would the holidays be without great food with family? While everyone looks forward to the season’s meals, you’ll need to stay vigilant so your cat doesn’t get into anything they shouldn’t. Certain foods can be a particular risk, including:
- Cooked bird bones (turkey, chicken, etc.)
- Raisins and grapes
- Spilled alcohol
To keep your cat safe at holiday dinners, make sure to keep an eye on your cat and the food, don’t leave leftovers out for too long, and clean up any spills as soon as you notice them. This will help prevent digestive issues or more serious symptoms in your cat.
5. Consider your cat’s stress levels when hosting holiday get-togethers
Cats are usually happy to go off and do their own thing when they want to be alone. But some cats may become stressed or anxious if too many unfamiliar people are in their home at once. If you’re hosting any kind of get-together this year, ensure you keep an eye on your cat throughout the night. You can even provide your cat with a quiet room in the home for them to relax and unwind throughout the evening.
For even more tips we suggest reviewing our previous blog post How to Keep Your Cat Happy and Safe During Christmas.
Proactive Holiday Care Tips for Dogs
Dogs have a tendency to stick their nose wherever they like, which could spell a holiday-ruining emergency for your pup. Though many of the tips for cats also apply to dogs, there are a few other factors to consider for these animals. And while your dog probably won’t try to climb your tree, they may try to get into some other trouble. These five tips should help you keep them safe this year:
1. Keep a close eye on human food
Dogs are known to be a bit more audacious than cats when it comes to helping themselves to human food. But the list of hazardous foods is virtually identical for dogs as it is for cats! That’s why you should take care to ensure your dog can’t consume any chocolate, alcohol, raisins/grapes, onion, garlic, cooked animal bones, or xylitol (an artificial sweetener found in some gum and candy).
2. Seasonal plants
As with cats, dogs can be at risk from stomach pain, vomiting, or more serious symptoms if they eat any part of a festive plant. As with cats, you’ll want to avoid poinsettia, holly, and mistletoe wherever possible.
Whether you use a real pine Christmas tree or an artificial one, be sure to vacuum frequently and keep your dog away, as the needles that fall off can cause an upset stomach if your dog consumes them. Likewise, the water in the bowl used to keep real trees fresh and green can also be a hazard, so use a tree skirt or a cover to keep your dog from getting curious.
3. Gift wrap and other debris
Be sure to clean up promptly after the gifts have been opened! Some curious pups might become intrigued by scraps of tissue paper, wrapping paper, or crepe paper, eating them and creating a blockage or other issue in their digestive tract.
4. Keep Christmas lights and glass decorations out of reach
As with cats, some dogs just can’t help themselves around bright lights and shiny decorations. If your dog is the type to chew on anything unusual, it’s vital that you keep these fragile, hazardous decorations well out of your dog’s reach.
5. Keep your dog’s stress levels low while hosting
Dogs are often more prone to stress when lots of new people are around. In most cases, this will lead to your dog feeling agitated and uncomfortable, but in extreme scenarios, it could even make them feel threatened, causing them to run away or bite someone.
As with cats, it’s a good idea to set up a calm, quiet space for your dog if you choose to host. Include their favourite toys, blankets, and plenty of food and water so they can comfortably spend the evening there.
If you’re looking for more tips on dog care during the holidays, you can check out our previous blog post 5 Ways to Prevent Holidays Dangers for Dogs.
Proactive Holiday Care Tips for Rabbits
Because rabbits are typically confined to a smaller area, they tend to have a lower chance of having a health or safety emergency during the holidays. However, there are some steps you can take to proactively keep them safe this winter, including these four ideas:
1. Keep hazardous plants far away from your rabbit’s pen
As with cats and dogs, it’s very important to keep holiday plants well away from your rabbit, particularly since rabbits are herbivorous creatures who are more likely to take a bite of a plant.
Holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, and lilies are all potential hazards to your rabbit’s health. But unlike cats and dogs, you’ll also need to make sure your rabbit can’t get at any laurel or Christmas Rose. In general, make sure all festive plants are kept at a safe distance from your rabbit’s pen.
2. Make sure your rabbit doesn’t get into any food not meant for them
Though rabbits are less likely to help themselves to whatever they find on the counter, there’s always a chance they stumble upon something they’d like to take a bite of.
Be certain that your rabbit can’t eat any human food—whether on the floor or off someone’s plate—particularly if it’s high in sugar or carbohydrates. Plus, you’ll need to keep other foods with known hazards to rabbits, like chocolate, well away from your pet. You can try to discourage your rabbit from eating human foods by offering them hay instead.
3. Set your rabbit up in a calm part of the house if you plan to host
Of all three animal types mentioned here, rabbits tend to experience the most stress and mental impact from unfamiliar situations. If you’re planning to host a dinner, party, or another get-together this year, you’ll need to take steps to keep your rabbit feeling safe and happy for the duration.
Ensure your rabbit has a quiet, calm area with plenty of shaded spots to hide in. They should have a bit of room to move around, as well as access to food, water, and their litter box. Check in on them often throughout the night to make sure they’re holding up to ensure a happy holiday for all.
4. Decorate responsibly
Rabbits are known to chew, and they won’t make an exception for holiday decorations. Be sure that glass light bulbs, delicate ornaments, and especially electrical cords are all inaccessible to your rabbit to ensure their safety for the season.
And for even more care tips when it comes to keeping your rabbit (or dog, or cat) away from the festive ornaments, feel free to read our previous article Creative Ideas to Keep Pets Out of Christmas Decorations.
Everyone wants to enjoy a safe, happy holiday season with their people and their pets. And fortunately, ensuring this is as easy as a few proactive steps! By planning out your holidays around the well-being of your pet, you’ll reduce their stress, lessen the risk of an emergency, and enjoy a fun-filled season of festivities.
From all of us at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season!
Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.