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Decorating for Christmas

Sadie_Girl [Flickr]

While we humans enjoy the holiday festivities, Christmas can be a dangerous time for our pets.  All the bright colors and twinkling lights are fun for us, but they also capture the attention of our four-footed family members.  It has been said that one-third of pet owners will experience an emergency during the Christmas season.  Take precautions now to keep your best friend safe during this festive time.


Some of the most dangerous times for our pets are the holidays we humans like to celebrate, and one of the biggest is Christmas. Many of us begin decorating the weekend after Thanksgiving. What for us is a fun, even magical time can be hazardous for our furry friends - but there are ways to help keep your best friend safe.

Begin with the tree. I saw a great suggestion to put up the treea few days before you start decorating it. That gives your pet a chance to check it out. Consider using a fake tree - a real one will need water and preservatives in the base that could be poisonous to an animal that decides to drink it. If you have a real tree, cover the base with foil or plastic wrap, and a tree skirt. Speaking of the base, make sure it’s solid, so the tree cannot be tipped over. We have actually used a cord tied to the center post of the tree and attached it to the wall to keep the tree upright.

Lights and electrical cords are another hazard, especially if a pet decides to play with them; or worse, to chew on them, which could electrocute your furry buddy. String lights near the center of the tree, and run wires under the carpet - or leave them off altogether.

Two decorations to skip entirely if you have a pet – artificial snow (or flocking) and tinsel. Both can cause serious problems in an animal’s digestive tract; in fact, tinsel (if swallowed) could cause an intestinal blockage requiring surgery.

If you have fragile or breakable ornaments, hang them near the top of the tree and put more durable ones near the bottom. And don’t use edible ornaments – they may be too enticing for your furry friend to resist.

Other holiday hazards for pets include candles, which could be a fire hazard (use the flameless ones), and greenery like mistletoe, holly and lilies, all of which could poison a cat or dog.

Taking care when decorating for Christmas can help you celebrate this special holiday and still keep it safe for all members of the family, especially when you’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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