Tips For Pet-Proofing Your Home During The Holidays

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

Your pets are part of the family, so you want them to celebrate the holidays with you. However, curious kitties and canines get into some tricky situations, especially during the hustle and bustle of the season. Pet-proofing your home for the holidays ensures your pets stay happy and safe.

Tell guests you have pets and monitor your home’s entry points. Keep ornaments, tinsel, and other decorations out of your pet’s reach, and pick up food immediately. Have phone numbers for the nearest animal emergency clinic and the poison control center accessible. Avoid holiday plants that are toxic for pets, and unplug lights and decorations when you’re not at home.

A few careful preparations and staying alert go a long way to keep pets safe during the holidays. Keep reading to learn about the common dangers pets face during the holidays and how to protect your fur babies throughout the season.

What Are Common Holiday Hazards For Pets?

Sometimes, you might be so used to the different things you put in your home for the holidays, that you don’t think twice about them. But seemingly simple objects, like ornaments, Christmas cookies, and holiday lights turn into major hazards for pets if you’re not careful.

Here are some common holiday items and activities that can pose risks to your pets.

  • Baked goodies, chocolate, and candies
  • Yeast dough
  • Table scraps, chicken bones, etc.
  • Ornaments
  • Electric Lights
  • Pine tree needles
  • Poinsettias and other holiday flowers and plants
  • Christmas trees
  • Tinsel
  • Candles
  • Potpourri
  • Busy holiday parties
  • Overflowing trash bins
  • Presents
  • Well-intentioned guests who don’t know about pets

How Do I Keep My Pet Safe During The Holidays?

Use these tips to make the holidays safe for your pets and stress-free for you. When you create a safe place for your furry family members, you won’t spend your holiday worrying about them. Instead, you can enjoy the time, whether relaxing by the fire, indulging in holiday treats, or mingling with guests.

1. Keep Emergency Numbers On Hand

Put the phone numbers for your vet and the nearest 24-hour emergency vet clinic in an easily accessible place. Other numbers to include are the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) and the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline (888-426-4435).

Know the fastest way to reach the clinic if you need to bring your pet there quickly. Also, make a note of your vet’s regular and holiday hours. Make sure everyone in the household knows where to find these numbers.

2. Let Guests Know You Have Pets

Whether you’re hosting guests from out of town or having a holiday party, let everyone who’s coming to your house know you have pets. Not only is this a courtesy to them, in case they have allergies or other considerations, but it’s also safer for your pets. Your guests will be more cautious when entering and exiting the home, so your pets don’t get outside, etc.

3. Create A Safe Zone For Your Pet

Set up a comfortable, private place for your pet to escape to when things get a little too busy for them. It might be a room that you close off to guests or a section of a space you block off with a pet safety gate or similar barricade. Place items your pet needs in the area, such as your pet’s bed, a kennel, food and water dishes, a litter box, a few toys, etc.

Put a T-shirt or something similar with your scent on it in the space to make your pet feel more secure. This safe zone gives your dog or cat a place to take a break when needed. Plus, you have a space ready to go if there’s a guest with allergies, children, or another situation that warrants separating your pet from the guests.

4. Pick Up Food Immediately Or Keep It Covered

If you have pets, you probably already have a pet-proof kitchen. But, when it’s time for the holidays, you need to think about a few extra things.

Many baked goods, candy, chocolate, and other popular holiday treats are toxic and unsafe for pets. It’s typical to leave food out at a party so guests can nibble and munch. However, a table full of food creates a very tempting situation for your dog or cat.

It’s best to keep food covered, so pets don’t eat something they shouldn’t. Print up cute signs reminding guests to keep the food covered, and place them by the food table. If you’re serving a meal, pick up all the remaining food as soon as the meal is over. Scan the ground to ensure no crumbs or scraps are left behind.

It’s safest to ensure your pets don’t eat any table food at all, and make sure our guests know not to feed your pets. (The same goes for beverages.) If you want, have a small container of your pet’s favorite treats handy for guests who want to feed your fur baby a little something.

5. Keep Trash In A Secure Container

Always keep trash cans covered. Make sure the lid fits on tightly or keep the trash can in a closed cabinet or pull-out. If you plan to have extra garbage cans to accommodate the excess trash, keep them covered as well.

Trash cans with attached lids (that you need to lift using a foot pedal) are a good option. If your pet is particularly nosy and crafty and can open a trash lid, put the bin in a cabinet or bungee it shut. Empty trash cans as they get full, and don’t leave trash cans full overnight.

6. Keep Tempting Ornaments And Gifts Out Of Your Pet’s Reach

Your pet may not pay any attention to basic ornaments or presents. But if these things possess an interesting scent, they become pet magnets. If you don’t know what’s in a gift, or you know it’s something edible or tantalizing, keep it out of your pet’s reach.

For super sneaky pets, keep gifts in an entirely different room that your pet doesn’t have access to. (Otherwise, you risk coming home to a pile of opened gifts and a potentially sick or injured fur baby.) Also, don’t forget about stockings -- hang them out of reach if you plan to fill them with goodies.

Tinsel is another example of an intriguing decoration for pets. But this sparkly trim can cause intestinal blockages and problems if ingested. Skip the tinsel and other tempting decorations if you have pets.

7. Be Aware Of Holiday Plants That Are Toxic To Pets

Plants and flowers add a festive flair to a space, and many classics, like poinsettias, are common seasonal gifts. However, poinsettias and many other plants are toxic to pets.

It’s best to politely decline these types of gifts or pass them along to someone else. Also, avoid purchasing them for your home. Instead, research pet-safe holiday greenery to use in your home.

8. Unplug Decorations and Lights When You’re Not At Home

Don’t leave holiday lights and decorations plugged in when you’re not at home. If your pet chews through the cord, it can cause an electric shock or a fire.

9. Consider Using An Artificial Christmas Tree

Pine needles are unsafe for pets. Some forms are toxic, but regardless, if your pet eats them, the needles can tear up the lining of their stomach. Your pet could end up with severe gastrointestinal issues.

Also, when you have a real tree, you need to put it in water. Many pets might end up thinking this water is an extra drinking bowl. Therefore, don’t use additives in the water in case your pet takes a sip.

If you have overly curious pets, you might want to consider using an artificial tree instead. Regardless of whether your tree is real or fake, make sure it is secured. A tree that tips over can severely injure a pet (or a person).

10. Make Sure Your Pet Has Updated ID Tags And A Microchip

If your pet doesn’t already have them, make sure to put updated ID tags on their collar and get them micro-chipped. Check the chip number to ensure your registration information is up-to-date.

11. Monitor Exit Points When You Have Holiday Guests

Alerting your guests to the presence of your pets is the first step. But it’s also wise to monitor your home's exit points to ensure your pet doesn’t make a dash for the door.

12. Be Careful With Candles And Potpourri

Never leave candles burning when you’re not at home or overnight. If you’re having a party, consider using LED candles instead to set the mood without posing any risk.

It’s also important to keep things like potpourri, oil diffusers, and similar items out of your pet’s reach. These things smell good and might trick pets into thinking they’re edible. If your pet decides to turn them into a snack, it could lead to big problems.

Keep Your Pets Safe For A Holly Jolly Holiday

These tips and ideas are a great place to start to keep your pets safe throughout the holidays. Sometimes, the safest thing to do is to let your pet stay in a cozy, comfortable space away from guests. But if you plan to let your dog or cat join the festivities, stay vigilant.

Use common sense, and make sure guests know you have pets. With careful preparation and by staying aware you can ensure you and your pets have a holly, jolly holiday.

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Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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