Pet Friendly Decorating: 13 Tips for a Safe HolidayNovember 24, 2021
The holidays are just around the corner, which means it’s time to get decorating! But for those of us with one or more canine companions, cats, or other furry friends who keep us company, it’s important that we think carefully about the kinds of decorations we put up and where we place those decorations.
After all, many of the most popular holiday decorations, like mistletoe, can be toxic or dangerous to our canines. But just because a couple of specific holiday decorations are off the table doesn’t mean that we can’t decorate at all!
Today, let’s break down 13 key tips you should follow to ensure a safe holiday for both you and your pets.
1. No Poisonous Plants
Putting up Christmas-themed or holiday plants is a big part of holiday decorating for many folks, and for good reason! Many of these plants are iconic and we love to place them in our windows, hang them over archways, and more.
Unfortunately, many of the most common holiday plants are poisonous to dogs, cats, and other pets. We’d specifically recommend you stay away from the following plants due to their known poisonous effects:
- Natural pine needles
- English ivy
- Rosemary topiary
Each of these plants contains at least one toxin that can be very dangerous to canines and felines. If they were to accidentally ingest one of these plants, they might experience symptoms like vomiting, drooling, gastrointestinal issues, and loss of coordination. In the worst-case scenario, you might need to rush your dog to the vet!
Pine needles, which can be found on natural Christmas trees, can also be toxic to pets. Because of this, we recommend getting a plastic or fake Christmas tree if possible. Artificial pine needles can still be eaten or chewed on by pets, but they aren't as toxic and pets will usually pass them through their systems without much of an issue.
What Plant Alternatives Are There?
Plastic or fake Christmas plants, both those you place your windows or place elsewhere throughout the home, can be used in favor of their natural versions. Not only are these safer for your pets, but they require less maintenance and you never have to water them!
That said, you can also go with dog-safe Christmas plants that are known not to be poisonous. These include:
- Christmas cactus, also called schlumbergera. Christmas cactus has a similar leaf shape to mistletoe and similar colors, but it doesn’t cause harm to your pets if they eat it.
- Red roses rather than poinsettias. Red roses are much safer for your pets.
- White orchids instead of lilies, which are also known as moth orchids or moon orchids.
- Achira rather than Amaryllis. The Achira plant is also called arrowroot and is similar to Amaryllis with bright red blooms, but it’s safe for dogs and cats alike.
- Autumn olive instead of Holly. Autumn olive is usually very safe for pets and won’t cause any intestinal issues should your dog take a bite to see what it tastes like.
As you can see, there are lots of alternatives to traditional Christmas foliage you can use to decorate the interior and exterior of your home.
2. Cancel the Ribbons, Yarn, and Tinsel
Many Christmas decorators like to go for tons of ribbons, yarn, and tinsel. But this isn’t a great idea if you have one or more dogs, who may get curious and decide to pull down the decorations. They may also decide to try to eat ribbons or similar decorations if they become bored.
This is doubly true with tinsel, which is shiny and visually interesting to dogs and cats. If you must put up ribbons or tinsel, try to do so high enough up that there’s no chance your dog can get to the decoration. Be sure to use secure fixtures so the tinsel or ribbon doesn’t fall when you are away, allowing your dog to get into the decorations when you aren’t watching.
3. Place Candles Carefully
Setting up beautiful candles throughout the home is a holiday tradition for many, and it’s even the center of many religious traditions. But if you have dogs, you’ll need to be very careful about where you set up your candles.
Specifically, you should set up your candles so that they aren’t low enough that your dog can get into them. Place them on tables or stands that are high enough up that your dog won’t be able to push them over, especially if they are still young and haven’t seen candles before.
Similarly, make sure that the candles aren’t placed on tablecloths that your dog can reach and yank down. Not only do candles pose a health risk for your pup, but they also pose a fire hazard if your dog knocks one of them over by accident.
You should also be careful with scented candles. Scented candles can change the ambiance or atmosphere of your home, but they can also give your dog allergies or make the candles more attractive for your pet to get into. Choose your candle fragrances carefully to avoid giving yourself a major headache!
4. Choose a Stable Tree or Attach It to the Ceiling
What would holiday decorating be without a tree in the living or family room? While setting up a tree is a cornerstone of holiday celebrations for many, you'll need to pick your tree—and decide where you place it!—carefully to avoid any pet-related mishaps.
You can certainly place your tree in the living room where it normally goes. But we recommend choosing a tree with a very stable base or attaching it to the ceiling using rope or wire. Why?
If you attach or stabilize your tree in this way, your dog won’t be able to knock it over, either because they are curious or because they are playing roughly in the living room. This can also protect cats from knocking over the tree if you have a feline friend.
In any case, stabilizing your tree stops it from falling over, either onto your pets or onto other furniture. Depending on where you set your tree up, you might be able to hide the rope or wire stabilizing the tree behind the main or “front” side of your setup.
5. Cover Tree Stands
Speaking of trees, if you get a natural tree and fill its base with sugar water, you'll need to protect that water from your dog. Sugar-based tree preservatives are often yummy to pets, and the water stands for quite a long time. Unfortunately, this may lead bacteria to grow inside the base.
You should also avoid using fertilizers, flame retardants, or insecticides in the water or on the tree itself, as they can contaminate the water if your pet decides to take a curious sip.
To protect your pets and your tree, cover the stand with a heavy tree skirt and weigh it down with presents or other objects to stop your dog from getting into the water. Watch them for a while after setting up your tree to see what they do and adjust your protections accordingly.
As mentioned, it’s often better to get a plastic or fake tree instead of a natural tree if you have at least one dog in the home.
6. Set Up Your Ornaments With Safety in Mind
Ornament decorations are another big part of holiday setups, and you can certainly set up as many ornaments as you like when prepping for the holiday season. That said, you’ll want to set up your ornaments safely by placing them high on the walls or on your Christmas tree.
Any ornaments that are within reach of your dog’s mouth are potential hazards that they may decide to chew on. Because of this, we also recommend avoiding glassy or fragile ornaments, especially if they will be somewhat within reach for your dog.
By the same token, you might want to go with ornaments aside from the standard colored balls or globes. To your dog, those globes look just like the balls they love to play with at the park, and they may try to grab onto the globes and treat the Christmas tree like an obstacle course.
If you are purchasing new ornaments, go with durable and plastic ones that won’t break if your pet knocks them off the tree or wall. Then you can simply replace them and put them higher for next time. If you do have fragile ornaments in your collection already, try to set them up in places where there’s no chance your pet will be able to reach them, even when you are away from home.
7. Hang Stockings High
Lots of families like to hang up their stockings on Christmas Eve or throughout the holiday season. You can do this if you have a fireplace or any other appropriate area, be sure to hang them high on the wall regardless.
Stockings are often filled with chocolate and other holiday-themed goodies, and you don't want your dog to pull down the stocking and get into the presents you intended for your friends and family members.
8. Use Short Tablecloths
If you plan to further decorate your home using tablecloths on the dining room and kitchen tables, be sure to use tablecloths with short skirts. The longer the tablecloths, the more tempting they will be for your dog to drag away from the table to use as a new tug toy.
Disaster can easily occur if your dog pulls on a tablecloth that has already been set up with priceless dishes or china. The last thing you want on Christmas Eve dinner is to hear a loud crash from the dining room and find your dog at the center of a massive pile of broken dishes!
9. No Artificial Snow
If you like to decorate the outside of your home as well, you might be tempted to use artificial snow. However, artificial snow is mildly toxic, especially to smaller creatures like dogs and cats. Because of this, we recommend against artificial snow anywhere in your home or around your property.
Your dog could become curious about the artificial snow and consume large amounts of the product quickly. If this occurs, they might accidentally block their gastrointestinal system, requiring a trip to the vet.
10. Tuck Away Electrical Cords
Odds are you're planning on setting up at least some holiday lights around your tree or around your property. There's no better way to get into the holiday spirit!
But you need to make sure that you tuck away your electrical cords so that your dog or cat can’t chew on them, especially near the outlets or plugs. Your dog could accidentally give himself a shock if he chews on the electrical outlets or plugs you use to keep your lights shining throughout the holiday season.
You should also take care when hooking up electrical cords to your tree or any other major decorations. Try to tuck the cords away and tape them to the walls or keep them out of sight so your dog doesn’t discover them in the first place. This is important for their safety and the safety of your house; a single spark could cause an electrical fire or another hazard.
11. Avoid Food Decorations
Food-based decorations, like popcorn strings, gingerbread houses, and candy canes are very enticing to your pets (just like they are to us, too!). Unfortunately, it’s a better idea to avoid food decorations entirely, even if you think you can place the food decorations high enough up the wall to be out of reach for your pup.
When it comes to stealing a secret snack, most dogs simply won’t give up! You might leave the home and come back to find that your dog somehow managed to swipe a candy cane or gingerbread cookie off the counter even if there’s no apparent way that they were able to do so!
Furthermore, cranberry garlands or popcorn strings can look very appealing, but they are attached to strings that can cause obstructions or other health issues in your dog if they are accidentally eaten. It’s better to be safe than sorry; go with other decorations instead of food-based ones for the safest holiday season.
12. Present Presentation
Setting up presents beneath the tree or elsewhere in the home is super fun and a major part of the holiday season. But you’ll have to decide whether setting up presents beneath the tree specifically is a good idea depending on the personality of your pup.
Some dogs just can’t resist getting into the presents and might shred the gifts you and your family have painstakingly wrapped as soon as you leave the room. Others might be able to tolerate the shiny wrapping more maturely—at least until you show them their new treat present!
If your dog is more of a chewer and shredder, place your presents somewhere else, like in a closet or on top of the table they can’t reach. This protects the gifts and protects your dog from eating too much wrapping paper: never a good thing given their sensitive digestive systems!
13. No Pets for Presents!
Lastly, don’t get a dog as a present for anyone in your family.
While YouTube videos and other celebrations of this “gift” may seem to be fun and thoughtful, they can actually be a little scary or traumatic for the critter wrapped inside. On top of that, there’s always the chance of wrapping the present incorrectly or hurting the animal by accident.
If you really want to give the gift of a pet to a family member, consider giving them a voucher or credit to a local shelter as a gift instead. Then the whole family can go down to pick out the new pup once your holiday celebration is over!
As you can see, there are lots of ways you can still get into the decorating frenzy this holiday season, even if you have one or more dogs or cats. You just have to slightly tweak your decorations or decorating habits to make sure that your home is as safe for your pets during the holidays as it is during the rest of the year.
Luckily, you can also use other tools like secure dog crates to ensure that your canine companion doesn't get out and get into your decorations when you are away from home. Diggs' Revol Dog Crate is the most comfortable and secure dog crate in the industry and is the perfect choice for pups that like to get out and cause trouble.
Check out our dog crate and our other solutions for pet parents here!
Dangerous Winter Holiday Plants for Pets | PetMD
Christmas Tree Safety Tips for Pet Parents | PetMD
The Diggs Team
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