Photo of a cat in a Christmas tree

How to pet-proof your home for the holidays

December 17, 2019

During the holidays, many of us like to transform our homes with festive decor. Doing so brings joy and happiness to us humans, but that’s not always the case for our four-legged friends. From Christmas trees to eggnog, a number of seasonal favorites can be dangerous for dogs and cats if consumed. To ensure a smooth holiday season with no emergency trips to the vet, we’ve provided a list of plants, food, and decor to use with caution.


Christmas trees. Pine and fir trees produce oil that can irritate a pet’s mouth and stomach, resulting in excess vomiting or drooling, petMD says. The needles may also cause obstruction and punctures to the digestive system—ouch!

Poinsettia. Sap from the brightly colored leaves can irritate the mouth and esophagus and cause an upset stomach. If the plant has been treated with pesticides, petMd warns your pet could become sick from poisoning. Puppies and kittens are most at risk.

Holly and mistletoe. Perhaps the most dangerous of them all, holly and mistletoe can be lethal to cats and dogs. Toxins in the glossy leaves and decorative berries can cause an upset stomach, sudden drop in blood pressure, breathing problems, and even hallucinations, petMD says. Keep these far out of reach of your furry friends.

Pet-safe substitutes. Try artificial plants, red roses, or Christmas cacti.


We all know that our four-legged friends aren’t supposed to eat chocolate (especially dark), but did you know sugar-free gum is just as dangerous? The fake sweetener xylitol is linked to liver failure in dogs. Other foods to keep away from dogs and cats are raisins and grapes (ingestion could cause severe kidney failure), ham and bacon (pork can cause pancreatitis in dogs), nuts (the high fat content and toxins can cause upset stomach or more serious complications), and turkey bones (the sharp ends can puncture the intestines). Spices to avoid include nutmeg, garlic, onion, salt, and sugar.

Also use caution with drink favorites like eggnog, or spiked eggnog (alcohol in any quantity is harmful to dogs and cats).

The consensus: Stick to food made for pets.


Christmas tree water. To stay fresh through the season, some trees are treated with chemical preservatives that drain into the tree base—which means you don’t want your dog or cat mistaking it for a water bowl. PetMD recommends covering the tree base with a festive skirt, towel, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil.

Tinsel. PetMd calls it one of the most dangerous decorations for pets. The sparkly strings can wreck an animal’s digestive system, and the toy-like appearance can be extra appealing to cats. The same goes for string-like adornments, such as popcorn strands and garland.

Lights. Dogs and cats may be tempted to chew electrical cords, which is a big no-no. Try taping them against the wall or using cord protectors, and be sure to unplug any cords when pets are left alone in the house.