The weather outside is frightful, which means most of us are resorting to indoor holiday decorating for the next few days.
While there are myriad sources discussing holiday dangers for pets, most focus on food and toys and not the decorations (except those that are food, like candy canes or gingerbread houses).
Dogs see a Christmas tree as an indoor fire hydrant, while cats thank Ma and Pa for the new scratching post.
Can’t you just see it? CRASH! as the smell of urine pervades the house.
Christmas trees create special holiday dangers for pets. the tinsel and the garland mesmerize the cats; all the ornaments that twirl and spin and even go whirr fascinate dogs. Any one of these scenarios adds up to a sniff, a paw, then a scratch and then the above-mentioned crash.
Here’s a few tips to keep your critters and your home safe this season.
Tip #1: Strategically locate jingle bells to create an alarm system. A reader and fellow animal enthusiast shared her initial struggle, then success, with this strategy. A loop of big jingle bells placed on the lower limbs of trees works tremendously well as an alert when critters get too close and prepare to pounce or pee.
Jingle? Jingle jingle?
Should make most critters flee and AAAC that tree in the future (avoid at all costs).
Then there’s dogs like Merlin, who like the jingle bell sound, despite the reprimand from Ma and Pa. The family experimented and eventually found a harsh, brassy and rather nasty sound he didn’t enjoy.
Tip #2: Jingle all the way around your table. Our reader also recommends this tactic for tables laden with holiday appetizers, desserts and after-dessert treats — “essentially the locations where people won’t be sitting for long periods of time or which might not have anyone around for a while,” she writes.
“Dogs who might try to sneak up can’t avoid hitting at least one bell. There’s your alarm system.”
Tip #3: Avoid poinsettia plants. Resist their beauty and joyous color this season; they are toxic to our domestic animals. And they are irresistible. Your critters will dig their noses into the soil, spread it all over the house, and eventually chew up the roots. The end result is an upset digestive system. Give them as gifts to people whose homes are empty of companion animals.
Tip #4: Beware tree water and tree needles. Dogs and cats will see the tree stand as a new drinking bowl. Unfortunately, even adding new water daily means there’s stagnant water that harbors bacteria. Many tree owners add preservatives to preserve tree freshness. The American Humane Society suggests a tree skirt secured with tape, leaving secret openings accessible open only to human eyes. Be sure to sweep up pine needles frequently. If ingested, animal digestive tracts can be pretty roughed up.
Tip #5: Holiday lights are joyful, indoor and out, but the extension cords necessary to light our homes are an invitation for chewing. PetMD and the Humane Society both recommend using pet-proof extension cords, or spraying Bitter Apple or Chew Stop on the cords to add a bitter taste and deter curious mouths.
For more information, see the Humane Society Holiday Guide and PetMD.
If the jingle bells, hidden tree stands, and bad-tasting extension cords fail to work and you think one of your critters has dug into a toxic substance, immediately contact your local veterinarian or veterinary emergency hospital. Consider a consultation with the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC): Call (888) 426-4435. It’s affiliated with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and costs $60.