A picture of a Shepherd dog and a cat lying in front of a Christmas tree
Cats Dogs

Christmas pet safety: Top tips from a first aid expert

Emma Hammett

The festive season is a time for many to enjoy with friends and family – but it’s important not to forget the four-legged members of your household.

Christmas can bring some dangers to cats and dogs, plus you may find they get overwhelmed by the celebrations.

Pet first aid expert Emma Hammett shares her top tips for helping to keep your best pet pal safe at Christmas.



A picture of a Jack Russell Terrier sat in front of a Christmas tree and presents

Why do some pets get overwhelmed around Christmas?

During the festive season, everything in the house becomes topsy-turvy due to:

  • Changes in routine
  • Loud noises from parties and fireworks
  • Overstimulating decorations
  • New people visiting
  • A general mix of new sights, sounds, and smells

So it’s common for many pets to become stressed and act out of sorts. They may start showing reactivity, excessive barking, and destructive behaviour. They could even have physical symptoms like vomiting and diarrhoea. If you’re worried about your pet’s behaviour, speak to a vet or qualified pet behaviourist.

Here’s some ways you can help to ease your pet’s anxiety during this time of year:

  • Make sure there are plenty of high-up spaces for your cat, so they can still be involved in family gatherings but safely watch from afar.
  • Create a safe and quiet area for your dog to retreat away from any over-stimulating festivities.
  • Talk to your vet about using pet-safe calming supplements and plug-ins during the lead-up to Christmas.
  • Think carefully about what Christmas decorations you put up and where you put them, to minimise any distress to your pet.


A picture of a long haired cat playing with a star ornament dangling from a Christmas tree

Are Christmas trees poisonous to cats and dogs?

Although real Christmas trees aren’t poisonous to pets, they can still be harmful to your cat or dog:

  • They shed spiky needles which can be swallowed by your pet and irritate their mouth, stomach, and intestines. The needles can also get caught in their fur, eyes, ears, and paws.
  • The water used to keep the tree fresh can get stagnant and hold bacteria that may be harmful if drunk by your pet.

You can try either:

  • Switching to an artificial tree
  • Regularly vacuuming up any needles shed from your real tree and block off your pet’s access to the water pot


> How to keep your pet safe around Christmas trees

Christmas trees are a staple in many households during the holidays. But the shiny ornaments, twinkling lights, and hanging decorations can be irresistible to curious cats and dogs.

Christmas decorations don’t go through some of the same safety checks that pet and children’s toys do. This means they can be extremely dangerous for your pet.

No matter what type of Christmas tree you choose, always be careful and take some extra steps to help keep your pet safe:

  1. Make sure the tree is properly secured and weighted down.
  2. Stay away from decorations that are toxic or cause blockages if eaten, such as tinsel and chocolate. Edible decorations can also encourage your pet to jump up at the tree
  3. Try and keep the lower branches free of decorations as they’re easier for a four-legged opportunist to reach.
  4. Always choose plastic ornaments over glass – glass can more easily break and shatter with sharp shards.
  5. Tie ornaments to branches instead of using metal hooks.


A picture of a mixed breed dog sleeping on a rug next to a trail of Christmas lights

How to keep your pet safe around Christmas decorations

Aside from your Christmas tree, other decorations around the house could be a danger for your pet pal:

  • Candles – place them out of reach as they can be easily knocked over and risk starting a fire or burn your pet.
  • Christmas lights – make sure they’re pushed far back enough into the tree to not be easily pulled or a choking hazard.
  • Electric cords/wires for decorations – use twist ties, cord covers, and cable runners to safely secure these away from tempted paws and claws.


A picture of a cat looking longingly at gingerbread dough on a table

Can cats and dogs eat Christmas dinner?

As much as we love indulging in festive treats during the holidays, some of these foods can be toxic to our pets.

Popular Christmas nibbles to keep away from cats and dogs include:

  • Chocolate
  • Grapes and raisins (so mince pies and Christmas pudding are an absolute no)
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Foods with artificial sweeteners like xylitol
  • Snacks with onion/garlic

It’s also important to remind guests not to give any table scraps or bones to your pets. These can be a choking hazard and cause digestive issues.

Instead, check out this list of human foods dogs can eat, along with these cat-safe ingredients. You can use these for inspiration to whip up a healthy and pet-safe festive treat.


A picture of a poinsettia on a windowsill

Which festive plants are toxic to pets?

Certain popular seasonal plants are poisonous for your pets, including:

  • Mistletoe
  • Holly
  • Poinsettia
  • Christmas rose

If you’d like to bring some cheer to your home through festive foliage, think about using pet-friendly alternatives like artificial plants and wreaths.

Even if secured well out of reach, live plants can drop berries, so it’s not worth the risk.


A picture of a Husky sat in front of Christmas wrapping paper from opened gifts

Other ways to keep your pet safe and happy at Christmas

  • Ask guests to be respectful of your pets and to not crowd them when visiting. Houses full of excitable people and children wanting to play can be too much for your pet to handle.
  • Always keep a fully stocked pet first aid kit in the house in case of an accident. You may be asked by your vet to do some first aid while you arrange to get your pet to an emergency vet clinic.
  • Pick up any wrapping paper as soon as presents are opened and safely recycle or bin it. Swallowing paper or ribbon can lead to dangerous bowel obstructions.


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