Decorating For Christmas With Pets: Safety First!

cat on a christmas tree

While you prepare to transform your house into winter wonderland, have you considered the potential dangers some elements can pose to your Santa’s little helper? 🐕🎅

I have a personal experience to share regarding this topic. My dog Mumi as he grew older became more mischievous and during the holiday season, he would always manage to get stuck behind the Christmas tree. Then, he will cry and ask for help. And this obviously represented stress for him and our family, so we ended up changing the Christmas tree setup.

Similarly to my story, many pet owners experience different situations around this time of the year. Luckily, there are ways to make your home look festive without compromising the safety of our furry friends.

Let’s explore some ideas: 🎄🎅🎁

Christmas Tree

There are many things to consider when it comes to pet-friendly Christmas trees. So let’s break down each of these.

  • To prevent your tree from falling over, anchor it to the wall or ceiling, and get a steady base. You can anchor it by looping a fishing line around the trunk and securing it to a screw or molly bolt.
  • To keep curious cats away from climbing the tree, spray bitter apple from the bottom to the top. Bitter apple is an effective natural repellent for pets 😉.
  • Cover the tree water to prevent your pets from drinking from there as they will get stomach problems.
  • Fake trees are a safer option than real pines because they don’t need water and they don’t have real needles.

Consider getting a Pet Barrier

Fences and barriers add an extra layer of protection. Some options include:

Ornaments, Lights and Gifts

  • Use cord protectors for the lights to prevent your pets from chewing on them.
  • Keep ornaments above tail height, and place fragile glass ornaments high in the tree. But preferly, opt for ornaments made of non-breakable materials like plastic or wood.
  • Keep the presents away.
  • Many vets strongly advise against tinsels, because the shiny element can attract your pet and they are extremely dangerous if ingested.
  • Be careful with batteries as they will be everywhere around your home during Christmas, whether on lights, greeting cards, LED candles, toys, etc. They cause internal burns if ingested.

Seasonal Plants

Vets recommend keeping festive plants out of your pet’s reach as many of these may be toxic for pets. Mistletoe and holly, for example, can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems if ingested. Cats should also be kept away from lilies commonly found in holiday bouquets, as these flowers are highly toxic and can even lead to kidney failure. Additionally, poinsettias may cause mild to moderate gastrointestinal irritation in pets.

There are plenty of alternatives to traditional Christmas plants that are not pet-safe, such as Autumn Olive, Bromeliads, Roses, and Rosemary.

Autumn Olive
Autumn Olive is a shrub that produces small red berries during the winter months. The berries are non-toxic and can add a festive touch to your holiday decor.
Bromeliads are tropical plants known for their vibrant and exotic appearance.
Rosemary has the perfect scent for the holiday. It is safe for pets and can be used as a decorative element in wreaths, garlands, or potted plants.
Roses come in various colors and are perfect to incorporate into holiday arrangements. Just make sure to remove any thorns.
You can refer to the ASPCA site for a complete list of pet-safe plants: Plant Safety Guide for dogs and Plant Safety Guide for cats.

Alternatively, you can opt for fake plants instead. Here are some suggestions:


If you are opting for real candles, choose those made with natural wax like soy, coconut, beeswax, or vegetable-based wax instead of paraffin wax, but always keep them out of reach.

On the other hand, you can consider using LED candles, they last forever and look like the real ones.

Food Safety for Pets

Certain holiday foods may cause stomach upset or be toxic for your pets. Let’s see some examples:

  • Chocolates are toxic, especially for dogs, because contain theobromine and caffeine.
  • Sweets and baked goods that contain artificial sweeteners like xylitol. Xylitol is extremely toxic to pets and can cause a sudden release of insulin, leading to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
  • Gravy, sauces, and dressing as they are high in fat and spices, which can cause gastrointestinal upset in pets.
  • Small bones, especially poultry bones, can splinter and pose a choking hazard or risk of digestive tract lacerations.
  • Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure.
  • Onions, along with other members of the allium family (like garlic and shallots), contain compounds that can cause damage to red blood cells in pets, leading to anemia.
  • Alcohol can dangerously drop blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature.

Keep these foods out of their reach and secure the garbage bags.

Cat climbed on Christmas table
Fili says “Thanks for setting a purrrfect table for meow”😸

Special Considerations for Senior Pets

If you have a senior pet in your pack, you may need to take extra precautions as they may have unique care needs that involve mobility constraints, cognitive decline, and vision or hearing impairment, among others.

As a general rule, I would recommend avoiding rearranging furniture to prevent confusion and blocking access to any place where they could get trapped. You can use a pet gate or fence or consider placing the Christmas tree in a room where they don’t typically spend time.

Final Thoughts

Pets are curious and they like to investigate things using their noses, paws, and mouth. Christmas decorations can be especially attractive to them because of the bright colors, sparkling lights, and interesting textures, so they will naturally want to approach. However, it is our responsibility to protect them from any potential hazards.

So, as you start your holiday decorations, make sure to take proactive measures to prioritize their safety, such as choosing pet-friendly alternatives, securing the tree and the cables, keeping toxic food away from them, etc.

We wish you and your furry friends safe and happy paw-lidays 🐾🎄

Katherine Ortega

Blogger and pet lover. I've been around dogs my whole life and have experience caring for all types, sizes and ages of pups. Senior dogs hold a special place in my heart 💗

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