Pet Proof Your Holiday

More on PawNation: christmas, hanukkah, holiday, kwanzaa, pet safety

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Holiday homes become pet playgrounds at this time of year. Cats delight in un-decking the halls and climbing the tree. Dogs eat decorations and baptize the tree. The result is a holiday that's anything but merry. Refer to these tips to keep your pets safe and your holiday happy.

Plants and Pets. Dogs and especially puppies chew nearly anything. Cats rarely eat plants, but they do claw them and then lick/groom away the residue. Beware of holiday floral arrangements that contain pet dangers. Lilies can cause kidney failure. Holly and live mistletoe cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy if ingested by your pet. Poinsettias are not deadly but can cause nausea and/or mild vomiting.

Choose pet-safe plants and set them out of paw-reach. Or consider using silk or plastic holiday plants make an equally showy statement without the poison potential.

Fire Hazards. Fireplaces offer extra warmth and atmosphere to holiday gatherings, but can prompt singed whiskers or burned paws. Candles prove irresistible especially for kittens who paw-test everything to see what it is, or meet it head-on to sniff and explore. That's not just painful for pets, it's a fire hazard for your entire family should Fluffy knock over the Menorah.

Instead, electric candles are available for decorating purposes. If you must have the real thing, ensure pets are safely out of the way and candles out of paw-reach. Be sure the fireplace screen is secured against curious pets, too.

Toxic Treats. Gobbling any sort of candy may cause vomiting and/or diarrhea, but chocolate poses special dangers. Too much chocolate, which contains a stimulant called theobromine, can kill your pet. Keep holiday candy out of reach, in latched cupboards, to keep your canine glutton from over-indulging.

Flavored aluminum foil, grease-smeared turkey strings, and cellophane candy wrappers can be dangerous to pets if swallowed-dogs and cats rarely unwrap treats before eating. Eating raw yeast bread dough also causes problems when the dough rises in the tummy.

Holiday Tree Tips. Cats consider the tree a feline jungle gym with cat toys that swing, sparkle, and invite paw-pats and biting. Some dogs take "aim" at the tree just as they would your outside shrubs and baptize the greenery. Drinking from treated water in the base can poison pets. Eating tinsel and ornaments can prove deadly, and dogs often chew through electric chords with shocking results.

- Smaller trees can be set on table tops, inside of baby play pens, or in a room protected by a baby gate. Situate breakable and dangerous decorations on the top of the tree out of reach of inquisitive pets.

- Make the area around the tree unattractive to keep paws at bay. Clear plastic carpet protectors and place under the tree-nub side up. That makes cruising or lounging under the tree uncomfortable. The soft "tacky mats" available from home product stores designed to keep throw rugs from sliding around work well to keep small pets away because they dislike walking on sticky surfaces.

- Use your pet's smell sense to keep her away from the tree. Citrus scents are off-putting to cats so scatter orange or lemon peels (or potpourri) around the base of the tree. Vicks (menthol smell) also works as a good pet repellent. Dip cotton balls in the ointment and stick in the lower branches of your tree. They'll look a bit like snow and blend in with the rest of the decorations.

- Create a "pet safe" tree decorated with dog toys and catnip mice. Place these within paw reach on lower branches and reserve the off limits decorations for the top of the tree.

Offer the fur-kids some cheap thrills under the tree with dog chew toys or catnip mice for legal playtime. Boxes, bags, crinkled wrapping paper and used ribbons offer fun hideouts, paper to shred and chase-for more fun after you've opened your holiday gifts.

Amy D. Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant and the award-winning author of 23 pet care books, including "The First-Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats." Amy also appears on Animal Planet's "Cats 101" and "Dogs 101," writes for puppies.About.com and cats.About.com and lives in North Texas with a senior citizen Siamese and smart-aleck German shepherd dog. To find out more about Amy, read her blog on Red Room, where you can buy her books.

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