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How to have a pet-friendly Christmas

Updated on January 23, 2009

Santa Skylar here, with the latest information on having a pet-friendly Christmas! Here are some tips and tricks for your humans on how to make your Christmas (and theirs) a good and safe one. After all, we pets know what we do and don't get into, right? RIGHT! 

Santa Skylar
Santa Skylar


Ok, so I like my Santa outfit.  Most cats don't like being dressed up, though.  Dogs tolerate it well.  Make sure your pet has enough room to walk around in their outfit, and that it's not snug.  Also remember that outfits are not to be worn without human supervision, and then only for short periods of time. 

The tree

Dogs see a tree inside the house, scratch their ear, and lift a leg. Be sure to put plastic sheeting underneath where the tree will be, so it's easier to clean up urine, especially if you have a puppy or a dog that hasn't had Christmas before.

Cats see a tree inside the house, extend their claws, scratch, and climb. There's no way you're going to train us out of this one. Keep the squirt bottle or rattling coin jar handy, because you'll need it (but no guarantees it'll work).  Our human dad had a cat growing up who, every year, climbed up the tree to the top, toppled it over, and broke the angel. 

If possible, cover the water pan in the tree holder, or get one that's pre-covered. Pets of both species love the taste of pine-flavored water! Don't put any additives in the water for the tree, please. They won't make the tree last very much longer, and they can poison us. 

Tabby with a kitty-safe plastic ornament
Tabby with a kitty-safe plastic ornament


Please put all tasty, glass, flimsy plastic, string, or otherwise tantalizing ornaments on the lower (ahem), I mean, higher branches. We will bat at, pull down, and/or eat anything that we deem a toy, and ornaments certainly fit that category! Even dogs will eat and/or play with ornaments. The dog who grew up with our human mom used to touch her nose to every single ornament on the lowest branches. If you have a bigger dog, like a Golden Retriever, Border Collie, Lab, or the like, make sure all ornaments of any kind are above tail height.

Same goes for lights. Christmas lights are pretty, but cats are attracted to the buzzing sound of the electricity going through the wires. It sounds like mice to us! Put lights up higher, or have them elsewhere. If that's not a solution, then keep a close eye on your feline friend, who's probably in the tree by now anyway.

Don't even get me started about tinsel! That is the biggest no-no of all! You don't want to know how many cats end up in emergency rooms having to get their stomachs operated on because they ate the stuff. If it looks like string, moves like string, chances are we think it's string, and we will play with it and eat it. It gets wrapped around our intestines and can close them off.

Plastic, cloth, and other indestructable ornaments can be placed on the lower branches.  If you give us something on the tree to play with safely, chances are we won't go looking higher for other playthings. 

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tabby eating tissue paperRori obsessed with opening her Christmas packageBite marks from Rori's teeth (upper left of label)
Tabby eating tissue paper
Tabby eating tissue paper
Rori obsessed with opening her Christmas package
Rori obsessed with opening her Christmas package
Bite marks from Rori's teeth (upper left of label)
Bite marks from Rori's teeth (upper left of label)

Wrapping paper

Paper in all its forms is actually edible.  Cats love it, and dogs will eat it on occasion, especially if it's been around something that's smelly (either good or bad smells).  Tissue paper is a favorite.  It's soft, water-soluble (which means saliva-soluble), and easily torn in claws.

Keep wrapped presents out of our sight unless you can be absolutely sure that we won't get into them.  If you do put them under the tree before the big night, keep extra wrapping paper on hand.

Some cats and dogs will not bother presents.  The same cat who climbed the tree would sit on every single present under the tree in turn.

If you are wrapping edibles, or anything for the pet, keep those presents well away from your furry friends.  We know what's for us, what's food, and what you don't want us to unwrap, and will make a special effort to find those and rip or bite them open. 

Christmas candy

Whatever you do, keep all Christmas candy out of reach!  Preferably, locked in a cupboard!  Chocolates, even a small amount, can kill cats and dogs both.  Peppermint (candy canes, starlight mints) is closely related to catnip and can send us into spasms.  Boxes and packages aren't safe from us; we can chomp right through them in no time if we want what's in them badly enough.  The best place to keep any candy is in the fridge, where it can be wrapped up and labeled, ready to go but out of our reach. 


Poinsettias are pretty, but they're actually poisonous.  Please don't have them in your house if you have pets, because we love to munch on any type of leaves and flowers.  We can die from eating even one bite of these! 

No pets as presents

Last, but certainly not least, don't give pets as Christmas presents!  All the hustle and bustle of the holidays stresses us out, so just imagine if you were plopped into a place you knew nothing about and all that was going on!  You'd be scared out of your skin too.  If you want to give a pet as a present, give a card or small package related to the pet, with a gift certificate inside.  Then, go with the recipient in January to get their new friend after everything has calmed down. 

Well, I'm off to catch a few zzzzzz's before it's time to help Mom with that wrapping by pouncing on the paper.  Have a happy holiday season from all of us here! 


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