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Keeping Your Pets Safe During Holidays

Holidays are a time of joy and celebration for many people, but they can also pose risks and challenges for our furry friends. From festive foods to decorations and travel, there are many things that can harm or stress out our pets if we are not careful. Here are some tips on how to keep your pets safe and happy during the holidays.

Keep Pets Away From Toxic Foods and Drinks 

One of the most common hazards for pets during the holidays is ingesting something that they should not. Many human foods and beverages can be toxic or harmful to pets, such as chocolate, xylitol (an artificial sweetener found in candy and gum), grapes, raisins, nuts, onions, garlic, alcohol, coffee, soda with artificial sweetener, salt, unbaked bread dough, and bones. These can cause symptoms ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to seizures and organ failure. To prevent your pet from getting sick, keep these items out of their reach and ask your guests to do the same

Do not feed your pet any table scraps or leftovers, and make sure to secure the lids on garbage cans. 

If you suspect that your pet has eaten something toxic, contact your veterinarian or a poison control center immediately. 

Be Careful with Plants and Decorations 

Another potential danger for pets during the holidays is getting injured or sick from plants and decorations. Some seasonal plants -- such as holly, mistletoe, poinsettia, daffodills, pine, and lilies -- can be poisonous to pets if nibbled or eaten; lily pollen and daffodill bulbs are especially toxic to cats. Artificial plants made from silk or plastic can be a safer alternative, or you can choose a pet-safe bouquet. 

Christmas trees and holiday greens can also pose a threat to pets, as they can cause intestinal obstruction or puncture if ingested. Make sure to secure your tree so it does not tip over, and keep the water base covered, as it may contain fertilizers, bacteria and pine oil residue. 

Avoid using tinsel, as it can be very attractive to cats but can cause serious damage to their digestive tract. For the same reason, use yarn, ribbon or string instead of metal hooks to hang ornaments.  Additionaly, keep pets away from wrapping paper, bows, and other packaging materials, including silica gel packets used to keep product dry during shipping and storage.  Although non-toxic, silica gel packets can still make animals sick.  Clean up packing materials promptly after presents have been opened.

Keep wires, batteries, and glass or plastic ornaments away from your pet, as they can cause electric shock, burns, or cuts. Be especially careful with small "button batteries" that can be easily swallowed (a danger to young children as well as pets); seek immediate medical attention if a pet or child swallows one of these batteries.  

Make sure electrical wires are in good condition, reasonably new and not frayed, and that light strips don't contain broken bulbs.  Grandpa's light strings might bring back fond memories, but they don't meet today's safety standards, and might have dry-rotten insulation; it's best to leave those packed away.  For added safety, use LED lights instead of incandescent lights, as they "burn" cooler and are usually made of shatter-resistant plastic.  LEDs save energy too!

Do not leave candles unattended, as your pet may knock them over and cause a fire or burn themselves.  Use battery-operated "flameless" candles for added safety.   Matches and oil from oil diffusers can also be toxic to cats.

Provide a Safe and Comfortable Environment 

The holidays can be stressful for pets, especially if there are changes in their routine or environment. Loud noises (see below), unfamiliar people, and travel can make your pet anxious or fearful. 

To help your pet cope, provide them with a safe and comfortable place where they can retreat if they feel overwhelmed. This can be a bedroom, a crate, or a cozy bed with their favorite toys. Make sure they have access to fresh water and food, and try to maintain their normal exercise and play schedules. 

Inform your visitors ahead of time that you have a pet, and ask them to respect your pet’s boundaries. Do not force your pet to interact with anyone if they do not want to. 

Additionally, watch your pets around open doors.  With lots of people coming and going, a pet prone to escaping can easily get out, and with a lot of activity, their absence might not be immediately noticed.  Make sure your pets have collars with ID tags and are microchipped in case there's an escape.


Everyone loves a good fireworks display on New Year's, the Fourth of July, Diwali and other holidays -- but animals aren't big fans.  Dogs' and cats' hearing is magnitudes more sensitive than ours, so the sound of fireworks can be especially disturbing to them.  Dogs and cats have been known to become so terrified of fireworks that they run away from home in a panic.  In fact, more pets go missing around July Fourth than any other time of the year.

During holidays when fireworks will be common, keep your pets indoors, secure and confortable.  Turn on a TV, radio, fan or "white noise" machine to provide ambient sound to help drown out the noise outside.  Additional tools for helping pets cope with stressful events such as fireworks are Feliway pheremone diffusers and Thundershirts.  

Finally, if you have fireworks displays of your own, keep your pets far away!


Grilling is a staple of the summer holidays... but be sure to keep your pets away from your grill while you're cooking, and after until the grill cools.  Aside from hot grease and water, charcoal and wood ash can be harmful for pets.  Keep lighter fluid out of the reach of pets as well as children.  Also, dispose of food waste -- especially chicken bones -- securely.


If you are traveling with your pet, make sure they have proper identification and vaccination records, and check the regulations and requirements of your destination and mode of transportation. Also consult your veterinarian about medications or supplements that can help your pet relax during the trip, as well as anti-nausea medicine.   Budget as much time as possible to accommodate delays during peak travel periods such as the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas week.

Pets and Cars

We all know how hot the interior of a car can get in the summer.  That's all the more reason to never leave a pet in a hot car -- even in the winter.  Your car's interior is like a greenhouse in that it traps heat... so within an hour after being stopped, a car's interior can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit, even on a cool day. On a summer day, the inside of a car can surpass that within minutes, and get as hot 140 degrees!  Animals exposed to this level of heat can easily succumb to heatstroke and death.

If you are travelling with your pet in a car and need to stop, avoid shutting off the air conditioning (though leaving an unattended car running is dangerous too, and a well-intentioned "Good Samaritan" may take it upon themself to break the window or call the police).  Cracking the windows doesn't help as it won't let in enough cool air.

In New Jersey, leaving a pet unattended in a hot car is a crime, with penalties ranging from a fine to jail time.

Additionally, when travelling, make sure that your pet is secure, either in a carrier (for cats, small dogs and other small animals) or a seat belt or harness (for larger dogs).  Avoid letting dogs hang out the window or ride unsecured in the back of a pickup truck, as a sudden bump or accident can cause them to fall out of the vehicle.

If Your Pet Stays Home

When traveling for the holidays, you might not always be able to bring your pet.  In this case, you have two choices:  board your pet in a kennel or cattery, or arrange for an in-house pet-sitter.  Whatever you choose, make your decision well in advance of when you plan to leave home, so you have plenty of time to plan and prepare.

If you choose a kennel or cattery, research its reputation and online reviews; recommendations from friends, relatives and your veterinarian are the most reliable references.  Once you identify a facility, ask to take a tour.  Any reputable place will be happy to show you around.  Make sure the facility is clean and that the animals there are well treated, well-fed, have access to water and have plenty of activities.  Verify that you can contact the facility at any time.

If you plan to hire an in-house pet-sitter, make sure it is someone you trust entering your home unattended.  Again, ask for references.  Unless the pet-sitter is a friend or relative you trust implicitly, only hire one that is bonded and insured (in most US locations, there are no licensing requirements for pet-sitters).  Agree on exactly what the pet-sitter will be required to do, and how often they will stop in each day.  Consider installing one or more online cameras so that you can watch your pet from your phone or computer at any time... while also keeping an eye on the pet-sitter.  If you travel frequently and need to hire pet-sitters routinely, purchase a smart lock for your door that opens with a keypad, fingerprint or smartphone app, and that you can reprogram as needed; a smart lock can also alert you when someone enters and leaves. 

In both cases, make the caregiver aware of any medications, dietary issues, behavioral issues or physical limitations your pet may have.  Also, provide the caregiver with your contact information, with instructions to call or text you at any time in case of emergency, as well as your veterinarian's contact information.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your pet stays safe and healthy during the holidays, and that you both enjoy this festive season. Happy holidays!

Updated May 21, 2024

DISCLAIMER:  These resources are provided for information purposes only.  Purrfect Angels Cat Rescue makes no warranty as to the performance or availability of these resources, and inclusion of a resource here does not necessarily imply endorsement.  Purrfect Angels Cat Rescue has no interest, financial or otherwise, in any of these listed resources.  Pet care advice given here is not a substitute for recommendations from a licensed veterinarian.

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