Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this


By Miriam Raftery

December 5, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – As you’re decking the halls for your holiday festivities, it’s important to be aware that many holiday traditions can be hazardous for your pets—including popular holiday plants, tinsel, tree preservatives, candles, glass ornaments and potpourri. Here’s what you need to know to keep your dog or cat safe this holiday season:

  • Christmas tree preservations are toxic to pets.  These are sold at Christmas tree lots, usually without warning.  Don’t use these if you have pets in your home.  Buy a tree that’s not dry and keep it watered instead.
  • Some holiday plants are also toxic including holly, which can be fatal.  Mistletoe can cause heart problems and sap from poinsettias can blister your pet’s mouth. Artificial options or other non-toxic plants are safer choices.
  • Candles should not be left unsupervised when lit, sent curious pets can tip them over and cause a fire.
  • Liquid potpourri is caustic and can damage your pet’s mouth and digestive tract.  Don’t use them! For a sweet scent in your home, boil some cinnamon and cloves on your stove instead.
  • Don’t give your dog turkey bones, which are small enough to cause choking or internal lacerations.
  • Some holiday treats, such as chocolate, is actually toxic for pets. 
  • To discourage pets from chewing electrical cords for your holiday light displays, encase cords in PVC tubing or apply bitter apple, since most pets don’t like the taste.
  • Glass tree ornaments can harm pets if chewed, broken and walked on.  Angel hair is spun glass and will shred intestines if ingested.
  • Ornament hooks, if swallowed, can also be harmful.  Hang  breakable out of reach and put pet-safe ornaments on low-hanging branches.
  • Avoid tinsel on your tree, which is toxic.
  • Even cranberry and popcorn strands can be dangerous,if a pet swallows them and they become lodged in the throat.
  • Ribbons can cause choking, particularly the thin, curling ribbon types.  Don’t put ribbons around your pet’s neck, since the ribbon can catch on objects and result in hanging.
  • A folding corral, sold at pet stores and baby supply stores, can keep dogs and small children away from your holiday tree.
  • A bowl of lemon peels at the base of the tree can dissuade cats or kittens from mischief.
  • Curious cats have been known to climb and tip over Christmas trees.  Anchoring the tree to a small hook in the ceiling can prevent this problem.


Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.


Pine Needles!

Pine needles also toxic to cats. Watch for your kitties trying to nibble on them. They can also become lodged in the back of a cat's throat causing vomiting and coughing. Tinsel should never be used around cats, especially the "icicle" sort. If eaten tinsel can cause damaged to the intestines of a cat. I would also recommend using a "scaatt" or garden ghost compressed air deterrent to keep your cat safe from the decorations and your decorations safe from your cat! Kristine C. Alessio, Esq. Member, La Mesa City Council Director, Savannah Cat Rescue, Inc.