Deck the Paws: Pet-friendly Holiday Decor Tips

A dog and cat standing in front of a Christmas fireplace with pet friendly holiday decor

As the holiday season approaches, transforming your home into a festive wonderland doesn't mean compromising the safety and well-being of your furry friends. With a few thoughtful touches, you can enjoy a pet-friendly Christmas adorned with delightful decorations that pose no harm to your four-legged companions.

What’s in This Guide?

1. Deck the Halls with Pet-Safe Greenery

Skip the holly, mistletoe, yew, snowdrops, and poinsettias. These traditional holiday plants are toxic for dogs and cats if ingested. Instead, pet parents can opt for pet-friendly plants such as the following:

Using the above pet-friendly greenery instead of traditional holiday plants will not only put a pet parent’s mind at ease — but also create a unique and interesting look for the home. 

Another option is to use artificial plants. These eliminate the risk of harmful plant exposure during the holidays. However, make sure to keep artificial plants and greenery out of your pet’s reach if they have small pieces that could come off and be ingested.

Christmas cactus, Boston fern, Moth orchid, and Polka Dot Plant, pet-friendly holiday decor plants
Sourced from: & | Christmas cactus (top left), Boston fern (top right), Moth orchid (bottom left), & Polka Dot Plant (bottom right)

2. Opt for a Pet-Friendly Christmas Tree

As pet parents, choosing between a live tree and an artificial tree has additional pet-related nuances. On one hand, the right species of live trees have softer, less risky needles — which are less riskier than rigid PVC needles from artificial trees. On the other hand, some artificial Christmas trees do not carry allergy-inducing mold spores the way that some live trees do.

Here are a few important points to think about when choosing a live or artificial Christmas tree for a household that has fur babies:

a. Live Christmas Trees: Choosing Pet-Friendly Tree Species

Most traditional live Christmas trees (e.g. pine, spruce, fir) are not toxic to dogs and cats.  However, some trees may drop needles that are sharp and dangerous when ingested. 

Opting for pet-friendly Christmas trees with pliable needles (e.g. Douglas fir, White pine, Fraser fir) will help reduce the risk of gastrointestinal irritation, intestinal puncturing, and choking in case of ingestion.

b. Artificial Christmas Trees: Features to Look For

Artificial Christmas trees are typically not toxic to dogs and cats. For dogs and cats that are allergic to mold spores, artificial Christmas trees will also be less likely to trigger allergies. When choosing an artificial Christmas tree, a few pet-friendly features to look for include

  • Pre-lit (built-in lighting)
  • A more stable base attached to the tree
  • A bare artificial tree (no faux snow, no glitter)
  • “Parasol” artificial Christmas trees (i.e. trees that are bare at the bottom and only have leaves from around the middle to the top)

3. Be Conscious of Electrical Cords

Plenty of Christmas decors come with an electrical cord — whether it’s a Christmas diorama or lights. Pet parents are advised to watch out for bite marks on all electrical cords as this suggests that the cord could be getting bitten or chewed on by a pet — a risk for electrocution, electrothermal burns, or  cable fires. 

In any case, it would be best to have electrical cords secured or fastened where pets can’t reach them (e.g. hidden or fastened high against the wall). There are also cord protectors available that may help in securing electrical cords so that your holiday decor is as pet-friendly as can be.

4. Stabilize Your Christmas Tree 

Pet parents are advised to securely anchor their Christmas trees (live or artificial) to prevent accidental tipping. Providing a strong, wide base will give the Christmas tree more stability. Alternatively, pet parents can secure the tree to the wall or ceiling using a fishing line

Another way to secure a tree from curious pets is using a pet gate to restrict access to the tree when unsupervised. 

5. Secure Your Live Tree’s Water Reservoir

A live Christmas tree’s water reservoir in the tree stand is likely to contain preservatives and sap, a harmful mixture for dogs and cats. 

Pets need to be prevented from drinking a Christmas tree’s water reservoir. Make sure to keep the water reservoir covered. Pet parents can also get a tree stand that has a built-in cover to deter pets from drinking from the water reservoir.

6. Mind the Ornaments on the Christmas Tree

When decorating the tree, avoid using edible ornaments as these can encourage curious pets to try and eat them. In the process, they may knock over the tree and/or reach an edible ornament that is not safe for pets (e.g. candy canes, chocolate). 

In addition, consider the placement of ornaments, especially if you have curious cats or playful puppies. Hang fragile or potentially hazardous ornaments higher on the tree or skip them altogether and opt for shatterproof varieties to prevent accidents.

Closeup of a Christmas tree with carefully arranged pet friendly holiday decor, safe for dogs and cats

7. Be Mindful of Tinsels & Ribbons

Dogs and cats may try to play with tinsels and ribbons or ingest them — both of which are hazardous. Playing with tinsel or ribbons carries strangulation risks while ingesting these string-like items can lead to intestinal blockage or rupture. Typically, treatment for ingesting tinsel involves a surgical procedure known as foreign body removal surgery. 

It is recommended that pet parents avoid or limit the usage of tinsels, ribbons, and other similar string-like objects. If the use of tinsel and ribbons cannot be avoided, pet parents can ensure that these items are not within the easy reach of curious pets. 

8. Ensure Lighting Safety

While setting up pet-friendly holiday decor, there are two main types of lighting that pet parents need to pay attention to: Christmas lights and candles. Here’s how to choose the most pet-friendly options for both: 

a. Pet-Friendly Christmas Lights

Opt for LED lights, which stay cool to the touch and reduce the risk of burns. Consider using battery-operated lights for areas where pets can reach to eliminate the temptation of chewing on cords.

b. Candle Safety for Pets

While the warm glow of candles can add ambiance, scented varieties may contain essential oils that can be harmful to pets. Opt for unscented candles placed in secure holders to prevent accidental tipping. 

Another option is to get “flameless” or LED candles. These are the safest and most pet-friendly candles for pets because they don’t contain irritating chemicals and have virtually no flame-related risks.

Three LED candles, pet friendly holiday decor pieces that are good for warm, welcoming lighting

9. Securely Store Any Sweets

While chocolate is known to be toxic to dogs and cats, the toxic sweets list doesn’t end here. Xylitol (which is  present in some peanut butter and other sugar-free sweets) is also toxic to dogs and cats, along with raisins, grapes. Other ingredients like excess sugar, nuts, and even candy packaging can cause gastrointestinal issues. 

Thus, pet parents are recommended to securely store sweets and baked goodies, especially if they contain any of these harmful ingredients. Though it may be enticing to put sweets inside an open bowl on the coffee table as an added welcoming touch, this can put curious pets at risk. Having bowls with secure covers would be a pet-friendly decor option — pet parents can also try placing sweets where pets are not able to reach them. 

Final Thoughts on Pet-Friendly Christmas Decor

By incorporating these pet-friendly holiday decor tips, you can create a festive and safe environment that allows both you and your pets to enjoy the holiday season together. 

If you have any specific concerns or questions about your pet’s health and well-being, we are here for you! Sploot Veterinary Care is a primary & urgent pet care clinic, available 365 days a year for extended hours! We are only a phone call or mobile app chat away for questions or concerns.

Pet parents can easily book an appointment online or through the Sploot Vets app. We accept vet appointments on holidays like Christmas!

Till next time, we’re with you every pounce of the way! Happy Holidays, pet parents!