Keeping Your Pets Safe During the December Holidays

There's a lot going on during the winter holidays, so if you have pets and celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and/or Christmas, read on! There are lots of potential hazards to be accounted for during the winter holidays, but you don't have to let that ruin the fun! Just be aware of the hazards and have an emergency preparedness plan, and you'll be good to go to celebrate the holidays with your animal companions.

Runa doesn't know what kriss-muss is, but she does know that she's stylin' in this sweater.

🕎 Hanukkah Tips:

Hanukkah will begin the evening of Thursday, December 10th, and end the evening of Friday, December 18th this year! Hanukkah always begins on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, so the dates change every year by the Gregorian calendar (the commonly used secular calendar).

You'll want to keep your pets away from the room with the lit menorah. They might get burned or knock it over, and nobody wants an injured pet or a house fire.
The nine candles of the menorah.

It's also a good idea to keep the dreidel out of reach of your animal companions in case they think it's a fun new snack. That would be difficult for them to pass through their digestive tract. You can make or buy a dreidel-shaped catnip toy for your cats, though, if you want to include them in the fun.

The gelt, the gold-foil-wrapped chocolate coins, should be kept away from pets. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, two ingredients than can be toxic to your pets. The shiny foil wrapper is also not ideal for your animal pals to consume.

Traditional Hanukkah treats like latkes and sufganiyot should also be inaccessible to your pets, because eating them could cause gastrointestinal issues. The onions in latkes can hurt both cats and dogs, because onions can cause Heinz body anemia. It's decidedly not a good time. However, you can make homemade applesauce for your pets to enjoy if you want to include them in the eating of latkes, at least tangentially. Store-bought applesauce is too sugary for our animal companions.

Ribbons and wrapping paper are choking hazards, as are many decorations. If you've got some curious critters in your home, you'll want to make sure they stay away from string lights and anything else that might prove dangerous to swallow.

If you buy a Hanukkah costume for your dog or cat (because Fluffy makes for an adorable dreidel, especially when she chases her tail so it looks like the dreidel is spinning), make sure you supervise them the entire time they're wearing the costume so they don't hurt themselves or try to eat it. And of course, take some adorable pictures.

  • vet-admin-4. “6 Tips for Hanukkah Pet Safety.” Seven Hills Veterinary Hospital, 13 Dec. 2019,

  • Stultz-Hairston, Beth. “Hanukkah Pet-Safety Tips from Pet Sitters International.” Pet Sitters International, 2020,

  • Image: “Collection of Jewish Menorah Cliparts (39).” Clipart Library,

Kwanzaa Tips:

Kwanzaa falls on Saturday, December 26th through Friday, January 1st this year! It's on the same dates every year, but falls on different days of the week like many other holidays.

If part of your Kwanzaa celebrations include lighting the kinara, it's a good idea to make sure your pets can't access the kinara so they don't burn themselves or knock it over and start a house fire. Remember the last time you burned your fingers? It doesn't feel nice.

The seven candles of the kinara.

One way you can include your pets in the Kwanzaa celebrations is to put an ear of corn on the Mkeka for them like you would for each child in your family. After all, many people do refer to themselves as "pet parents", but it's understandable if this idea isn't for everyone. For those who might not know what the Mkeka is, it is a symbolic straw or woven mat that other ceremonial symbols are placed upon. It represents the idea that a foundation is necessary for anything to be built upon.

During the Karamu Ya Imani, or the Feast of Faith, there are lots of traditional foods that your pets can't eat. However, they can enjoy some of the traditional foods, like cooked sweet potatoes, okra, and plantains, so you can still share the traditional Kwanzaa goodness with them!

Also, if you're having guests over, make sure that your pets have access to a quiet place indoors they can retreat to for extra comfort, especially if they're not sociable animals. This goes for all holidays, of course. Having a favorite toy or bed can bring comfort to them if they get nervous. Make sure to check in with your pets throughout gatherings to make sure they're doing okay. And when people are arriving and leaving, watch those doors if you live near a busy road!

  • Haynes, Melanie. “12 Festive Ways to Include Your Pets in Your Holiday Celebrations.” Space Coast Pet Services, 9 Dec. 2019,

  • M., Heather. “Ultimate List of Holiday Pet Safety Tips.” ASPCA Pet Health Insurance , United States Fire Insurance Company, 18 Nov. 2016,

  • Image: “Kinara Images.” WebStockReview,

🎄Christmas Tips:

Christmas is on Friday, December 25th this year! It always falls on the 25th, but like Kwanzaa, the day of the week varies.

Christmas trees and cats--it's like trying to keep squirrels off a bird feeder. It's essentially impossible. However, there are things you can do to make the tree a little safer for your frisky felines and tail thumpin' pups.

Precious will stop at nothing to bat at ornaments--and neither will most cats.
  • Invest in shatter-proof ornaments for when you felines inevitably knock them off the tree.
  • Only have the lights plugged in while someone is supervising the tree.
  • Hang lemon-scented air fresheners from the tree (some cats don't like the scent of citrus).
  • Tie the tree to the ceiling or a doorframe using fishing line.
  • Securely anchor the tree to the ground with a hefty tree stand.
  • Avoid tinsel like the plague, because it looks like a toy to cats, and if they eat it, that's bad news for their intestines.
  • Arrange the lights on your tree vertically rather than wrapping them around horizontally, so if your cat's claws catch on the lights, the chances of them pulling down the whole tree are reduced.
  • Wrap ornament hooks around the ornament and the tree branch to secure them more firmly and further protect them from your cat's batting paws/dog's wagging tail.
  • Wires, batteries, and ornaments should ideally be kept out of paw-reach.
  • If you hang any edible ornaments or candy canes on your tree, make sure they're out of reach of your animal companions.
Princess, once again demonstrating why ornaments need to be further out of the reach of our feline friends.

Also, make sure your pets aren't drinking the tree water! Stagnant water isn't good for anybody to drink. You can block off the water with presents or something heavier like books or bricks to prevent pet access. If you have pets, it's not a good idea to add fertilizer or sugar or anything else to the water of your tree. If they drink that, they could get sick.

It's also important to hide and secure light strands and wires around your house so your pet won't trip, get caught in them, or chew on them. Tape can help secure troublesome strands.

Princess thinks those lights look awfully tasty, but at least they're unplugged!

Some pets don't bother with presents (or at least they pretend not to bother with them whenever you're around, or they wait until Christmas Eve to execute their destruction), but the ribbons, bows, wrapping paper, and gift tags can prove dangerous choking hazards for curious animals. Styrofoam peanuts are also choking hazards, so if there are any of those protecting your presents, it's a good idea to put those furthest out of reach. Some families put presents out throughout December, and some wait until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Whatever your preference, just make sure you keep an eye on your animal companions and try to limit the hazards. This goes for any gift-giving holiday, of course!

Giving your pets plenty of love, attention, and playtime can help make sure they're getting enough stimulation and don't turn to destruction in boredom, but there are no guarantees. Some baubles are just too darn sparkly.

One thing you can do to protect gifts from a chew-happy puppy is to surround your tree in baby gates that your pup (hopefully) won't be able to jump over.

The presents are puppy-proofed from baby Theo! This didn't stop the cats from lurking amongst the presents, but it prevented a whole lotta puppy chewing.

If you're giving food as a gift, those presents especially need to be kept out of reach of your animal companions. Of course, some animals couldn't care less, but it's better to be safe than have to go to on an emergency vet visit during the holiday season. Keeping stockings out of paw's reach is also a good idea.

It's smart to be aware of some decorations that are especially bad for pets. Mistletoe, holly, lilies, pine, cedar, balsam, amaryllis, poinsettias, Christmas cactus, Christmas kalanchoe... the list of toxic plants goes on. It's a good idea to know what kind of plants you have in your house and research those specific plants for the kinds of pets you have. Some plants are toxic to cats, but not dogs, and vice versa.

Potpourris are also risky to have accessible to pets, as both liquid and solid can cause serious irritation if consumed. You can still have them around, just make sure they're out of reach if you've got more inquisitive animals in the household.

If your pet has managed to swallow some string or tinsel and you see it poking out of their mouth, immediately call the vet. If you pull on it, you could make the situation worse, depending on how long of a piece of string/tinsel/etc. they have swallowed. It's best to let the professionals handle this.

Princess doesn't understand why her humans hang toys from the tree and expect her not to play with them.

For those of you who are Polish, good news! The Polish tradition of breaking oplatki wafers with family and loved ones on Christmas Eve can be shared with animals, as well! There is pink oplatki made especially for animals to eat (it's safe for humans to eat, too).

There are plenty of ways to engage with your non-human family members during the holiday season that are safe for everybody.

  • “7 Ways to Make the Holidays Safer for Pets.” American Veterinary Medical Association, AVMA,

  • Elswick, Miranda. “May Your Days Be Merry and Bright: Holiday Pet Safety Tips.” The Meowing Vet, 12 Dec. 2016,

  • “Holiday Safety Tips.” ASPCA,

  • “Winter Holiday Pet Safety.” American Veterinary Medical Association, AVMA,

Photo credit: Pamela Mulvey

Food Tips:

This goes for all celebrations, because there are lots of foods that your pets shouldn't eat, including but not limited to:
  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Grapes/raisins
  • Yeasty bread dough
  • Dairy products
  • Onions/garlic
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Raw meats
  • Baked goods and sweets (might have xylitol, a sweetener that's dangerous for pets to consume)
  • Turkey, turkey bones, and turkey skin (because most people don't cook turkey plain, w/o spices and seasonings)
  • Bones in general
  • Table scraps in general
  • Garbage cans--secure those lids!

  • “Holiday Pet Safety Tips.” Richell USA Inc., Richell, 3 Dec. 2018,

Emergency Preparedness:

Runa's face when you don't have an emergency preparedness plan.

When celebrating holidays, there are a lot of different factors taking up space in anyone's mind--did you prepare the food, did they send out the invitations on time, how are we going to celebrate safely during a global pandemic (video calls are a solid option for friends and family to gather safely), ad infinitum. One way you can take some of that extra holiday stress off your mind is to make sure you have an emergency-preparedness plan in place for your pet's wellbeing.

A good first step is to make sure you know your vet's hours over the holidays and who you can call if they're closed and you're having a pet emergency.

It's also a good idea to have the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center phone number on hand in case your animal companion ingests something toxic. They can be reached at 1-888-426-4435 any time of day, any day of the year. There may be a $65 consultation fee, so be aware of that.

Having a pet first-aid kit is a good idea, too, in case of any accidents or injuries. Gauze pads and adhesive tape are good to keep on hand, not just for the humans!


Have fun!

Being an animal caretaker is a gift! This information is all just in case, because it can be comforting to have a plan for when things might go wrong, and we want you and your animal companions to be as happy and healthy as possible. Some animals are completely cool with having lots of guests over and being near a lit menorah or kinara, or having ornaments hanging on a tree and presents under it. You are the best person to be the judge of what your pet will and won't be bothered by, so make sure you monitor them and give them plenty of love and care this holiday season.

Hanukkah Sameach! Happy Kwanzaa! Merry Christmas!

Written by Skye Isabella Rose Iwanski
Runa photo credit: Skye Isabella Rose Iwanski


  1. I really want to purchase the DP Hunter dog house, but everywhere is sold out online. Did you discontinue this style?

    1. Hi, TheDabblingCrafter, we have not discontinued the style! We have just had a very busy season, and the pandemic has affected our ability to produce doghouses. We should be back in stock in a couple of weeks! There's a large store order on our waiting list, but as soon as that's taken care of, we can restock our various sellers.

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