Christmas is the time to eat, drink and be merry but when you add pets into the mix… your special day could end in tears, a dog bite or an emergency visit to the vet hospital.  A busy house full of guests and noise can be very stressful for animals, and all those tempting decorations and foods can pose significant risks.  Keep calm and carry on with these top tips for surviving Christmas and pets.

Tips for surviving Christmas and pets 

1.   Exercise your pets – If you’re hosting celebrations, exercise your dog or play with your cat before your guests arrive. This will help them de-stress and make them more likely to nap once the festivities are underway.

2.  Supervise interactions between dogs and kids! Ensure interactions between pets and young children are always supervised.  Stop play if your pup is showing signs of stress/fear/concern including:

  • lip licking
  • sniffing the ground
  • yawning although the dog is not tired
  • dog’s body turns away from you
  • panting although it is not a hot day
  • body shake even though the dog is not wet
  • barking
  • hyperactive behaviour
  • growling
  • baring teeth
  • ears pinned back
  • tail tucked under
  • frantic tail wagging
  • big eyes
  • closed mouth

3.  Don’t force your pup to interact with other dogs and people. Your dog may tolerate family members, however, this doesn’t mean that he will accept attempts by less familiar friends or strangers. A dog feeling stressed or fearful could become aggressive. If you think your dog is going to react to something, take action to prevent a distressing event such as dog bite.

Surviving Christmas and pets

Surviving Christmas and pets. Photo: Jeffrey Buchbinder/

2.   Create a safe, quiet place for your pet to relax away from the party. Even the most social creatures need a break sometimes.  A crate is a safe and happy space for your dog, take the crate with you if your dog is used to resting in a crate and don’t forget his favourite toy and comfy bedding.  Your cat is likely to escape the noisy festivities by finding a spot to rest up high.  It may also help to play music or leave the TV on to mask the chatter of visitors.

3.   No leftover festive food. Christmas food includes some of the most dangerous foods for animals to consume. Festive foods can be fatal, so don’t give in to those pleading looks!

4.  Christmas tree – for those buying a live Christmas trees this year, keep the area free and clear of pine needles. While they may not seem dangerous, the needles can puncture your pet’s intestines if ingested.

5. Keep Christmas decorations out of reach. A dog or cat may think the baubles hanging from the tree look conveniently like toys or tennis balls – but if a plastic or glass ornament breaks in their mouth, it could cause serious damage. Edible decorations like candy canes can also pose a risk. It’s best to hang anything risky near the top of the tree.  If your feline friend is fascinated by the tinsel or tree lights, keep an eye on these too, to avoid the risk of choking or electric shock.

6. Poisonous plants – did you know Holly, Mistletoe, and Poinsettia plants are poisonous to dogs or cats? If you normally use these plants to decorate your home, they should be kept in an area your pet cannot reach. More on toxic plants to avoid.

7.  Clean up wrapping paper quickly after presents have been opened. If chewed, wrapping paper and ribbons can prove dangerous for a pet’s intestines.

8.  Don’t forget to give your pet a special Christmas treat! Your pet needn’t miss out on all the festive cheer – you can have some fun with this one. You could create a treasure hunt of dry food or treats around the house or yard, whip up some pupcakes, make them their favourite KONG, or take some time to play their favourite games with them.  More on gift ideas for cats and gift ideas for dogs.

Christmas and pets sources

Delta Institute of Australia

RSPCA Australia