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How to Pet-Proof Your Yard and Garden for the Holidays

By Laura M. Sands, Fetch! Pet Care
Photographs from Bigstock


A time of warmth and good cheer, the holiday season brings many families closer together. Decorative settings, holiday parties and delectable delights help create memories that we cherish forever. Pets are members of our families, too, and should be lovingly protected from the dangers that sometime come with the season. Holiday decorations and many of the special foods that we love can be extremely hazardous to our furry companions and, while we may be mindful of this inside of our homes, our yards and garden areas can be a different story. Here are a few tips, courtesy of professional pet sitting and dog walking service provider Fetch! Pet Care, to help guide you in pet-proofing your yard and garden for the holidays.


1. Place Decorations Out of Paws Reach

Holiday wreaths, strings of decorative lighting, tinsel, glass bulbs and ribbons can all be attractive to a dog or a cat. Puppies and kittens are especially curious about dangling items and new scents. Unfortunately, broken glass, jagged plastic and stringy or small objects can be hazardous to your furball’s health. Avoid placing decorations at a level where your pet can reach them or where a wagging tail may become entangled or knock these items over.

2. Use PVC Piping To Protect Electric Cords

If you’re using an electrical cord to power something like a giant turkey or a Santa Claus display or Rudolph and his reindeer, please be sure that your pet is unable to chew through the cord or its extension. One way to do this is to place cords inside PVC pipe. This not only protects your beloved one, but also protects stray and wild animals from their own curiosity.

3. Keep Bins Tightly Shut

Garbage, recycling and composting bins are likely to be more full than usual during the holidays and will probably contain items and scents that attract a pet’s attention. Turkey bones, fruitcake, chocolate and other holiday treats can make your pet very sick. In some cases, ingesting these foods may even be lethal. Despite extra gift boxes and trash, be sure to keep your bins tightly closed during the holiday season.

4. Seal Escape Routes

If you’re planning a holiday gathering at home, your pet may want to escape the extra traffic and noise that comes with such festivities. At the New Year, especially, fireworks and other loud noises can terrify a dog or a cat. If your animal will be outdoors at all this season, please be sure that all escape routes are tightly secured and that your beloved companion is unable to create any new ones where he may run away and become lost.


5. Keep Holiday-Specific Plants Out of Reach

While we are sure that you took care to research which pet-safe plants and flowers to place in your garden, temporary pots containing holiday plants may be a different story. Your cat or dog may even be used to the contents of your existing garden and already know which plants taste awful and which to therefore avoid. New potted plants used as temporary holiday decor are a new frontier, though. Here are a few garden tips to be mindful about:

  1. Mistletoe - Highly toxic to cats and dogs, mistletoe can cause your pet to experience seizures, intense stomach upset, a dangerous drop in blood pressure and a host of other severe symptoms. Whether live or in a dried state, avoid placing mistletoe anyplace that a curious pet may be able to access.
  2. Holly - Like mistletoe, holly is highly toxic to your furry companions. While a little taste may make your animal quite sick, larger ingestions can be fatal. As beautiful as these plants may be during the holiday season, avoid placing them -- in your yard or even in your home -- at levels where a cat or a dog may be able to bite or chew any part of the holly plant.
  3. Poinsettia - These plants aren’t as deadly to pets as most of us might believe, but this is only because the plant and its leaves are so undesirable that your dog or cat is unlikely to take more than a bite before deciding that she isn’t a fan of the taste. Thank goodness that its strong, bitter sap is quite the turnoff! Otherwise, an animal may eat more than a mouthful and become poisoned by its toxins. Even a small amount of the plant, however, can cause vomiting and mouth irritation. So while poinsettias aren’t the danger that we once thought, they are still a plant that you want to avoid allowing your pet -- especially curious puppies and kittens -- access to this holiday season.
  4. Insecticides - You are careful about the sprays used in your garden, but growers and retailers of holiday potted plants may not share your concerns. This means that your fur baby may come in contact with harmful insecticides if you aren’t very careful about the source and placement of these beautiful flowers and plants. Unless you are certain that the plant will not cause harm and you can verify how it was grown and treated before arriving in your yard, please keep them out of paws reach!


6. Keep Pets Under Close Supervision

As you add holiday decorations to your yard, keep your pet under close supervision. Even adult cats and dogs who are familiar with your garden will likely be curious about new decorations, unusual items and the various scents that the holidays bring. Young animals and those who are not allowed outside everyday will definitely want to explore and investigate things like blinking lights or decorations that move and make sounds. Keep a close eye on your pets when they are enjoying time outside and advise pet sitters on precisely which holiday decorations they should make sure that your pet avoids.


7. The Gift of Companionship

Your pets thrive off of companionship, but we know that they sometimes must be left behind so that you can enjoy quality time away with family. To the extent that you can, though, try not to leave your pet alone for long periods of time during the holidays. Beyond concerns about their loneliness, whether left indoors or out, there is much for a curious animal to get into or become startled by at this time of year.

Instead, if you are traveling out of town, hire someone to stay with your pet or at least check on their welfare each day that you are away. For dogs, consider hiring a professional, such as Fetch! Pet Care, that will keep them on a regular play, exercise and walking schedule despite all of the other holiday events going on at these times. Supervising your pets and keeping them on regular schedules will go a long way in distracting them from exploring decorations and other items that can be harmful to their health.

Your Advice is Welcome

Do you have any advice on how to pet-proof a yard and garden for the holidays? Any useful tips on pet-safe holiday decorations you’d like to share? Please take a moment to tweet us your thoughts on the subject as we are waiting to learn a thing or two from you, too!

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