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cat peering out of box ahead of xmas tree

A pet-friendly Christmas in 16 steps

It’s upon us! The most wonderful time of the year or depending on your outlook, the most stressful time of the year. There’s meals to prepare, presents to buy, family evenings to endure and the weather’s only getting colder… but at least your pets are happy and healthy, right?

Take a look at our 16 steps to ensure your Christmas is fun and stress-free for all… including the furrier members of the family.

The build-up to Christmas time

1.    Watch out for grit/salt on the roads

Be careful of salt and grit from the roads. If this gets lodged into your dog’s paws or between their toes, it can be incredibly painful. Take care to avoid grit and salt when you’re out and about, and always wash your dog’s paws thoroughly after a winter walk – paying close attention between their toes.

2.    Check water bottles

Water bottles can freeze overnight in extremely cold temperatures! You can make sure your rabbits, guinea pigs or other small pets aren’t stuck with a block of ice where their water once was by wrapping it up in bubble wrap. 
When it’s really cold, consider bringing your small furry friends inside, or to a warmer area of the house. This will keep them nice and comfortable.

3.    Watch their weight

Your pets probably aren’t doing as much exercise as they were over the warmer months. This means they won’t be using as much energy and will not need to eat as much food. To keep your pet at a healthy weight this Christmas, stick to their recommended food portion and try to refrain from giving them treats.

4.    Put up your decorations slowly and carefully

When readying the house for Christmas, try putting up your decorations slowly and over the period of a few days if you can. A sudden change in your pet’s environment can be quite stressful for them; they’d much prefer a slow, steady Christmas transformation.

Never leave your pets alone with what they might think are new things to play with (or eat!) such as Christmas lights or tinsel.

5.    Is your tree a real one?

Needles from Christmas trees can harm your dog or cat’s paws. If your Christmas tree is a real one, take care to vacuum the surrounding area regularly. You can prevent needles from falling out by watering the tree – just make sure you cover the water at the bottom so your pet can’t drink it.

You should also avoid chocolate tree decorations if you have a dog or cat.

Read more: Are Christmas trees poisonous to dogs?

cat on sofa at christmas


Christmas Day: at home

6.    Supervision at all times

A good habit to get in to during the run-up to Christmas is to keep an eye on your pet at all times; never leave them alone with the tree, decorations they can swallow or Christmas treats that could poison them.

Keep an eye on your presents too. Christmas Day is a messy day and is bound to result in wrapping paper, ribbon and sellotape strewn all over the carpet. It’s a good idea to keep your pets in another room while you open your presents, and to clean up before inviting them to join you.

7.    Dangerous Christmas foods and plants

Chocolate, alcohol, mince pies, Christmas cake/pudding, cooked bones, xylitol, corn on the cob, garlic and fatty foods are all toxic to dogs and cats. Be sure never to feed your pets any of these foods and take care when you’re eating them yourself. E.g., it’s unwise to have your dog on your knee when devouring your Christmas pudding.

And it’s not just about food. Several Christmassy plants, such as holly, ivy, poinsettia and mistletoe, are all toxic to pets so take extra care if you have any of them in your vicinity.

Read more: Valentine’s Day dos and don'ts for pet owners

8.    Give your pet a gift

It’s a saying as old as time that ‘Pets are like children,’ or ‘Pets are family’…and it’s true! So don’t get your pet a present because it will distract them and keep them occupied over Christmas, get them a present because you love them! (But mainly it’s the distraction thing. It really can work wonders…if you’re strapped for ideas, puzzle feeders can be great at keeping them busy.)

9.    Be aware of your noise

Loud noises such as Christmas crackers and bursts of laughter can be stressful for your pets. Try not to exaggerate them too much, and allow your pet to come to you and walk away as they please.

10.    Alone time

Set up a safe zone that your pet can go to for some alone time. This is great if you’re having lots of guests over. Your pet might love it at first but they could become stressed or agitated over the course of the day. Remember, you can escape to your bedroom when you want five minutes of peace – your pet should be able to do the same!

11.    Take care while leaving out treats

If you’re leaving a special treat for Santa, make sure your pet can’t snaffle it when your back is turned! Store treats up high, preferably in a room your pet can’t get to.

Read more: 9 Christmas foods that are dangerous to pets

dog sat on present at christmas


Christmas Day: out and about

12.    Are your friends and family pet-savvy?

Check with your host before bringing your pet to their house. They might have completely different ideas to you about animals in their home. Are they happy that your pet is coming along? Do they make a habit of leaving the mince pies lying around?

13.    Prepare for the journey

If you’re embarking on a long drive, make sure you bring plenty of toys to keep your pet occupied. Stop every so often and let them out to stretch their legs and go to the toilet.

14.    Is your pet ready?

Are their vaccinations up to date? Have they had their flea and worm treatment? Plan these things well in advance of Christmas and keep a constant eye on your pet when they’re in your host’s house – bringing their own toys with you will do a great job of keeping them busy.

15.    Know your pet

Cowering, shivering, growling, barking/meowing more than usual and refusing food can all be signs of stress. You know your pet better than anyone does, so it’s important to be on the lookout.

16.    Consider calming products

If the Christmas period is too much for your pet, think about getting a pheromone spray or diffuser. These can be really helpful for particularly nervous or anxious pets. We recommend Vetpro: Stress & anxiety - developed and approved by expert vets and gets to work in just one hour!

Read more: Christmas plants that are toxic to dogs (and some safe alternatives)

And there we have it! We wish you the happiest of Christmases and all the best for the New Year!

If you have questions or wish to find out more about any of the information above, you can get in touch with your vet. 

Find your nearest vet using our find a vet page, or speak to a vet online using our video vets service.

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