Holly and Houseplants Bring Howls and Hisses: Holiday Safety Tips for Pets

8:30am | Because our pets are some of our favorite—if not absolutely our favorite—things, we want to emphasize the importance of being especially careful about them during the winter holiday season. During this busy time, we often become addlepated, and little things like keeping the kitten away from the tinsel may slip our minds. At the same time, we covertly slip Aunt Yetta’s fruitcake to the dog, not realizing that the raisins in it may make him ill. Like so many publications online and off, we wish your pets a safe Christmas with the following caveats:

Decorations, Gift Wrap and Other Christmas Clutter

  • Dogs knock them over and cats climb them, so make the tree as inaccessible as possible, and keep decorations and ornaments, especially the fragile ones, on the high branches.
  • Keep all tinsel and the ribbon from gift packages away from your pet at all times. These things can get stuck in the intestine, and surgery will be necessary. And tinsel and ribbon are—well, catnip to cats.
  • Candles are especially dangerous near animals. Don’t light them anywhere near where your pet will be.
  • Mistletoe, poinsettia, holly, lilies, garlands—not vegetables. In fact, they’re horribly toxic to pets. Keep them out of reach as well.
  • Exposed electric cords can cause electrocution or burns. (Remember that God-awful scene from Christmas Vacation? I know that we’re not the only ones who didn’t think it was funny, and it can happen.) Especially keep the pet rabbits, hamsters and all things great, small and chew happy away from them.
It’s Their Holiday, Too

We find this hard to believe, but not everyone thinks that pets are members of the family. Less unbelievable is that pets don’t like all your friends, either. If there’s a crowd at the house, make sure your cat or dog has a room to cower in or a bed to curl up underneath. Keep the litter box as private as you would your own. Check on your pet from time to time during the event and tell them that it’s all right, that you love them, and the interlopers will be gone in a matter of hours.

If any of the parades pass by your house and your pet freaks out over the drums and tubas, consult your vet for a tranquilizer. They do make earplugs for pets, but neither of us has used them on ours, so we can’t recommend them one way or another. Again, trust your vet for this information.

Do not feed pets from the table.

  • Bones from fowl can splinter and stick in your pets intestinal tract. Don’t feed any to your pet.
  • Leftovers that have been sitting out may have spoiled and can make your pet ill. Toss everything in the disposal or the compost pile.
  • Keep all alcoholic drinks, especially sweet and creamy ones like eggnog, completely out of reach of animals.
There are a number of foods toxic to pets, and we’ve provided a link at the end of the article. Chocolate is widely known to be toxic to dogs, and such foods as grapes, raisins, onions and walnuts are also poison to their systems. If your pet vomits or seems otherwise ill after a party or on the next day, get him or her to a vet, even if you are hung over.

If you reaaaally feel your pet deserves a special holiday meal, because after all, they can read the calendar, there are always the treats at Chuck and Toby and the Pawbar at Pussy and Pooch, both in Belmont Shore, or downtown at P.J.’s Pet Café, where canines have their own restaurant (if you’re a person, you will have a free beverage to enjoy while your dog has his dinner). There is also a bombardment of specially packaged gourmet pet food for dogs and cats to enjoy at home -- some of the cans even have holiday themes, me oh my.

Travels with Charlie, or Any Furry Friend

If you’re going to be away, make special arrangements for your pet and include instructions for feeding, socializing and medication (if any). Leaving pets at home with a sitter who can come in is often preferable to boarding, especially for cats. Canines, however, may enjoy the socialization of doggy overnight camp.

Make sure pets wear proper identification, and get them microchipped.

If your travel plans include your pet, there are plenty of pet-friendly campgrounds and hotels available. You also may be lucky enough to be staying with a friend or family member who’s just as nuts as you are regarding animals. Again, be sure your pet wears ID, and a microchip is mandatory. Locate a vet in the area where you’ll be staying, or have someone recommend one.

Your dog may enjoy the wind in his or her ears, but restrain him or her on long road trips to prevent driver distraction and for safety’s sake. You’ll be in an area unfamiliar to both of you.

If traveling by airplane, check the flights to see if you can bring your pet in a carrier in the cabin and not in cargo. It’s one thing to lose your baggage, but having your pet disappear is tragic. Again, see your vet for a tranquilizer, if necessary, and any other necessary medications.

In all cases, provide plenty of food and water, and toys and treats, too!

Ultimate Safety Tip

Pets are not gifts, so don’t surprise anyone with one. Shelters and rescues are full of good intentions gone awry. However, if you know anyone planning to adopt a pet, or if you have promised one to someone in your family, you can make a special “critter coupon” on which you promise to accompany the prospective parent to one of the many aforementioned shelters or rescues: ACS, Seal Beach Animal Care Center, Hearts for Hounds, Helen Sanders CatPaws, etc. etc. etc. etc.

Emergency Veterinarians

Finally, keep the number of a 24-hour emergency vet nearby, and have one researched and selected so you won’t have to scramble if, God forbid, the dog should get into the chocolate Advent calendar. Ask friends or your own veterinarian for a referral, and SPCAla recommends driving to the location itself and talking to the vets and seeing their creds. Do your research online and in person for any or all of them before you choose.

Long Beach Animal Emergency (see Pet Projects below for grand opening)
4720 E. Pacific Coast Hwy.
Long Beach, CA 90804
(562) 735-5200

Norwalk Crossroads Animal Emergency and Referral Center
11057 E. Rosecrans Ave.
Norwalk, California 90650
(562) 863-2522
(800) 345-9088

VCA Lakewood Animal Hospital
10701 South St.
Cerritos, CA 90703
(562) 926-3600

Choice Veterinary Care
225 Rosecrans Pl
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 956-7062

Orange County Emergency Pet Clinics
12750 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92843
(714) 537- 3032

3021 Edinger Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780
(949) 654-8950


Food Reference.com

Humane Society of the United States

For plants and food toxic to pets, click here and here.

Pet Projects

Saturday, December 3, Holiday Bone-Anza, Good Neighbor Park, 2800 Studebaker Rd., 9:00am-2:00pm.

Long Beach has a huge canine population estimated at over 100,000. We have several great parks and a dog beach around town, but there aren’t enough off-leash areas to provide the running and playing room needed to keep our urban dogs healthy and happy! Friends of El Dorado Dog Park wants to help solve this problem by creating a three-to-four-acre dog park in El Dorado Regional Park, and a fun event is planned to help raise the $100,000 needed to make this happen. Along with music, a raffle, free popcorn for the kids, dog training demos and more, there will be more than 30 vendors and a few gourmet food trucks offering their wares to the holiday-shopping crowds. A humane education table will be in place to disseminate information about a major objective of the animal-welfare community. Join us and help us create a place where dogs can be social and healthy, both physically and mentally! Click here for more details; e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for questions and information. Sponsorships are requested.

Sunday, December 4, Long Beach Animal Emergency Open House, 4720 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Noon-6:00pm.

As mentioned above, Long Beach is getting a local emergency clinic, and what better way to check it out than in person? Enjoy raffles, treats, a hospital tour and a meeting with the staff! Great to have a place so close!

Saturday, December 10, SPCAla Mobile Adoptions, Petsmart, 7631 Carson Blvd., 10:30am-3:30pm.

Meet SPCAla’s adorable adoptees and pick up any needs you have when you adopt one!

Sunday, December 17, SPCAla Foster Class, P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village & Education Center, 7700 E Spring St., 10:00am-Noon.

If you can’t adopt for some odd reason, be a foster parent. SPCAla provides the pet, food and materials, and you provide the love.

See ASPCla’s gift/donation catalogue here.

Do I Go Home Today? by Sandi Thompson

Kelly Miott, ACS’s outreach hero, found this poem on a rescue website and wanted us to post it. If it will bring up more than tears, it’s more than worth it.

My family brought me home cradled in their arms.
They cuddled me and smiled at me and said I was full of charm.
They played with me and laughed with me and showered me with toys.
I sure do love my family, especially the girls and boys.
The children loved to feed me, they gave me special treats.
They even let me sleep with them
all snuggled in the sheets.
I used to go for walks, often several times a day.
They even fought to hold the leash, I'm very proud to say.
These are the things I'll not forget - a cherished memory.
I now live in the shelter-without my family.
They used to laugh and praise me when I played with that old shoe.
But I didn't know the difference between the old ones and the new.
The kids and I would grab a rag, for hours we would tug.
So I thought I did the right thing when I chewed the bedroom rug.
They said that I was out of control and would have to live outside.
This I did not understand, although I tried and tried.
The walks stopped, one by one; they said they hadn't time.
I wish that I could change things; I wish I knew my crime.
My life became so lonely in the backyard, on a chain.
I barked and barked all day long to keep from going insane.
So they brought me to the shelter but were embarrassed to say why.
They said I caused an allergy, and then they each kissed me goodbye.
If I'd only had some classes, as a little pup.
I wouldn't have been so hard to handle when I was all grown up.
"You only have one day left." I heard the worker say.
Does that mean I have a second chance?
Do I go Home today?

By Sandi Thompson

Virtually Pets

Chub Rock
We got a flyer a couple of days ago that featured six kitties—three tuxes and three calicos—all of whom had been rescued when their mother either abandoned them or was killed. They’ve been bottle-fed and are now 17 weeks old and looking for good homes. The rescuer would prefer them being adopted in pairs to ease loneliness but says that she’ll be happy for them to have you fill that gap if you cannot take more than one. Chub Rock here is the roundest of the bunch and loves to roll himself around and play. Each kitten has a different personality—of course—contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you’d like to have a look at them!

Bailey’s so anxious to get homed that she’s put on Aunt Yetta’s glasses and is trying to pass herself off as your auntie. She’s not bearing a fruitcake this time, thank God; instead, she’s loaded with love and personality. Here’s another gift situation that didn’t work out—she was given to a family, including a teenage girl who loves her very much, with a lot of other dogs, and it isn’t working out. She needs to be in a one-dog home. She’s a 7-year-old pit bull mix and has been spayed. E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you meet her “specs.”

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