Are Christmas Trees Dangerous to Pets?

Some holiday decorations can be a problem for pets.
Some holiday decorations can be a problem for pets. / Photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels

Everyone loves Christmas trees, but there’s no disputing that their presence in homes over the holidays has consequences. Real trees disperse pine needles and require watering; artificial trees rarely go back into a storage container easily.

Beyond logistical hassles, Christmas trees pose another issue. They may be a potential hazard for inquisitive pets. Are trees dangerous to dogs and cats? If so, how?

Whether a tree is real or fake, the needles can prove to be an attractive proposition for dogs, which are hardly discriminating when it comes to what they put in their mouth. A swallowed needle can create gastrointestinal irritation, while oils from a real tree could promote illness. Cats can also munch on needles, and both pets may be tempted to drink from the water-filled stand of a real tree. Any added preservatives or bacteria from that water can also prompt an adverse reaction.

It’s not just the tree itself that can cause issues. A dog or cat knocking over an ornament creates a sharp pile of glass or other material, while lights could see a pet get tangled up. Additional decorations like mistletoe and holly are outright toxic to animals. Cats react badly to lilies as well, even experiencing kidney failure.

While all this sounds like a holiday house of horrors, obviously pets are able to peacefully co-exist with holiday decorations. It’s a good idea to monitor you pets for the first few days after putting up a tree or other display to see if they have any curiosity about it. Even better would be to put up a baby or pet gate around the tree to discourage them from getting too close.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), it’s also wise to avoid decorating with tinsel, as its shiny surface can be attractive to cats. Also be aware of lighted candles that pets could knock over and try to keep wires out of reach.

If you want to be extra careful, some pet owners anchor their trees to walls to prevent pets from tipping them over. You can also try to keep more fragile ornaments higher up on the tree and out of reach.

[h/t The Spruce Pets]