Christmas pet survival guide

Christmas pet survival guide

PDSA’s top tips for a stress-free Christmas

Christmas can be a stressful time for our pets, with homes suddenly filled with intriguing decorations, rich foods and noisy house guests. Here are PDSA’s top tips on keeping our four-legged friends safe and happy this Christmas.

Christmas Food

Chocolate is the number one cause of poisoning cases in pets at Christmas, so make sure to keep all goodies well out of reach of prying paws. Remember that wrapped gifts under the tree could contain chocolate, and dogs can easily detect the smell through the wrappings. Other festive favourites, such as mince pies and Christmas pudding, contain raisins and sultanas, which are toxic to pets. Some nuts, like macadamia nuts, are also dangerous, and big dinners and fatty foods commonly cause upset tummies. So stick to your pet’s normal diet over the festive period, even if they are looking at you with puppy eyes!


Christmas trees can make a tempting climbing frame for cats, but sadly vets see many injuries at this time of year due to falls and toppled trees.  Decorations can quickly become choking hazards for inquisitive pets, and if swallowed can cause fatal blockages. Keep pets out of the room containing the tree when you are not there to supervise.


Lots of us like to spoil our pets over the festive season with a nicely wrapped present or two, but sometimes it is the wrapping paper or the box that our pets enjoy playing with rather than their new toys! Pets are often attracted to things that are new and interesting, especially if they make an unusual sound or have an unfamiliar texture. As long as they are safe, this can provide excellent mental stimulation.

Don’t forget about smaller pets – rats, rabbits and hamsters all have different needs. For example, ferrets enjoy playing with toys that you change frequently, and tunnels and hammocks can provide all sorts of fun.  Rabbits need plenty of space to exercise and if your rabbit lives indoors, they might like to demolish that cardboard box you were thinking of recycling! Mice and rats like to explore mazes so think about how you could create one using safe materials like ink- and glue-free cardboard boxes. Remember that small pets can have a short attention span, so you need to provide different games and activities that you change frequently to keep them amused and entertained.


Lots of noisy house guests, parties, and family gatherings can cause pets to become anxious, confused or over-excited. Make sure your pet has a quiet den that they can retreat to if things get too much. Prepare this now and give them healthy treats when they are relaxed in their den so they build up positive associations with the area. Make sure everyone knows not to disturb pets when they are enjoying their quiet time. Pheromones (calming scents that pets can smell but are undetectable to humans) can help keep pets calm too – ask at your local vet practice for advice.

PDSA is the UK’s leading pet wellbeing charity, and celebrated its centenary on 17 November 2017. The charity is on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps PDSA reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information.

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