HOUGHTON - The decorations, treats and family gatherings that make the holidays festive can also make them a traumatic one for pets.
But there are several precautions owners can take that minimize the risk to them, said Tom Cole, veterinarian at Copper Country Veterinary Clinic.
Christmas trees are alluring targets, especially for cats, he said.
"Any cat owner should not put tinsel on their Christmas trees, because cats can get into that, and it can cause intestinal blockages and actually be life-threatening," he said.
Owners should also keep cats from drinking the water beneath the trees, as it can contain hazardous chemicals, he said.
Though less of a problem with dogs, the stress of holiday gatherings can get to cats, Cole said.
"What I like to do is isolate them in a separate room, maybe give them a box, food and a blanket, and keep them away from all the commotion," he said.
Several holiday plants - including mistletoe, pine needles and red azaleas - can also be poisonous, Cole said. Surprisingly, though, he said, poinsettias are less toxic.
"Bottom line is just to try to keep cats away from any festive-type plants, or maybe just not get them at all," he said.
With Christmas ornaments, Cole said, it's best to avoid any low-hanging ornaments that might tempt pets. He recalled his experiences with one pet.
"All the ornaments at the bottom one-third of three were gone," he said. "He'd swat those things off."
If ornaments break, the sharp pieces can also injure pets, Cole said.
"A lot of people think it's cute to have them playing with this stuff, and they will," he said. "The problem is, when they swallow this stuff, they can create a lot of damage."
Pets can be even more demanding than usual when they sniff exotic holiday foods. But people should resist the temptation to give it to them, Cole said.
Bones can splinter easily, while treats such as chocolate can be hazardous.
"It's sometimes fun to watch these guys really enjoying eating people food, but they'll be paying the price later on," he said.
The Humane Society of the United States has additional tips:
If planning to take a pet with when visiting friends and relatives during the holidays, contact them ahead of time to make sure the pet is welcome.
Don't leave candles unattended, as pets may knock them over and spill wax or start a fire.
Instead of giving a pet for Christmas, consider giving an adoption certificate from a local shelter so the recipient can pick out a pet of their choosing.