Photo Credit: Bryan Mullennix, Getty Images
You knew that Christmas trees could be fire hazards, but did also know that cats and mistletoe don’t mix? Read on for ways to avoid these potential holiday dangers.
Holly is pretty as a holiday home accent -- but banish it from your house if you have pets. It can cause cats and dogs to suffer nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if they ingest it. Mistletoe can also cause stomach upset and cardiovascular problems. Many types of lilies can cause kidney failure -- so pick the artificial versions of any of these things if you like the look, according to the ASPCA.
Keep holiday food out of pets’ reach, since chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol are a couple examples of the many dangers that can harm your pets. And keep tinsel away from cats. They love the shiny strings, which can obstruct their digestive tract -- as can New Year’s confetti strings.
Fresh, well-watered trees don’t typically cause problems -- it's the dried-out ones that are the culprits. When selecting your tree, make sure needles are green and hard to pull back from branches. Needles shouldn’t break if your tree is freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. If needles fall off, the tree may be old and a fire hazard so move on to the next.
Place your fresh cut tree away from heat sources like fireplaces and vents. Heat will dry it, making it more likely to ignite. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. When disposing of your tree, discard it promptly.
Holiday Lights and Decorations
Before hanging any bulbs, make sure your light strings look OK, with no frayed wires or loose connections. Don’t put electric lights on metallic trees; this can charge the tree with electricity if lights are faulty. Make sure any lights you plan to hang outdoors are certified for such use -- this should be marked plainly on the box -- and use hooks or insulated staples to hang them rather than nails or tacks. Plug all electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters. And turn everything off before you go to bed or leave the house.
In the Kitchen
With so much going on this season, it’s easy to forget you have something heating in the kitchen. The American Association of Realtors’ Houselogic advises taking a potholder with you when you leave the kitchen as a reminder that you have something on the stove. Keep a kitchen fire extinguisher rated for all types of fires on hand, and make sure your smoke detectors are functional. If you’re deep frying your holiday turkey, make sure you do so outside on a flat, even surface a minimum of 10 feet from your home.
Make would-be robbers’ jobs harder by making your home look occupied even if you are away. Don’t forget to do the obvious: cancelling any deliveries like the newspaper and leaving some lights on. Entrust neighbors or friends to help you collect mail or flyers.
And while it’s tempting to share plans you’re excited about, putting that info on social media makes the news of your absence available on the Internet -- so avoid doing it.
As for gifts, those can be targets if evidence is visible from the street. Keep piles of presents concealed from the outside of your home, and cut up any boxes they came in.
Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.