Pets on the Naughty List: Our Favorite Stories of Holiday Mishaps

Black kitten with toys
Liz Palika
The holidays can be a prime time for mischievous pet behavior. Keep kittens and cats safe by storing ribbons and packaging out of reach.

Stacy Nordstrom Hackett vividly remembers her Cornish Rex cat Jordan's first Christmas. “He climbed halfway up our Christmas tree, grabbed the garland in his mouth and jumped out of the tree" — and took off running with the garland in his mouth. "The decorated tree followed him across the living room and halfway down the hall," says Nordstrom Hackett, "before he let go of the garland and hid under the bed.”

If you're a pet owner, Nordstrom Hackett's story probably sounds familiar. What would the holidays be without stolen treats, an episode of manger danger or a not-so-festive trip to the pet ER? We’ve gathered some of our favorite funny, sweet and, yes, cautionary pet holiday tales to make your Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus or winter solstice celebration just a little brighter — and maybe a little safer, too.

Holiday Dangers

Seasonal treats are a hallmark of the holidays — and, not surprisingly, our pets want in on the festive goodies. Even professionals can be fooled — dog trainer Mikkel Becker has fallen victim to multiple sneaky snacking pets over the years.

Scooter, the Becker family’s Wire Haired Fox Terrier, once devoured an entire holiday sampler tray of fruit covered in white chocolate. Thankfully, Becker says, there were no medical repercussions, other than an upset tummy. Unlike dark and milk chocolate, white chocolate contains less significant amounts of theobromine and caffeine, the substances that can give dogs (and less commonly, cats) the runs or cause vomiting, a rapid heart rate and seizures — just a few of the signs of chocolate overdose. So it's less likely — but not impossible — to result in toxicity. That said, overindulging in white chocolate can still lead to gastrointestinal upset and the food's high fat content can contribute to pancreatitis. If your pet eats any type of chocolate, it's still best to contact your veterinarian or ASPCA Animal Poison Control immediately.

More recently, Becker's Pug, Bruce, has carried on the family canine tradition of food thievery. “My best friend came to my house during the holiday season with a turkey sausage in her purse," Becker says. "Bruce smelled it and while we weren’t looking, he dug into her purse and ate the entire thing!” These days, when guests come to call, Becker greets them by asking if they have food in their bags, just to be on the safe side.

But no matter how careful pet owners are, sometimes things go wrong. Tracy Cawley of Halifax, Nova Scotia, recalls the Christmas Eve when her father was puttering in his workshop, preparing to use his table saw. He checked the sawdust bin for their black cat, Midnight, but didn’t see him.

“He started up the saw and out zipped Midnight,” Cawley says. “He made it upstairs and was running around the living room in a panic with his tail partially amputated. My parents caught him, brought him to the vet and stayed there until they could bring him home after surgery. Christmas morning, we had our beloved cat back, missing his tail."

Midnight's Christmas encounter with the table saw left a lasting memory — for everyone. "He never slept in the sawdust bin again,” Cawley says.


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