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The holiday season not only brings festive cheer and joy into our homes but, unfortunately, it also introduces potential dangers for our beloved pets. Glittering tinsel on the Christmas tree and colorful gift ribbons can pique the curiosity of our four-legged friends. What sparkles and rustles attracts cats and dogs as if by magic, but it carries serious risks if ingested. Here you will learn how to protect your pets from these dangers during this contemplative time.  

The Risks of Gift Ribbon and Tinsel 

Red and white wrapping paper, ribbon and black scissors on a table
image: tookapic – pixabay.com

Gift ribbon and tinsel, if eaten by pets, can lead to digestive blockages or even the dreaded “linear foreign body” in the digestive tract. This occurs when the ribbon stretches along the intestinal tract and becomes anchored at several points while the intestines continue to move. This can lead to severe injuries and often requires emergency surgery. 

Preventative Measures for a Safe Christmas 

Cat playing with golden christmas baubles on a christmas tree
image: Myshun – pixabay.com
  • Avoid Tinsel: Consider whether tinsel is really necessary. There are many other tree-decorating alternatives that are just as festive and do not pose a danger to your pet. 
  • Gift Ribbon Storage: Keep gift ribbons out of your pets’ reach. Dispose of all ribbons immediately after unwrapping presents. 
  • Pet-Safe Decorations: Choose Christmas decorations made from materials that are not interesting to your pet and do not pose a threat if they end up in their mouth. 
  • Supervision: Keep an eye on your pet when they are near the Christmas tree. Direct supervision can prevent your pet from nibbling on forbidden decorations. 
  • Training: Teach your pet that the Christmas tree and presents are off-limits. A firm “No” or redirecting their attention to allowed toys can work wonders here. 
  • Alternative Entertainment: Make sure your pets have enough safe toys so that they are less tempted to play with dangerous objects. 
  • Safety Check: Regularly perform a safety check to ensure that no small parts or decorations have fallen off that could be swallowed. 

First Aid for Ingestion 

If you suspect that your pet has swallowed tinsel or gift ribbon, do not hesitate to contact a veterinarian immediately. Do not wait for symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, or unusual lethargy, as these could be signs of a serious obstruction. 


It’s generally helpful to know in advance which veterinarian is on call during the holidays. This way, you can save yourself the stress of having to research in the midst of an emergency situation. 


Christmas should be a time of joy and togetherness, not emergencies and vet visits. With a little caution and preparation, you can ensure that your festive decorations don’t become a danger to your furry family members. By taking preventative measures and avoiding potentially dangerous decorations, you can give your pets a safe and merry Christmas. 

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