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holiday safety for exotic pets

The holiday season is here which means things are about to get crazy. As wild as the holidays can get for us, it can be even worse for our pets. The holidays mean there are new safety hazards everywhere. Even if you aren’t into hosting, there are still precautions you need to take for the safety of your pet. Before you hang decorations or light a scented candle, here are some safety tips to ensure you and your scaled, furred, and feathered family have a happy holiday.

holiday safety tips for exotic pets

Prevent a holiday of horrors. Here are some things to be particularly vigilant of as we kick off the holiday season.


Birds and Teflon do not mix. With their specialized respiratory systems, birds are highly sensitive to the chemicals released from overheated Teflon. Exposure to the PTFEs in heated Teflon can result in Teflon poisoning and hemorrhaging in the respiratory tract. Agitation, respiratory distress, and sudden death are all signs of Teflon poisoning. While all birds are highly susceptible, smaller birds like budgies, canaries, and cockatiels are particularly sensitive due to their size.

To prevent Teflon poisoning, do not keep your bird in or around the kitchen if you are using non-stick cookware. If your home is open concept, remove your bird to a bedroom. Keep the stove vent on, and open windows to keep fresh air circulating through your home. Be very cautious to not burn or overheat your pans.

It is very important to know that Teflon poisoning can occur even if pans are not overheated. Poisoning has even been reported in birds that were not in the same room as the non-stick pans being used. The only way to absolutely prevent Teflon poisoning is to remove all non-stick cookware from your kitchen. Most of us can’t run out and buy a new set of cookware, so slowly phase your non-stick cookware out and replace it with items that are safe for you and your bird.

Boiling Liquids and Oven Doors

Animals are curious, and this can get them in trouble. If you have a free-roaming bird, ferret, or other small animal, it’s best to keep them in their enclosure and out of the kitchen entirely while you cook. An inquisitive animal may end up scalding themselves on pots, flying into hot liquids or steam, and even burning themselves by crawling or landing on an open oven door.

boiling water exotic pet safety

Tempting Holiday Snacks

Keep an eye on your pets around any tasty treats, and be aware of things that may be toxic to them. Foods that are toxic to many pets include:

  • Chocolate

  • Avocados

  • Xylitol (found in sugar-free candy, gum, and some peanut butter)

  • Grapes

  • Garlic

Since all animals have different sensitivities, make sure you are aware of the foods your pet needs to stay away from. Make sure your guests do not try to sneak your pet any treats that you do not approve of. If you know some of your guests are perpetual line crossers, keep your pets safely out of sight so no one is tempted to give them “just one bite”.

Scented Candles And More

Birds aren’t the only critters with delicate respiratory systems. The chemicals found in aerosol sprays, carpet fresheners, and even scented candles can lead to respiratory irritation in rabbits, ferrets, and birds. Don’t be fooled by items that claim to be safe because they include essential oils. Essential oils can be incredibly irritating and downright toxic for pets. Essential oil diffusers can be particularly dangerous since they put droplets in the air which your pet may ingest while grooming.

candle safety for exotic pets

Fireplace Smoke

Nothing says holidays like a cheery fire crackling in the fireplace. Make sure your fireplace is well-ventilated to protect your pets (and yourself) from irritating smoke and carbon monoxide. Don’t let them get too close, not only to prevent irritation from inhaling smoke, but also to keep them from venturing too close and getting burned. Make sure you have a fireplace screen in place.

Birds should be kept as far away from the fireplace as possible. They are more susceptible to the effects of smoke and carbon monoxide.

Holiday Decorations

We see a beautifully decorated tree, they see something shiny that might be fun to chew. If you’re in the habit of putting up a Christmas tree, be very careful about the ornaments you choose. Pets might decide the tree looks like a great place to explore. They won’t distinguish between your ornaments and their enrichment toys. This can lead to heavy metal toxicity from the zinc that can be found in some ornaments. They may also chew on the lights, risking painful electrical burns and possibly deadly shocks.

bunny christmas tree safety

To keep your pets safe from the tree, try to conceal any wires that are low enough for non-climbers like rabbits to chew. Avoid spraying flocking on your tree, and consider glitter and tinsel off-limits. Do not allow your pets to be around the tree unsupervised, or exercise them in a different room.

Floral Arrangements

If you love a festive floral arrangement, keep it in an area your pet can’t get to. Some common holiday plants can cause severe toxicities ranging from gastric pain, drooling, and vomiting… to breathing problems and low heart rate.

These are a few but not all of the culprits:

  • Poinsettias

  • Mistletoe

  • Amaryllis

  • Holly

  • Christmas Cactus

  • Yew

  • Lilies

You can find a comprehensive list of toxic plants on the ASPCA website.

New People

For a lot of us, the holidays mean a surplus of visitors popping in. This can be stressful for your pet. Loud noises, new smells, and crowds can be overwhelming and can cause physical signs of stress in your pet… especially if all of your visitors are trying to force your pet to socialize.

kid with hamster safety

Keep your pet in a low-traffic area if you are having visitors. If your pet enjoys attention, then allow one person at a time to visit with them, while you supervise. If you have a shy pet, make sure they are in a comfortable environment and keep the door closed so noise is limited and they feel safe.

The holiday season is stressful enough. So keep these tips on holiday safety for exotic pets in mind to help keep your pet out of harm’s way and save you a trip to the vet.


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