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As you decorate for the holiday season, keep pets safe by knowing which plants and trimmings might be toxic

A Persian cat is sitting on the white windowsill, eating the houseplant.
Irina Orlova/Getty Images/iStockphoto
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iStockphoto
Our pets might be curious about holiday decorations and houseplants. Some of them may be toxic if pets ingest them. Even common houseplants, like jade and aloe, can be harmful to pets if eaten.

Lots of folks have welcomed new dogs and cats into their homes in the past year or two. Learn how to keep your new additions to the family safe from potentially toxic holiday house plants and decorations.

If you have a new cat or dog, watch them a bit closer as you decorate for the holidays.

Some of the wreaths, plants, flowers and berries that you might use to make your home look festive could be harmful to pets if ingested.

Other common house plants that you might have at home, like jade plants and aloe are also toxic to cats.

If you share your home with cats and dogs, keep this list of toxic plants from the ASPCA handy.

This time of year, you might decorate wreaths and trim the tree with natural materials found in your landscape. And you might have boxwood, amaryllis, cyclamen, kalanchoe, mistletoe, and lilies decorating your home.

All of these plants and things like holly berries and the leaves of azaleas, if ingested by pets, can be toxic to animals.

In these instances, the size of the pet matters, so if your dog or cat is small, eating even a small amount of a plant could be harmful while a bigger animal might fare better.

Each pet is different, of course. So if a dog or cat eats some of these plant leaves or berries, some might have no symptoms while other might have a reaction. The reactions can range from gastrointestinal irritation to something more serious.

Instead, plan to deck your halls with pet-safe plants for holiday decorations.

Christmas cactus, African violets, moth orchids, roses, bromeliad, rosemary and even poinsettias are safe choices to have around pets.

Many people think poinsettias are poisonous because they're in the euphorbia family. Those are plants that have that white milky sap in their stems.

Do note that the sap can be an eye and skin irritant and is considered toxic to ingest but an animal would have to consume a lot of poinsettia leaves to have a serious reaction, so those are considered safer.

Keeping holiday plants and decor up off the ground can help with curious dogs but cats, of course, can climb and nibble.

Some cat-owning plant lovers use techniques like coating a plant's leaves and stems with repellent spray. This can keep kitty away as they find the different scents off-putting.

And placing toothpicks or even pine cones in plant containers and soil can keep cats away as they don't want to step on them.

Another thing to consider, too, if you keep a live Christmas tree in your home during the holidays - cover the water basin in the tree stand. This will help keep your dog or cat from drinking it, as the water could become stagnant and harbor unhealthy bacteria and mold.

Our currant bush budded out during a recent warm spell. What should I do? - Amy, in Underhill

Spring flowering bushes do tend to bud out a little bit if we have a warm spell. Now that it's gotten colder, the plant's desire to bud out should be "on hold." Even if it flowered a little bit, the currant bush will still grow and flower normally come spring.

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Mary Engisch is the host and reporter for Weekend Edition Saturday and Weekend Edition Sunday on VPR.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on VPR. Be part of the fun and send your gardening questions here, for Charlie to answer on the air. Plus, find lots of great gardening tips and information for all seasons here. For more gardening information, check out Charlie's website, Gardening with Charlie Nardozzi. Charlie is a guest on VPR's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.