Can My Pets Play With Wrapping Paper?

Safety tips to keep in mind around gifts 🐶🎁

dog and cat eating wrapping paper and string

The most exciting part about receiving gifts is eagerly ripping off that wrapping paper. And your pet definitely loves that part, too — maybe even more than the present itself!

But as your dog tears a pile of wrapping paper to shreds, or your cat bats it across the living room floor, you might wonder, “Is this safe?”

We spoke to Dr. Bernadine Cruz, a veterinarian at Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in California, to find out if playing with wrapping paper is actually harmless fun.

Is wrapping paper safe for dogs and cats to be around?

For the most part, yes, wrapping paper is a perfectly fine option for playtime. Even eating it isn’t all that bad for your pet, as long as the rest of the gift is wrapped with safe materials.

“Ingestion of a small amount of paper is harmless,” Dr. Cruz told The Dodo. “The concern is not knowing if there were decorations on the paper that the pet was playing with that could be problematic.”

According to Dr. Cruz, it won’t be harmful if your pet accidentally swallows some tape either, but there are some other materials to watch out for.

Dangerous gift-wrapping materials

If you’re letting your pet play with wrapping paper, make sure to watch out for things like:

  • Glitter
  • Metal embellishments
  • Ribbon
  • String
  • Yarn

“String and ribbon should never be given to pets as a toy, especially not cats,” Dr. Cruz said. “Because of the nature of a cat’s tongue, the rough projections on the surface of their tongues catch the ribbon [or any other stringy material] and act as a one-way conveyor belt to their stomachs.”

String, yarn and ribbon can cause what’s called linear foreign body, which basically means a stringy object got stuck in your pet’s system, and can cause serious intestinal damage.

“This foreign body can cause choking and intestinal blockage. String foreign bodies can literally saw through intestinal loops leading to death in cats and dogs,” Dr. Cruz explained.

That’s NOT good, so you’re going to want to keep your pet away from anything that can be used to tie up presents or gift bags.

Glitter and decorative embellishments can also cause blockage or intestinal upset.

“They may or may not be visible on a radiograph (X-ray),” Dr. Cruz said.

So, it can be more difficult for a vet to diagnose your pet in these cases, since things like glitter don’t always show up on X-rays.

If your pet swallows any of those dangerous materials, contact your vet right away, because intestinal blockage is serious and can even be fatal.

Safe ways to play with wrapping paper

As long as your wrapping paper and presents don’t have any of those dangerous things on them, you and your pet are good to go.

And for some extra fun, Dr. Cruz recommends letting your pet play around with the cardboard roll at the center of any (glitter-free) wrapping paper.

“Scrunch the ends after adding a few holes just large enough for some tasty cat or dog treats to escape after the pet rolls it around the floor,” she said.