Just like people, cats and dogs like shiny things, wrapped gifts, and nibbling on snacks. This time of year, the temptations are plentiful.
That said, keeping them away from the Christmas tree (or any holiday decor) can be like teaching them a new trick.
So how do you keep your tree pet-free? Use these 10 tips to keep everyone jolly all season long.
- Try a fake tree. Not only can you use them year after year, but they won’t have any of those pesky pine needles that could land your pet in the pet ER if eaten. Cats in particular are balls of curiosity, so they’ll check out anything that looks like it’s worth exploring. Even the strong smells can be a problem for your furry friends, especially when they have asthma or trachea problems (common in older dogs).
- Prevent pouncing. A tree can seem like a huge activity center for pets. Keep your tree away from furniture they could use as a jumping off point to get at that tree and possibly knock it over. This isn’t as much of an issue with older pets, but better safe than sorry. You can also try a smaller table-top tree that won’t be as much of a danger if it tips.
- Secure the tree.Kids and pets alike see a tree and think, “I should touch this! I should pull this!” But there are things you can do to help prevent a dangerous toppling tree. Use a heavy-duty tree base and make sure it is secure. And attach the tree to hooks on the wall or ceiling with fishing line or ropes (you can find decorative ones at holiday time).
- Cover the water. Your pet doesn’t know the difference between their own bowl of water and the one at the bottom of the tree that may have toxic fertilizers and breed harmful bacteria. Tree water could cause nausea or diarrhea if your pet drinks it. Cover any water with a Velcro tree skirt or some other covering so pets can’t drink it.
- Make your tree boring and unpleasant (to your pets!).Cats love sparkly things, so ditch the tinsel. It’s harmful to kitty tummies. Cats and dogs don’t like the smell of citrus. They also don’t like aluminum foil. One tip: Wrap the base of your tree in foil and line with orange or lemon peels. Just be careful with the strong smells if your pet has asthma or trachea problems. Talk to your vet if you’re unsure.
- Keep your furry friends active.Make sure your petshavelots to do while you’re busy with holiday baking and online shopping.“Keeping your [cats and dogs] – especially the younger ones occupied and allowing them to get all of their energy out is key,” says Kim Johnson, DVM, an emergency vet in Ventura, CA. And, Johnson says, even with lots of their own toys and activities, never leave your pet unattended around the tree.
- Watch out for glass and lights. Ornaments look like fun toys to cats. Glass from a broken ornament can cut your feline family member or could damage their sensitive digestive tract if eaten. “I tell my clients to move them about 3 feet higher on the tree,” says Johnson. They will be harder for furry paws to swipe. This goes for lights too, says Johnson, which can cause shock and organ failure if chewed on by your kitty.
- Avoid the ‘Home Alone’ problem. Don’t leave your pets alone with the tree – or lit candles, or unattended food, or holiday plants. “No matter how old your pet is, they have the mind of a 2- or 3-year-old toddler,” says Johnson. “Think about that in human terms. You wouldn’t leave your toddler around the Christmas tree alone, so it’s the same for cats and dogs.”
- Consider a pet fence around the tree. You can use a small indoor fence to surround the tree so no little paws can get close. You can pick one of these up at your local pet store or online if you don’t have one already. They come in all shapes and varieties – even clear plexiglass so pets (and kids) can look but not touch! But talk to your vet first – these may not be practical for particularly large or athletic pets.
- Get wild – go treeless. You can create your own pet-safe centerpiece to replace a traditional tree. Look online for creative ideas made from metal, wood, or even from a collection of holiday cards arranged in the shape of a tree. It just might become your tradition – and certainly party topic – for years to come.