• Yolanda M. Blake

Pet-Proofing Your Christmas Tree

Ah, Christmas time. Most of us are in the throes of decking the halls. We’re hanging the lights. We’re picking the perfect Christmas tree from our favorite local tree farm. We’re realizing the lights that were working perfectly last year are no longer working this year and exasperatedly hurrying to the store…


Of course, a beautifully decorated Christmas tree is generally thought to be the undisputed centerpiece of holiday decorations. Unfortunately, the garland, tinsel, lights, and ornaments are just as attractive to pets as they are to your guests. Tearing up packages, chewing on ornaments, and tearing down trees are just a few common fears that pet owners contend with during the holiday season. As if we don’t have enough stressors in our lives.


Of course, your beloved pet might act a little grinchy during the holiday season, but they’re just exploring the new home decor in the only way they know how.

Instead of getting frustrated, get smart with these creative Christmas tree, pet-proofing pointers.

The Dangers of Christmas Decor


Despite their beauty, Christmas trees and Christmas decor hide some very serious dangers to pets including:


· Shock or electrocution from chewing on light cords

· Injuries or illness from sharp needles or toxic oils in the needles

· Cuts or other injuries from broken ornaments

· Illness from drinking toxic tree water


How to Keep Your Pet Safe


Depending on your pet's temperament and the type of Christmas tree you have, there are several ways you can discourage your feline or pup from terrorizing the tree.


Choose a Pet-Friendly Location for Your Tree


When you choose a location for your Christmas tree, keep it away from things that are easily scalable—things like shelves, couches, window sills, and bookshelves. The goal is to make it difficult (or at the very least, unlikely) for your pet to jump into the tree’s branches.


You should also consider positioning the tree away from a pet's familiar areas, such as their feeding bowls, bed, or play areas. Placing a tree in your pet’s favorite part of the home makes it look like it’s just another chew toy or kitty castle.


Let Your Pet Investigate the New Decor in a Safe Manner


If you haven’t done so already, wait to decorate your tree. By letting your pet acclimate to its presence, your pet will have a chance to grow accustomed to the new tree and lose interest in it before you cover it with ornaments and decorations.


When you are ready to decorate, don’t tempt your pet by teasing them with Christmas ornaments. This is confusing to your pet and will only encourage them to play with the ornaments when you’re not around. Of course, some adornments should probably be avoided entirely. Tinsel, for instance, is shiny and stringy, making it a cat magnet. Likewise, low dangling, glittering, or moving ornaments will attract your pet's attention, as will any food ornaments such as popcorn strings, cinnamon cutouts, or candy canes.


Use Scent to Deter Your Pets


Studies have revealed that cats and dogs do not care for the smell of citrus, so placing some lemon or orange peels at the base of the tree, or using a citrus-scented deodorizer or pet deterrent will discourage them from playing in the trees branches.


Provide Better Perches for Your Cat


Even if you’ve taken every precaution, curiosity will often get the better of a curious cat or dog who doesn’t have anything better to play with. It’s important to provide additional activities for your pet, such as new toys or other attention, to act as a distraction during the holiday season.


Consider picking up some cat stands and other tall perches that your cat can claim as their own, or some long lasting chew toys for your dog to spend his evening munching away on.


Other Considerations


Live Trees


If you decorate with a real tree, be sure to cover the water dish to keep your pet from taking a drink, especially if you use any additives in the water to extend the tree's life. These chemicals can be toxic to your pet and cause serious health issues. And, while pine needles aren’t particularly toxic, they are small and sharp and can cause injury in your pet’s mouth and intestines, while pine needles' natural oils can cause an upset stomach if eaten. So, if you prefer the look of a live Christmas tree, be sure to sweep up fallen needles every day.


Additionally, holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias are common holiday houseplants that are potentially toxic to pets. The safest option for your pet is to look for pet-safe alternatives, such as artificial versions which can be just as lovely and much safer for your pet.


Lights


Finally, you’ll want to manage any wires and power cables, keeping them wrapped and covered to prevent your pets from playing with them.


Cats and dogs alike will happily chew on wires, sometimes resulting in shock and, at worst, even sparking a house fire. If it's difficult to put the light cords completely out of reach, try a combination of bitter sprays and cord covers to prevent your pet from chewing them.


Holidays are great, and pets can even add to the fun and festivities as long as we take the necessary precautions to keep them safe from their own curious nature. Of course, the best way to keep pets away from Christmas decor is to use as many techniques as possible to discourage their interest.

Every pet is different, but with enough training and deterrents in place, any pet can learn that a Christmas tree is meant to be enjoyed from afar. And that will make our holidays far, far less stressful.

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