After a nice walk in Winter Wonderland you are out at a store and suddenly see a flashing sign that is drawing squeals and excitement from all the kids.
20 days till Christmas!
Where’s my Christmas tree? What do I get for everyone? AAAHHHHH!
At least, that’s what I do all December long. I panic. I hope you have a more relaxed, enjoyable season. So today, lets start at the very beginning to make things a bit easier for you.
Picking Your Christmas Tree:
If you prefer to bring live fir into your home for the holidays, and why not? The smell is just fantastic isn’t it? But really… it is a big stick and one that may get chewed on. Fir sap is not the most pleasant thing to be in one’s mouth and can cause a lot of painful irritation with the added benefit of tree needles sticking in your gums. Tree and needle chewing can cause frothing at the mouth (no its not rabies, just irritation), broken teeth, stabby needles cutting holes in delicate tissues if swallowed, vomiting, blockages.. oh My! All of which require a call to your veterinarians office to see if an appointment is recommended or emergency care is needed.
To be safe, let your pet be somewhere safe while you set the tree up and then monitor them around the tree to see what added precautions you will have to take.
Also, be very careful with any water additives you are using. My cats growing up ALWAYS drank the tree water. It was their favorite water dish. My parents didn’t mind because that made me in charge of keeping the water full! But that really was in the past. It is much better to restrict access to drinking tree water, especially if you add any fertilizers to keep the tree healthy longer.
TREE ADDITIVES KILL PETS. Do not use or restrict access!
And best pass on the flocking too. I’m sure it isn’t edible….
They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They are easy to store and maintain and are cheaper in the long run than their live friends but not as environmentally friendly.
They are just a big of a eating risk. Especially the small, bright ones. Even though the needles on these trees are generally more kind to the gums and digestive tract, the same rules of NO EATING still apply.
Fake trees also seem easier to tip over since most come with little in the way of base weight. If you remember Cooper’s first Christmas, it looked something like this…
Trees tipping over is not an uncommon thing to happen with pets or kids no matter if it’s a live or fake tree. Before you blow your top, look at it from a cats point of view. A Christmas Tree is a huge scratching post! It has branches to climb, sparkly objects to chase and pounce! And the shiny! Just look at the shiny!! To your cat, a Christmas tree is basically the best toy ever invented and you’re a Grinch yelling at them to leave it alone. This can be very frustrating and confusing to cats.
And your dog? Come on! They’d bring their own tree in doors if we’d let them, and it wouldn’t be to leave alone in the corner and look at either.
They want the tree. They want it bad. They were made to have it. It must be theirs.
… but no. Be patient and work with them to understand that it is a decoration and not a toy.
I am definitely not advocating skipping the tree, just humbly requesting patience… a lot of it!
This is definitely a training exercise you embark upon when you bring trees indoors with pets.
Despite Cooper’s many successful tree tipping parties, we finally kept the tree up, it just took some heavy lifting… by that I mean weights. Simply making the base heavier was our key to a peaceful Christmas season. One of your first tree’s up tasks is to make sure the tree is stable and weighed down enough to withstand most things. Cooper never meant to tip the tree over. He just wanted to play with it.
If you think training ends with successfully keeping the tree up… I’m sorry to inform you that you are in for a nasty surprise. Lights are the next bit of training fun on your list. Besides being a fire hazard all by themselves, tree lights and cords look so delightful and rewarding to chew on to dogs and cats alike. At all times of the year, exercise caution and safety with all plugs, outlets and exposed cables. Tie them back. Hide them. Monitor them frequently for signs of chewing. Replace damaged or old cords. Do not overload circuits.
I guarantee fire personnel want to be in their own homes, with their own family. Not in your home putting out accidental fires and rescuing pets and people. They work hard. Visit them with snacks on the holidays to thank them and then do your level best to give them less work.
Also, electrical burns in your mouth make it difficult to eat and may have lifetime health effects. It is definitely something your pet does not want to experience!
Finally, the last step to the tree. The funnest part really after fighting to keep the tree up and untangling all the lights, the decorating part is really what we look forward to.
Until you know how your pet will react to a Christmas Tree, it’s best to keep the fragile ones, or the ones very dear to your heart, somewhere safe and just put out the more durable, easy to lose ones. And then, just decorate the top of the tree. Once you and your pet come to terms about the tree, more can be added or removed as needed to keep the peace. River never did care one bit about the tree. LeeLoo and Cooper on the other hand… sigh… We’re still working on that one.
Low hanging ornaments are just asking for playtime:
Tinsel and Candles – Just Say No!
Walk away from the tinsel and any garland that may look delicious to your pet.
Food Decorations – Just Say No!
In a few minutes you’re going to question this when we talk about popcorn, but think more of mistletoe, poinsettia flowers, etc.
Tips to Tree Peace:
It’s the little things that will allow your pet to accept the NO TOUCHING THE TREE rule and still feel part of the holiday with you. Try one or many. Ask Google for help. I’m sure some pet parent somewhere has your answer if I don’t. We all want to keep the season bright.
- Put your pets toy box near the tree so that you have ready distractions for the often to be repeated “No tree!” Command followed abruptly by the “Yes to fun toys to chew and toss” time.
- Make a nice hiding space in the back for your cat to nap in and watch the world through the branches.
- If a secure bed fails, block access to the under-tree area with child gates or a Tree Defender to keep them from climbing up the tree.
- I have heard of popcorn garland used instead of tinsel or garland because pop-corn by itself without any salt, butter, etc. is actually a good treat so it’s no big deal if the family pet devours it. But use with caution. That string you use to make popcorn garland is just as likely to cause string foreign body as tinsel. Popcorn thief? fine within reason. String? NO!
- If your pet has no interest in the tree at all, just the decorations, try using their toys as decorations for the low branch to keep them occupied and away from the higher branches. Catnip mice and small balls are best for this, sorry big dogs. Make the toys easy to pull off or just set them on the branch to be flung around without pulling the tree down to get to them.
- If your cat just won’t behave well with the tree. Try spraying the base of the tree (not the cat) with a citrus scent. Cat’s are not a fan! They sell lemon sprays commercially that will help you find a pet friendly version.
- Make sure your pets have other, more interesting, toys and spots available. Cat trees, cushy beds, safe toys etc.
- When my baby was first crawling… the tree actually went IN the play pen to keep her out of it. This should work the same for puppies, but cats will just jump in and play.