The Christmas tree might as well be an early holiday gift to your cats and dogs. Pets can’t resist the urge to sniff, claw, water—and scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. Don’t blame your cat or dog. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society, and dogs may want to “mark” the convenient indoor doggy signpost.
Magical-Dawg was born in July, and he came to live with us in early October. So when it came time to put up that year’s tree, I weenied out. We didn’t put up a tree until he was three years old and had sorta-kinda-in-a-way learned to control himself. I already had practice from dealing with the Seren-kitty’s tree love affair.
For puppies, the Christmas season can be a challenge for owners. Your puppy may believe the Christmas tree is a special gift just for his entertainment. The attraction is natural, with puppies wanting to chew branches, pull off decorations, or worse. The result is a holiday that’s anything but merry.
Youngsters won’t care about social standing, but high energy kitten play turns the holiday tree into a jungle gym. Tree encounters of the furry kind not only risks breaking your heirloom ornaments, your pets can be injured by chewing or swallow dangerous items.
Puppies turn everything into a toy. The branches beneath the tree create a great puppy hideout. Tree ornaments that move or make noises lure puppies to grab and chase, garland offers a great game of tug-o’-war, and the twinkling lights draw them to investigate or even chew. That can lead to electrical shock (check out The First-Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats for tips that can save your pets’ lives). Trees end up toppled, presents and decorations damaged, and sometimes pets are hurt.
Holidays mean memories and damage to “things” may matter more at this time of year than others. My grandmother always displayed a gorgeous white porcelain nativity each year. That nativity symbolized for me all-good-things about Grandma’s house and Christmas–good food, happy reunions, presents, and love shared by our close-nit family. So when Grandma died, I was blessed to keep her Nativity and continue to display it in my own home.
When Seren-kitty arrived, I was nervous about her rambunctious behavior around the Holy Family. But it wasn’t until three years ago that the worst happened while my husband played his nightly fetch game with the dog–it could have been me, so there’s no blame here. The Magical-Dawg’s ball ricocheted off of the delicate nativity and managed to behead Joseph and lop off Mary’s hand. Sounds funny, right?
I had a melt down. You probably could hear my scream for miles and the sobs lasted days. It wasn’t just china, a THING damaged. It was my personal Christmas, my Grandma, childhood happy times–shattered.
Eventually I stopped crying. There was no question of replacing the pieces–they’re hard to find and besides, it was THAT nativity that meant everything to me. We eventually found a restoration expert able to give Mary back her hand and re-attach Joseph’s head. I’m just grateful Grandma’s Nativity continues to be a part of our personal traditions and holiday happiness.
Since that time, we’ve curtailed Magical-Dawg’s games of fetch, especially around the holidays. Hey, it wasn’t the dog’s fault. But it’s up to us humans to protect what’s important to us–not just our pets but our memories.
Place “tacky mats” under the tree to shoo away pets. These can be found at pet products stores used to keep throw rugs from slipping, and pets don’t like to walk on the sticky surface. Alternatively, get some Sticky Paws (double sided tap) and apply to place mats or other moveable surfaces and place in strategic locations.
Put small trees inside a baby playpen to keep small pets out. Or use baby gates to keep the pets out of the tree room. Keep breakable or dangerous ornaments out of paw-reach (or better, don’t use at all!). Put only pet safe décor within sniffing range on lower branches.
Ditch the lights, and any “fake-snow” flocking that can be chewed or swallowed. Instead, decorate with cotton balls or pillow-stuffing fleece for that snowy look on branches or around the base. If you’ve chosen a real tree, water with plain water and no additives in case pet decides to drink.
Strings and garland look great on the tree, but prove deadly inside a cat or dog when swallowed. Dried flowers like baby’s breath look lovely and are nontoxic even if clueless pets nibble.
CREATE A PET-SAFE TREE!
Rather than fight a losing battle to keep them at bay, create a second pet-safe tree with these tips, so the fur-kids can enjoy the holidays as much as you do.
Put yourself in your pet’s “paws.” Satisfy her desire to claw, lounge on (or under) the branches, and trust that it won’t tip over under her assault. Match the tree size, sturdiness, base (perhaps add guy-wires for steadiness) to the activity level and number of pets.
To increase the fun factor, insert a few sprigs of dried catnip—but be prepared for the cats to dismantle the tree! Offer some doggy treats under the pet tree for legal dog chewing enjoyment.
Catnip toys make great kitty tree decorations and won’t be destroyed during the feline assaults. Use “orphan” socks (singletons without a mate), fill with the ‘nip, and knot the open end.
Don’t forget the “cheap thrills.” Empty boxes, wads of holiday paper, and even paper shopping bags thrill cats and dogs. Remove bag handles so the pet won’t get hung around her neck.
Toss a few special treats in the boxes or bags. The smellier the treat, the better pets like them.
Be prepared to re-decorate the tree after the cats and dogs have fun. But a “Pet-mas” tree not only answers your pets’ Santa Paws prayers, it means she’ll be more likely to leave your formal tree and decorations alone. That promotes a merry Christmas for the whole family, furry and otherwise.
So how do you handle doggy interest in your yule plans? Are your puppies ho-hum or holiday happy over the change in scenery? What do you do to keep your Christmas memories safe from kitty and doggy damage? Does the baby-gate-of-despair keep the tree and poochie free from harm? Have you ever “lost your head” over holiday damage? Do tell!
And check out more dog and cat care advice in time for Christmas gifts (for your friends or yourself!).
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