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Posted on Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

Pet-proofing the Christmas tree can make the holiday safer for the whole family

By Lorrie Shaw


flickr photo by Susan E. Adams

In looking at most family's Christmas trees, you can get a pretty good grasp of what they're about.

At our home, that's no exception: things passed down to us from our youth, gifted ornaments (usually encompassing the likeness of a cat or a dog bone), those reflecting our respective lives or interests.

Now that our pets are older and have matured a bit — they're all over the age of 10 years — we don't have to worry so much about our treasured mementos being plucked from their spot on the tree and used as a plaything. But, knowing how curious our furry friends can be and how much some of those ornaments mean to us, the special ones stay to the top of the tannenbaum.

One of the most common questions that I get each holiday season is about how to pet-proof the Christmas tree, and it's an excellent query: accidents from a tree toppling over and pets drinking out of the water reservoir for a fresh tree are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to keeping pets safe and your tree intact until the big day.

Enthusiastic dog tails and curious cats have a penchant for knocking down ornaments.

With cats, try training them same way that you would to keep them off of counters. Using foil or sticky tape and Boundary are popular choices.

If it's a big dog or puppy, anchoring the tree to the ceiling with fishing line is a good option.

At our home, we have a few ornaments that we reserve for the lower branches — lightweight, fabric or felted pieces that can withstand the effects of an occasional feline attack or a swish of a canine tail.

No, Fido, that water is for the tree.

Well, seriously, what pet wouldn't think it's okay? Again, this another equal-opportunity problem. Things like the pesticides, fertilizers and preservatives, like aspirin, are commonly used in the tree water to keep the tree fresh. These may have harmful — or even deadly — for cats and dogs who lap up the water. Using the tree skirt to cover up the stand to dissuade your furry family members from using it as a water bowl is effective.

Don't give them something to chew on.

Electrical cords are enticing for puppies and felines alike. Train your pet to not chew on cords and consider coating cords with a bitter agent for pets like Boundary or Bitter Apple as a deterrent. Bundle any cords neatly and tuck away if possible, or use a cord cover. Your local hardware or home improvement supply store should be able to hook you up.

You've got me on a string a pretty one.

Many pet owners can offer stories of their critters escapades with tinsel, and they can seem quite funny. The truth is, tinsel is very dangerous to pets, posing a risk for choking or intestinal obstruction, so my advice is to just skip it.

Don't needle me.

Just as with tinsel, pine needles can seem enticing to pets and can be equally dangerous. Not only can they puncture intestines of any pet, but pine is very toxic to cats, and can cause liver damage.

It's a good idea to keep the fallen needles cleaned up regularly to avoid problems.

If you think that your pet has ingested something and think that your pet might be in trouble, contact your clinician or emergency veterinary center immediately.

Lorrie Shaw is lead pets blogger for Follow her daily pet adventures as owner of Professional Pet Sitting on Twitter.