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Posted on Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 6 a.m.

Keeping curious pets safe around the Christmas tree is easy with a few simple tips

By Lorrie Shaw


flickr photo by Nils Guylen

In looking at most families' Christmas trees, you can get a pretty good grasp of what the family members are about.

At our home, that's no exception: The tree is covered with items 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 spots on the tree and used as playthings. 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 leads the pets section for and is a professional pet sitter. Connect with her on Google + or e-mail her directly.



Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 4:01 p.m.

Because we have a very large cat in size not weight, which likes to climb the tree, we have a tree stand screwed into a large wood base that is held down by weights. Once lights and the ornaments (non-breakables) are added, he tends to stay out. I place bell ornaments around the bottom of the tree so that whenever any of our cats play with other ornaments or with the limbs, the bells ring and I can shoo away the cats. But after the first week of being very curious, they tend to leave things alone and love sleeping on the tree skirt under the low limbs.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

Poinsettias are not hazards to dogs and other animals. But wrapping their gifts and putting them under the tree can be. These animals are a lot smarter then we give them credit for.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 3:18 p.m.

Years ago I shared a house with a house mate and her zoo. Yep, a real zoo. It included a small dog, a couple of bunnies, mourning doves, degus, chinchillas and a nile monitor. The monitor, about 4 feet long and 20 lbs, lived on a heating pad under the sofa. She was free to roam around the house but usually only came out for food and a swim in the tub. I came home one day to find the monitor stalking the recently erected Christmas tree. She (we assumed it was female) was hissing and bobbing at the fuzzy teddy bear Christmas lights draped on the lower branches. It would have been a mistake to get close enough to pick up the excited monitor (wicked tail and even wickeder bite) so I threw a blanket over her - Steve Irwin would have been proud - and scooped her up without a problem.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

was a partridge in a pear tree part of the mix? :)


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

Un tippable tree stand, made in Michigan.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

I don't know if you have ever looked at one of these things, but they are one of the finest examples of farmer engineered, over-designed and overbuilt pieces I have ever seen. The bowl is made of 3/8" wall pipe, sawed off with an end of 3/8" steel welded to it. The screws go through bolts that are welded to the pipe. The legs are about 18" long and again, steel. The thing is so heavy, I don't see any cat knocking it over. We bought it when our 95 lb dog knocked a tree over with our last stand. That was about 10 years ago, no incidents since. This thing is the real deal. (No, I am not affiliated with the company in any way.)


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

eyeheart, my cat would take that as a personal challenge that this tree stand MUST be tipped over as soon as she gets around to it ! "Esther" is very determined when she makes up her mind to be.....:)