Ahh, the Christmas tree. Such a holiday joy to have in your home- that is, until your dog or cat decides it’s their new toy and out of nowhere your tree is on the floor, broken bulbs everywhere, and your animals are tangled in the strings of lights. Busted! Here’s how I keep my Christmas tree pet-friendly every year.
Put the Christmas tree in a corner area of your home, and if you can’t do that, place the Christmas tree in a sturdy tree stand that doesn’t budge when you lean on it or shake it fairly harshly. This way, you know that the Christmas tree will stand the test against your cat diving up it and your dog burrowing beneath it.
Prior to decorating your tree, spray it liberally with bitter apple spray or vinegar, which will not harm the tree, but WILL make it nasty tasting to pets (and small children, for that matter). My cat won’t climb the tree or even go near it if I’ve sprayed it with bitter apple. Bitter apple can be bought in major pet stores or online, via amazon.com or other online stores, and averages about $4 a bottle. A godsend for things you don’t want your cat chewing on or climbing.
Keep dangly things on the upper branches, about a length up from where a toddler couldn’t reach on its knees. It’s the shiny, dangly things that attract animals most, so unless you want them chewed on or knocked off and broken, keep them up high. To decorate the bottom of the tree, use plastic bulbs and secure them tightly to the branches with either twist ties or paper clips, rather than just looped string. At least this way, if your crafty pets still bat away at your ornaments, you don’t have glass to worry about, and you won’t have a bald tree on the bottom.
Avoid using the fake snow on the tree, or tinsel, if you have pets. Not only is this stuff a pain to vacuum up, but they are both very dangerous as either a toxic hazard or a choking one, and dogs and cats can’t resist chewing on them. Little kids are the same way, so it’s best to just keep these items off the tree and just use regular ornaments and stringed pearls and other adornments instead.
I would not recommend using a skirt for the tree. Some goofy pet WILL get stuck in it, or try to burrow in it, or just plain knock it around. My dog uses Christmas skirts for trees as a bed, and digs them all up, knocking the tree over. With pets, avoid a skirt and save yourself some trouble.
Spray lights with bitter apple or vinegar to keep pets from chewing on the cords prior to plugging Christmas tree lights in, and keep excess cords balled up or tied. When your pet goes to near the cords to tree, clap loudly once and that should get them scooting along. Sometimes adding a harsh “no” or other command (my dog knows what “git” means) should get them moving. They’ll learn pretty quickly that they can be curious without going too close.
The basic overall rule of thumb is to make the tree toddler proof. That’s exactly how pets are, like little 3 year olds on crack. If you are confident that your tree is safe enough for a toddler to play around, then it’s a safe bet that the Christmas tree is OK for your pets to explore as well.