Here's How to Pet-Proof Your Christmas Tree

Keep inquisitive animals away from (and uninterested in) your flashy evergreen with these expert tips.

'Tis the season for fancy holiday menus, festive home décor, perfectly wrapped presents, and of course, a beautifully flocked Christmas tree for all to see and enjoy. However, pet owners—especially those who have curious cats and other domestic creatures—know all too well the type of temptation and mischief this time of year brings. While your home's Elf on the Shelf keeps a constant watchful eye, you likely aren't able to monitor your dog or cat all day (or night) long. Still, you'll do everything you can to ensure your furry friends stay safe, and that means keeping them away from your evergreen and its low hanging fruit (and by fruit, we mean ornaments). To help you do just that, we tapped two animal experts. Ahead, Danielle Bernal, a veterinarian with Wellness Natural Pet Food, and Jane MacMurchy of Animal Charity of Ohio shine a seasonal light on pet safety with regards to holiday décor.

french bulldog in sweater near christmas tree
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Pet-proof the Christmas tree.

Pet-proofing your Christmas tree is a little different than adding a child lock. You can deter curious climbers via olfactory methods, notes Dr. Bernal, who advises spraying household lemon or pepper scented air fresheners on and around the lower limbs of the tree. It's just as important to secure your evergreen (so it doesn't topple over and onto a nearby pet) and sweep pine needles off the floor regularly. According to MacMurchy, your ornament choice matters, too, when it comes to animal safety: "Glass ornaments are definitely not suggested. If they shatter, small animals can easily cut their paws and mouths," she shares. "A heavy, sturdy stand can prevent a toppling tree (as can utilizing the corners of a wall), but a gated tree is always going to be safer." If you have dogs, hang ornaments two to three feet up from the base for maximum safety, MacMurchy adds.

Hide away holiday lights.

When it comes to the holidays, the more lights the merrier. However, light cords can be dangerous, especially if you have puppies and kittens around. When these cords become loose, says Dr. Bernal, puppies and kittens often treat them like chew toys; this can lead to burns or electrical shock. She recommends hiding cables under tree skirts or rugs and opting for battery-powered decorations instead of plug-in iterations.

Get rid of the tinsel.

Tinsel is a time-old accent that pet owners may want to forgo altogether. These shiny streamers command pets' attention and are major chocking hazards. According to Dr. Bernal, foreign body ingestions increase by 14 percent during the month of December, and these types of holiday decorations are partially to blame. Tinsel isn't the only culprit: Tissue and wrapping papers should be tucked out of the way, as well.

Avoid mistletoe altogether—it's poisonous.

Mistletoe is lovely for a spontaneous smooch, but it—along with holly and poinsettias—is poisonous to your pets. To play it safe, opt for faux or silk holiday plants. Our experts note that spraying silk plants with chewing deterrents, like pepper or bitter apple, is a worthwhile next step. The same goes for chocolate (she manages over double the amount of toxicity cases during Christmastime), so be sure to keep any advent goodies securely wrapped and away from prying paws.

Have an emergency plan in place.

It's impossible to prevent any or every form of accident. If your pet does happen to ingest a poisonous holiday plant, a few pine needles, or a piece of your Christmas décor, it's important to have a plan in place. Keep your local animal hospital and or veterinarian's phone number in your phone or in a visible spot in your home, notes Dr. Bernal; your pet's emergency contact information should also be readily available if someone is pet-sitting for you during a seasonal trip. In the face of a holiday-related pet emergency, remain calm while you call for assistance. Having a copy of your pet's medical records at the ready—and stored accessibly—will also help her or her outcome.

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