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Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...

Posted by SusanStokes on December 18, 2011

Is Your Christmas Tree Safe for Pets?

I love everything about the Christmas holiday: the lights, the glitter, the gift exchanges, the parties.  But most of all, I love the Christmas trees.  All of them - every shape, size and color.  But so do my cats.  To them the Christmas tree is like a toy box full of fun and surprises.  But is it safe play?

Many years ago I switched from live Christmas trees to artificial Christmas trees in my home.  Simpler.  No shedding pine needles, no water required.  And just like that video recently aired by Jay Leno of the cats fighting in the tree, I came home to a Christmas tree laying on its side on the floor one night, and two proud cats dancing around it. 

So I bought a different artificial tree - a smaller one this time, and one that is cat climb-proof and extends completely to the floor.  Cute, but small and more pet-safe.  It seems to be a curiosity to my kitties, but not much fun. 

This year I got brave again and put up a 6 ft. white artificial tree in addition to my small one.  I was careful with the decorations, though.  No electric strings of lights; just some fake icicles and red beads to add some sparkle and contrast.  The tree does not extend to the floor, so there is room to place gifts underneath.  This means there is also room underneath the tree for kitties to play. 


The cats find the big white tree a bit fascinating - a new place to hide and stalk each other; some new toys hanging from the tree to bat around. So far, I have seen no climbing, thankfully. 


I do supervise the cat play around the tree. My cats are most intense about playing after breakfast and after dinner. With full bellies, they are also full of energy and ready to expend it. From their empty food dishes, they take off straight for the Christmas tree. 


Luckily, their interest in the tree wanes quickly enough, and they are off chasing each other around the house before it’s nap time again.  So I have not had much to worry about, but their safety is always in the back of my mind.  When I’m not home to supervise their play, what could happen? 


Belle Mead Animal Hospital published some guidelines for holiday safety in their recent newsletter. I wanted to share a few of these guidelines with you as a reminder of what to watch out for, as follows:

1)    Christmas Trees: Monitor your pets when they are around your holiday tree. Pets may eat the needles (even from artificial trees) or drink water from the base of the tree, which can be toxic (especially if there are preservatives in it). Keep electrical cords and decorative lights out of reach, too.

2)    Decorations: Tinsel, tree ornaments, ribbons, string, and garlands are some items that can be dangerous if eaten by pets. Keep these items away from pets, especially when pets are unattended. Don't forget to cover any electrical cords or keep them out of reach.

3)    In many cases, if your pet has eaten or swallowed something toxic, warning signs will include gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Other signs may include tiredness and lack of appetite, especially in cats that have eaten lilies. If your pet shows any of these signs, or if you think he or she has eaten something dangerous but is not showing any signs yet, please call your veterinarian right away. Treating your pet as soon as possible is essential.

Wishing you and your pets safe and happy holidays!

Susan, Taurus and Gemini