By Terry Jester
I love the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree. It brings to mind so many happy times.
Walking into a room graced with a fresh-cut tree takes me back to my childhood. The fresh pine scent. The lights, ornaments and tinsel. Each ornament so carefully unwrapped and lovingly hung on the tree. Hot chocolate, cinnamon rolls. Ahhh!
But, so much for Christmas trees – this year, I have puppies instead. There will be no Christmas tree for the Jester household this year. We’ll be lucky to have a wreath.
Puppies and Christmas trees should not mix. In fact, the only thing more disastrous than puppies and Christmas trees are kittens and Christmas trees. Either is trouble.
Decorating for the holidays with young dogs and cats in the household can be disastrous. And deadly. Glass ornaments are chewed. Tinsel choked on. Treated water for the tree ingested. Electric cords gnawed. The list of things cats and dogs can get into to give them a near-death experience during the holidays is just about endless.
It’s also very expensive. A trip to a veterinary emergency room for the holidays after your pooch eats the (very poisonous) mistletoe? About $700. Swallows an ornament? ($300 to $2,500) Starts a fire chewing on the electric light cords? OK, let’s not even go there.
Suffice to say, it’s hard enough to just puppy and kitten proof a house. Adding holiday decorations to the equation is really asking for trouble.
I’ve made it easy on myself this year by having decorations that are completely out of reach of the animals. For people with young animals in the household, puppies, kittens, ferrets, bunnies, anything that isn’t caged – I really suggest doing the same.
However, if you feel you can’t enjoy the holidays without that tree and other decorations, please consider these things very carefully.
Although Poinsettia plants are not really poisonous to our pets, mistletoe is. So is chocolate, raisins, and many of the chemical treatments used in Christmas tree water basins.
Rule of thumb: If an ornament can be easily knocked off the tree, it will be knocked off and chewed on. Ornaments will be viewed as toys. Glass ornaments are best hung high in the tree or not at all.
Trees should be anchored with twine or wire to prevent tipping. Electric cords all have “chew me now” signs on them as far as your puppy is concerned. Hide them.
Put plain water and nothing else in your tree’s water basin. Cover it so it can not be ingested. Do not put the presents under the tree until the day before they are opened. Do not leave chocolate accessible. Do not have mistletoe in the house.
Keep in mind that animals can get stressed during the holidays. Enjoy the holidays, but take precautions to ensure that your pets stay safe so that you can enjoy them together.
Terry Jester is a nationally recognized expert on companion animal behavior. She is regarded by The Humane Society of the United States as being, “Humane and effective in dealing with problem pets and their owners.” Connect with Terry on her website.