Advice for holiday decorating around adventurous pets

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Let's see… if I pull here, I think I can bring this whole bitch down. © by Lil Shepherd, used under Creative Commons license.
Do Homies have any suggestions for pet-friendly holiday or winter decorations? I was looking online for some inspiration, but all I could think was… 1. my dog will eat that, 2. my cat will eat that, or 3. my cat will knock that on the floor, and then my dog will eat it.

Most pet owners are aware that tinsel and poinsettias can make animals sick, but if you have adventurous pets like I do, even normal decorations can pose a hazard.

Any suggestions for pet-proof decorations? How do you attach ornaments to a tree or garland so that a cat can’t remove them? Thank you! -Jane

We profiled the kitty-proof garland idea last week. So that’s about all we have as far as advice on this topic goes (seriously, I’m lucky in that my pets don’t care at all about the tree or ornaments). What other awesome pet-proof holiday decor ideas have YOU come up with?

Comments on Advice for holiday decorating around adventurous pets

  1. I tie my tree to the wall, I put all the unbreakable ornaments on the bottom of the tree. I don’t decorate with anything edible (that includes plastic things like garland – except up high, like on the curtain rod). Most of my decorations are up high, either suspended from the ceiling or attached to curtain rods. I’m pretty lucky though because my cats don’t generally thouch the tree; they don’t climb it and only rarely eat it.

    • Wow, this is my place exactly. Tie the tree, put unbreakable ornaments toward the bottom, edible stuff up high….And yet, I got lucky with a cat (who is otherwise very mischievous) who has almost no interest in the tree.

  2. Plastic balls all the way. Just don’t put any ornament dangling it the air under the tree. That’s just tempting the devil.

    NO RIBBONS, especially on the presents at the base of the tree: Cats will eat them and plastic/metallic ribbons can cut their insides. :S

  3. If your cat is a climber this may not help, but we always had a collection of soft, plastic, rubber, or otherwise fall proof ornaments on the bottom two feet of the Christmas tree and saved all the fragile and more sentimental items for the top.

    Another thing that I have found that helps is to decorate with things that look festive but don’t have any strong emotional attachments. It’s a bit of DIY but I like to cut out the picture and shapes from the previous years cards and use these for making ornaments and garlands.

    Finally, if you have decorative items/spots in your home that your pets are already used to and don’t mess with consider swapping out or adding some holiday flare to these places. Wrap mini, battery powered LED lights around things, tie bows on them, if there is a bowl full of decorative items or potpourri etc swap the year round things out for a collection of favorite ornaments.

  4. One solution for ornaments on the tree is to get a bunch of cute Christmas cards and tie them tightly to the tree with yarn or cotton thread. They are unbreakable if the tree comes down and if some one does eat them it’s just paper. Make sure to tie them on and not just loop the string over the branch, that way they can’t be pulled off easily. I did this when my hound was a puppy and it worked well. Bonus is they are also tail proof if you have a big waggy dog.

  5. I got nothing, haha. It’s year two without a tree because of our adventurous new kitten. Luckily our new apartment has a sweet mantle/faux fireplace, so I dressed that up as best I could and hung garlands and stuff over the doorframes. It looks pretty festive, but I miss having a focal point. Maybe next year.

  6. My aunt used to decorate a ficus, rather than an actual tree. She would fill the ficus pot with crushed up pinecones, which her cats HATED to walk in, so they never attempted to climb it.
    And here’s a hack–part of the amusement of playing with ornaments is that they move, right? Use a bit of tape around the part of the ornament where it connects to the hook, then pinch the hook down on the branch. It shouldn’t move much when you mess with it.

  7. I saw somewhere online recently where someone tackled the problem by fixing their tree upside down on the ceiling, thus keeping everything out of reach.

    I’ll admit, though, that looking at their ‘we fixed it!’ photo featuring the cat standing on the couch, looking at the supposedly out of reach tree, it didn’t look like an arch from their furniture that would beat the most agile leapers I’ve seen.

  8. I used to live with roommates who had a cat that loved to lay in the Christmas tree. To stop her from doing so we took cayenne pepper and regular black pepper and sprayed it on the tree. It doesn’t hurt the tree and the cat refused to go near it.

      • Hah, this reminds me of the first year we had one of our cats. I read somewhere that cats don’t like oranges/orange peels, so we put some peels under the tree. Our kitty walked up to the peel, sniffed it, and licked it. No help there! 😛

    • If you have a fake tree do NOT use Bitter Apple on it. If my experiences are anything to go by, it will work like gangbusters the first year. Then the following year it will still linger on the tree and areosolize and get into *your* mouth as you unbox the tree. Also, the intervening time will have turned the Bitter Apple into some kind of tastiness that the dog and cat will looooove eating off the tree.

    • You do have to be careful with peppers; you don’t want kitty getting the cayenne on their paws, having a wash, and ending up with pepper in the eyes. The result is Not Nice.

  9. We have a new kitten this year who loves to climb everything, and an older cat who loves to chew on everything (not eat, just chew). So, this year I made a tree skirt out of burlap, and made it big enough that it bunches up a lot under the tree. Both cats hate walking on the stuff, so they don’t get under the tree. I also lightly sprayed all of the lower branches with vinegar, so they wouldn’t chew on them (no idea what vinegar would do to a live tree, and make sure you do with BEFORE the lights are on). But the most effective thing has actually just been giving in a little. I bought a 6 pack of unbreakable ornaments and just let the cats have them. That seems to sate their curiosity enough that they don’t try to climb the tree.

  10. Last year, I just had a fake tree and unbreakable ornaments and let the cat climb away. However, I think this year with a second kitten, I’m going to take some garland and create a tree-shape on a wall, possibly with string “garland” for Christmas cards. I haven’t gotten many cards yet, so that might not happen, but at least it’s somewhat festive.

    I also decorated the bannister with thick ribbon and garland. The cats have a blast walking along it, but since it’s all wrapped up around the railing, they can’t do that much damage.

  11. One year, our boy cat decided to pee under the xmas tree! I just about killed him. Instead, I hunted around online & found SSScat (which I bought at a local pet store bec. it was faster). It’s a motion-trigger can of air that will freak the hell out of the cat when he walks by. Works like a charm! Stick it under the tree, slightly hidden, the cat walks by once, it sprays him with air, & the cat runs away, & never approaches the tree again. Totally harmless, it’s just air. And if you have a tenacious feline, just move the thing around to different spots until the cat really learns the lesson.

    • Those things are also hilarious to put in the dish cupboard, next to the bathroom nightlight, or just about anywhere your partner isn’t expecting to be hissed at. (I think the darn thing scared me more times than it did the cat)

  12. After the third time my parents’ cat knocked over the tree by climbing it in one year, my dad came up with this solution. He took a large sheet of plywood (larger than the width of the standing tree) and anchored the tree stand to wood using strong hardware. Their tree skirt covers the whole sheet of wood, so it doesn’t ruin the asthetics, but even if kitty climbs, the tree doesn’t topple. They still lose a few ornaments from a shaking tree, but there’s far less damage and no more rude midnight wake-up calls from the tree crashing to the floor.

  13. I use extra-long ornament hangers and wrap the hook around the branch when I hang ornaments. Super secure, I’ve only ever lost one ornament this way. Works for toddlers too. I also like to attach the tree to the wall with twine and eye hooks, but if the tree does go down, the ornaments stay safe and in place. I take the ornaments off with wire cutters. 🙂

  14. I did the kitty-proof garland, but I also put out a few other decorations. Ornaments in bowls/vases (as others have suggested) seem to work. I filled a tray with little ornaments and the cat batted at them for a little bit but has gotten over it (since they’re on a surface he knows he’s not supposed to be on anyway).

    My cat, though, eats lightbulbs–like the kind on trees. We discovered this with our Halloween decorations and that’s part of why we were cautious about Christmas/Hanukkah decor. I have a couple of pics in the OBH Flickr pool.

    I think it’s a good idea to set up your decorations on a day that you’ll be home for a while to see how your pet interacts with them (unless your pet is sneaky enough to wait until you leave).

  15. Having this same problem right now with my cat. She’s two and just has to touch EVERYTHING in the house. She doesn’t eat things, but she does chew. I haven’t lost any tree ornaments to breakage yet, but she’s pulled down at lease two per day. I’m sure there are more under the couch that I just haven’t found yet!

    Here’s the solution I’ve come up with:

    – I have a live tree, so I covered the tree stand with tin foil to keep furry paws out of the water. I don’t want her splashing and I *really* don’t want her drinking the water.

    – My tree is set up next to a window sill, which was the only spot in my apartment big enough for it. I covered the window sill with tin foil as well. She hates walking on it, which keeps her from jumping into the tree. The foiled window sill is hidden from view by the tree, so I don’t even notice it.

    – To keep her out from under the tree, I blew up regular old balloons and put them under it. She was really curious about them at first. She hasn’t popped one yet, but, with the Chicago weather so dry, the balloon stuck to her static-y fur. No harm done, but she hasn’t been under the tree since. I’m sure, if I looked harder, I could have found red/white/green/silver/gold balloons, but, for now, they say “Happy Birthday” 🙂

  16. Our first concession was to have a small fake tree. It’s too small to climb and the fake needles and branches don’t give as much as real ones on the end so no fun springy action. I also put it up high. The cats have started adventuring up that direction but so far nobody has knocked it down. It only has a few ornaments on it so I’m hoping they don’t get too curious.

    One friend wired the top of his tree to the ceiling (they had dropped ceilings with the metal bars) after their cat pounced halfway up the tree a couple times and knocked it over.

    Otherwise I’ve been lucky with our kitties and just not tested them too much.

  17. My cat would normally keep away from the ornaments, but she would chew on the branches of our plastic tree. I only used plastic ornaments that I wasn’t attached to, but you would probably also have luck with ornaments that are attached to clothespins or wires that you can use to firmly attach them to the tree, in a way that doesn’t come off easily, making it harder to eat.

    I’ve also seen trees decorated with edible ornaments, so if Fido decides he can’t resist eating, he’s at least eating actual food. For me, this would be a last effort, though; once they’ve learned it’s okay to eat the ornaments, it’d be hard to change that habit.

    • We had gingerbread ornaments on our tree one year when I was a kid – woke up one morning to discover that our Great Dane had “undecorated” the entire bottom two-thirds of the tree. Oops. lol

  18. we have an exercise pen around the tree, and everything else is unbreakable or fake. the dog’s left the tree alone and the cats can’t climb the pen so everything’s safe.

  19. Oh man, I hear this post. My older cat LOVES the tree, for some strange reason. Underneath is like his favorite place in the world to sleep. Which is fine. He’s mostly past the batting at ornaments/taking off the garland stage, I think the novelty’s worn off.

    Our kitten though, is, well, an idiot. And she chews and eats things she shouldn’t. So the bottom couple inches or so of the tree is sans-anything. Looks a little odd, but not too bad. Then we have ornaments that are unbreakable AND have no hooks OR strings to chew. Then a foot or so of unbreakables, then the nice stuff up top. Luckily, neither are climbers. *knock wood* The first day we got it though, she got covered in sap. And licked it. And threw up. (Pet owners beware! Vomiting once isn’t really a big deal, but watch for changes in appetite or behavior, or drooling. Sap is no bueno for kitties.) She no longer likes the tree.

    I have found that, although I grew up with like spruces and firs, we got a scotch pine this year, and it’s, well..sharper. Which tends to keep the kitties away from it. Also, get a good, sturdy stand. Like a metal one. We have one from Lowe’s that set us back 50 bucks, but it’s pretty hardcore, and should last awhile. Plus, the tree skirt goes right up to the trunk, so no kitties in the water.

    When I was younger and lived with my parents, our big dog used to knock over the tree, so my dad ran wire from the top to some of our ceiling beams. Worked great, pain in the ass, though.

  20. I have a fake tree that i actually put in the living room without decoration for 2 days before i start decorating it. In those 2 days the cats will be curious about it. When they climb the tree it falls over, that’ll scare the shit out of them and makes sure they will not touch it again. I do have to say i live with spynx kittens. They are very inquisitive but also they are intelligent and quick learners. I don’t know if a “normal” cat picks up on this so quickly and easy.

  21. I miss having a tree. I can put it on the list of things that I’ve had to give up for falling in love with a cat person. Two years ago I tried a small tabletop tree and duct taped it to our desk (the tree skirt covered the tape); the cats still messed with it, but they didn’t knock it over. The past two years though we’ve had kittens, and I haven’t even had the heart to try it. I guess I’ll figure out something else creative and festive to do with my collected ornaments, so that I can still enjoy them without having them destroyed.

  22. We have a 4.5′ tall fake tree that we bungee-corded to a short, square side table that’s just a little larger than the base of the tree, but is heavy enough to anchor it. The tree skirt hides the table and bungee cords.

    It’s worked so far, but our two cats aren’t kittens anymore (4 and 9 years old), and while rambunctious at times, tend not to climb the tree because their tall cat tree is on the other side of the room near the window and they prefer that. (They can get up on a bookcase from there, too, and vulture over everyone, so it’s preferable!)

  23. We have a VERY curious cat, and so I came up with decorating our three tiered, Christmas tree shaped hanging basket. You know, like the kind you hang in the kitchen and put fruit in. I wrapped it in lights and bunch of thick sparkly ribbon to make it look more conical, threw on a few ornaments and voila!

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