Christmas trees are a wonderful tradition, but they can also present a safety hazard to pets. Decorations like angel hair and tinsel could be fatal if ingested. Then there’s the tree itself– a cat could be injured climbing an unsturdy tree and causing it to fall. Fortunately, a few safety precautions can help your pets have a healthy holiday without forcing you to sacrifice the fun and beauty of a Christmas tree.
Real or Artificial?
Both real and artificial trees can be risky for pets, but with precautions, both can be safely used in a household with pets.
Real trees are safest if chewed of if parts are ingested. However, avoid using any sort of fertilizer in the water at the tree’s base. Use water only. If you have a puppy who isn’t totally housebroken, do yourself and the pup a favor, and use baby gates to keep him a few feet away from the tree at all times. Otherwise, you may find a special “present” under the tree in the form of a puddle!
Artificial trees are less tempting to dogs with full bladders, but plastic could be more harmful if ingested. However, the needles don’t fall off, and some artificial trees are less tempting to climbing cats than real ones. Overall, an artificial tree is more convenient, and possibly marginally safer.
Whichever type of tree you choose, make sure it’s stable and well-anchored at the base. Climbing cats or rambunctious dogs can easily come to harm if a tree is unstable.
Don’t use edible decorations if you have a dog or a piggish cat in the house. A dog that eats popcorn on a string, for example, could risk an intestinal blockage. Tinsel and angel hair are also no-nos, for the same reason.
Try to decorate mainly with ornaments that won’t break if they fall from the tree and that are made with non-toxic materials. There are many plastic ornaments now available which are nearly indistinguishable from the glass kind. Sturdy ceramic ornaments also work well.
If your dog happens to be ball-obsessed, use caution in choosing ornaments. Some dogs will fetch anything round and roughly tennis ball sized. If your dog turns out to have an unpleasant habit of fetching ornaments, simply hang the round ones high enough up the tree to be out of your dog’s reach, or employ baby gates to keep the dog away from the tree completely.
With care and planning, you can have both a beautiful Christmas tree and safe, healthy pets.