Cats And Dogs And Christmas Trees

Since it’s that time of the year, I’d figure I’d start a thread about this.

Now when I was a kid we had a dog and a cat. I guess my pets were pretty well trained, 'cause we never had any issues.

We had a fake tree, but we’d set it up and the cat would walk over and try to paw an ornament and I’d say “no, bad kitty.” Then the cat would walk away and that was that. We never had any trouble with her. The dog never bothered the tree.

So my question is to pet owners, how to you cope with putting up a Christmas Tree and keeping your cats and/or dogs away from it.

BTW if you have other pets like hamsters or ferrets or whatever please feel free to include them.

Any funny stories about the cat toppling the tree on Grandma? Please share :slight_smile:

My mom eventually had a couple dozen bell ornaments - real ones that would ring when the tree moved - because our cats loved to climb the tree and hide in it. This wouldn’t be a big deal if their climbing didn’t shake fragile glass ornaments loose. So the tree was rigged with an early warning system that would earn them a scolding and even a spray of water once Mom heard the bells ring.

Growing up, we had live trees most of the time. My parents’ first Christmas was shared with our dog, a wire-haired fox terrier. This was the first time Mom had to look after a live tree herself, and she was surprised at how much water one used. She frequently refilled the bowl-like tree stand to keep up with the demands of the tree. One day, she heard a sound under the tree. The sound of lapping. Apparently the dog enjoyed water accented with the taste of pine.

I’m wondering the same thing as I’ve had a lot of pets over the years that really paid no mind to Christmas Trees. Right now, though, I’ve got a pair of kittens that are just under a year old and I know that they’d be on that thing like white on rice. I want to put it up but I’m not sure it’s a good idea. How do you train a cat not to get on it, particularly when they’re resistant to any kind of training you try?

Cats and dogs have different personalities and temperaments, and like different kinds of toys. You might have just gotten lucky and had a cat that wasn’t terribly interested in playing with your Christmas tree. A different cat, with the same training but a different personality, might have been more trouble.

We’re Jewish, so I don’t know how our cats would react to a Christmas tree. I suspect Katya would climb it and Luna would lap up the tree water, though. Katya is playful and likes to climb, and Luna likes to lap up water from the shower after we finish showering.

My mom once took her cat to visit her parents for Christmas, and it climbed the (artificial) tree and knocked it down. Every year after that, until he died, Grandpa tied the tree to a hook in the wall, whether there were cats present or not. It wasn’t just to keep us kids from knocking down the tree, either- he did it well after we were old enough to not knock down the tree.

When Dolly was a puppy we still lived with my parents. Mom is constantly dickering with the size and shape of the fake tree she wants (at one point we had THREE in the attic) so she was happy to have a short tree on top of a table where Dolly couldn’t reach it for a couple of years.

Now Dolly and I have our own place and I have a 24" tree in the window, above the couch. I’m sure it annoys her that it blocks her view, but she still just looks out the window on either side of it and leaves the tree alone. She’s old enough to not bother with Grammy’s tree, which is now tall and on the ground.

Cats tho, man…you can’t keep those guys off anything! I suggest encasing your tree in a block of clear plastic and letting kitty sleep on top like an angel :slight_smile:

The precautions we take are all feline-centric, as the cats are the issue. When we had a dog, he never even acknowledged the tree. We don’t hang tinsel, and we ensure that the ornaments that hang from the lowest branches are unbreakable, just in case some stupid furball decides it would be fun to start batting them around. If we’re leaving the (artificial) tree up while we go on holidays , I try to take off all the really fragile ornaments before we go. While neither one of my cats is that big a problem, unsupervised kitties can get up to all sorts of mischief - may as well be safe.

This is our biggest precaution. Our tree is tied to the wall every year. It doesn’t matter whether or not we get a real tree or stick with the artificial. I’ve experienced two different trees being knocked over by two different cats, and I have no desire to go through that again. I lost some ornaments of sentimental value in both instances.

When I was a teenager and home alone, I heard the noise and managed to get to the front room just in time to catch the falling tree, sort of. You’d be surprised how heavy a tree is, and how freaking scratchy. The weight of the falling tree actually managed to knock me over, so I had the exquisite pleasure of being pinned on the carpet by the tree, surrounded by (and on top of) shards of broken glass, bleeding from all sorts of sap-covered scrapes, all the while trying to figure out how I was going to get the damn tree back up all by myself. It was awesome.

Good move. Tinsel is very dangerous to cats. So is anything string-like or ribbon-like. Cats can swallow them and then have them saw through their intestines. This can result in large vet bills, a dead cat, or all of the above.

Oh, I know. I remember, as a kid, seeing the family cat with tinsel, um, ‘decorating his hind end’ on a number of occasions. It’s a wonder he never ended up at the vet.

One of my cats has a thing for ribbon, raffia, plastic, etc. It is a constant battle of never-ending vigilance to keep her safe, and even then, she usually outwits us.

I already described, in another thread, how one of my cats kept stealing one of the ornaments . . . a 4-inch teddy bear. I finally gave up and let her keep it. She carries it around like a kitten, and sleeps with it too.

One year, when I was a kid, we made gingerbread men for the tree. After trimming the tree, we all went out. When we came home all the gingerbread men were missing from the bottom half of the tree. Here and there on the floor were areas of gingerbread-colored vomit with raisins . . . and a very sick dog.

For cats – water pistols. They come to believe the tree spits.

One of our kittens had a traumatic encounter her first year with a little jingly bell on a string that she tangled herself up in and then tried to run away from. From then on, the very sound of a jingle bell terrified her. Every Christmas all we had to do was tie a single jingle bell anywhere on the tree and she instantly wanted no part of it.

Other than that, just be sure everything below the maximum height of a dog is unbreakable and non-edible (no real candy canes or gingerbread men). Oh, yes, and do tie it to something. We do that, too.

I don’t really have anything to tie it to, but was thinking of maybe weighing down the tree stand. But then, I don’t have any place to put the tree that isn’t easy jumping distance from some kind of furniture so maybe this year is a no-go.

The first year we had our dog, he was about 7 months old and he found a branch on our artificial tree that was just the right height for him to work with his molars while standing there. In the ten years since, he has shown no interest in the tree.

My best animal related Christmas tree story does not involve a pet, per se. We lived in a somewhat crummy apartment adjacent to a wooded lot. There was a flying squirrel that apparently like to sneak into our utility closet and try to steal some dog food or such. I don’t know why we didn’t just raise a stink with the management company, but we put up with it for a little bit.

One time I heard him (we named him Lester, not sure how we decided it was a male) and decided I had had enough. It was like 11 at night and I grabbed a broom, put the dog gates up and opened up the back door. My foolhardy plan was to chase him out the back and he would be so scared he wouldn’t come back. Again, I don’t know what I was thinking.

Things did not go quite as planned. I managed to get him out of the closet (after he jumped on me), but he was not interested in going out the back apparently and instead took a flying leap over the dog gates and headed straight for our tree!

At this point I was thinking I was dead meat. If he was in the tree it would be impossible to get him out, but we couldn’t sleep with a squirrel running around the house. Much to my relief he wasn’t in the tree but merely hiding behind some presents under it. We managed to arrange a sofa to create a chute from the tree to the front door. This time it actually worked and the last we saw of him was taking a flying leap out the front door.

After that we cleared all interesting items out of the closet and we never had another problem.

We have cats. One of them we got the same day we put up the tree, this past Saturday (see my cat thread for pics).

So far, Marley, the newbie, hasn’t bothered with the tree aside from sniffing at it. He doesn’t seem to be the destructive type, but it’s early so that could change.

Mimi, on the other hand, sees the tree as a giant, conical source of playthings. We have a fake tree, so we bend the branches just slightly over the ornaments on the lower part of the tree so she can’t pull them off. This year, she hasn’t been as interested in the tree as in the past, but I think that’s because she has a new cat to follow around and be suspicious of, so she’s busy.

She did try to eat the bows on the presents, which she always does, but since I was determined to have nice looking presents this year (I’m quite good at wrapping and making bows), I sprayed them with Bitter Apple. It seems to have worked so far, and didn’t affect the wrapping paper that I can see.

I haven’t put up a full size tree for years. One time I was putting up the tree and set up the bare pole, turned around to get the tree top and then turned back to see a cat perched on top of the bare pole and another cat climbing up it and that was only the beginning. The year after that I tried a 4 foot fiber optic tree on a table top, that got knocked down and the bulb broke. I haven’t been able to find another bulb like that. Now I have a 1 foot fiberoptic tree. After this one gets destroyed I may just try a picture of a tree.

I trained my dog ahead of time with one of those little wooden accordion fences. He learned as a puppy that crossing that fence was a “no - bad dog” so come Christmas when the tree went up, all we had to do was put that kind of fence around it and he stayed out. And I mean out – not even his nose would stray.

Our time-share cat (it was actually the neighbors cat but stayed with us a lot in our house) was another story. A water-pistol (we kept the plugs high and dry) taught her that Christmas trees were not for climbing but nothing could keep her from batting the lower ornaments. So everything towards the bottom of the tree was either cloth or plastic and tied on the branches. In other words, she trained us just fine. :slight_smile:

We have cat-safe ornaments that go on the lowest branches, nothing gets damaged and the cats feel like they got away with something. :smiley:

Our first Christmas with cats, my ex and I lived in this tiny TINY trailer - packed with all our stuff - so our tree was this little 2-3 footer. I had put it on top of the bookcase, but the width of the top shelf was too narrow - so I balanced it on a cookie sheet. The first time the cats messed with it, the clatter of the metal stand and the cookie sheet and the ornaments scared the bejeezus out of the cats.

We too did the “pretty plastic ornaments” on the bottom of our trees for years. The cats liked to sleep under our trees, but because we mostly went with fake trees, they tended not to climb them (more dense - harder to climb in.)

We’ve never had any problems to speak of, real tree or fake.

When I was a teenager my parents had a really, really stupid dog who would randomly wander in and freak out that there was a big thing in the living room. It typically lasted about 30 seconds and happened 3-4 times a day for the whole month we had the tree up.

Our younger cat responds to everything by trying to eat it. He tried to eat the tree when we brought it in, he tried to eat the lights when I got them out, he tried to eat the 3" ribbon I use in place of tinsel/garland, last night he chomped down on a package I wrapped. Surprisingly, though, he didn’t try to eat any ornaments. Instead, he tried repeatedly to steal a small stuffed snowman off the tree to play with. (I suppose I should have expected it; he’s always had a preference for stuffed toys, ever since he was a tiny kitten, and his favorite toy is a big stuffed snowman that he stole from one of the dogs.) I yelled at him a few times, and he’s left it alone since.

Really, the only precautions we’ve ever taken with our trees is to keep breakable ornaments up out of the tail-wag/batting paw zone. We don’t tether them down or anything.

I have older cats, so they really don’t care about the tree so much. I remember when they were kittens the bottom two feet of the tree would be denuded of all ornaments. The cheap ornaments went there. I have a new cat this year, Jasmine, but she’s 8. She tried pawing at the tree from the top of the entertainment center, but the sight of the Bad Cat!(water gun) made her reconsider jumping into the top of it.

Never in all of our years of having cats have any of them really caused much problems with the (always artificial) tree. No significant interest in the ornaments, no climbing. The one that passed away this year used to like to bite on the “needles” now and then, but that was really about it.

On the other hand, all of them have enjoyed sleeping under the tree. Theories include a heat duct under the floor in that area or the heat from the lights, or possibly just the fact that it’s a cozy little cat-sized hidey spot.