For most people, the holidays mean lots of visiting friends and family. Don’t be afraid to crate or otherwise confine your pet during these times. Many visitors can be very stressful for even social pets, and that’s okay. Providing a place that is their own where no one bothers them (tell your kids!) can greatly reduce their stress levels. It could be a small room, or their crate with a blanket draped over it, where they have access to water and their favorite toys (maybe even a special treat like a Kong, to help them appreciate quiet time even more!). It should be quiet and dark, and often times people report classical music helps to calm their dogs down in their “quiet places.”
So let’s face it: Cats are curious and explorative creatures, and they have an intense need to know everything about their territory, so when it comes to your Christmas tree, your cat is going to be interested. And there’s not much you can do about that. For this reason, I’d strongly recommend a fake tree, as cats and dogs will be considerably less interested—and it eliminates the risk of ingesting the needles. Fake trees are becoming more and more popular every year for their convenience and ease. If chewing is a concern, you can spray Apple Bitter on the bottom branches and let them dry before decorating.
The level of interest will vary depending on the cat’s (or dog’s) age and temperament, and most times, cats and trees can exist peacefully—most cats are graceful enough not to knock the trees over (most). However, if you have a very active or playful cat, or a cat who prefers hanging out in higher places, I’d recommend avoiding any breakable ornaments (this is also great advice for dogs). We only put plastic ornaments on our tree, and make sure they’re secured well. To make the tree less interesting though, avoid hanging anything like tinsel or plants (or food, obviously) in it (also, some plants may not be good for your pets to ingest, and tinsel can get stuck inside their intestines). It’s also important to make sure that the tree itself is stable, in case your cat decides to hang out inside it like my cat… You can anchor your tree to the wall if you’re concerned about it. Another great tip is to leave the tree up for a day or two to give the cats (and dogs) time to explore it and lose interest before hanging the ornaments. You can also set up some sort of motion detector to alert you when your pet gets near the tree for when you’re not right there to supervise.
And on Christmas day, remember to save all your wrapping paper for your pets to play in! We used to leave the wrapping paper and boxes all over the living room for the cats to play in for hours. It was probably their favorite day of the year!
Behavior Coordinator, Fredericksburg SPCA