If you have pets, you’ve likely had some Christmas tree disasters.

But can you really blame our furry friends? All those climbable branches, swattable glittery baubles, and scented chewable branches are just too much to resist!

Not to mention the wonderfully crackly ribbons and wrapping paper, just begging to be ripped open before Christmas. It’s a wonder that cats and dogs can contain themselves at all!

Orange cat stares, from a distance, at a Christmas tree, tempted to paw at it
Look, but don’t touch! You can take steps to prevent cats and dogs from pawing at holiday decor. (©Brittany, stock.adobe.com)

Take the “Ir” out of Irresistible

Many an animal lover has given up on Christmas trees until their pets grow out of their curiosity, but here are some things you can try that can discourage your pets:

Scented Repellents: Before decorating your tree, spray it with a scent or flavor that repels pets. Examples include bitter apple, clove oil, citrus oil, and vinegar — experiment to see what your pet hates (just make sure you don’t hate it too!)
You can also sprinkle dried orange peels around the base of your tree. Avoid hot pepper — it can get into your pet’s eyes and cause severe pain.
You may need to reapply the repellents as they wear off, just don’t spray anything wet onto your lights, or you might have more twinkle than you hoped for!

Paw Repellents: Surround the base of your tree with something your pets don’t like to walk on. Aluminum foil is a classic cat repellent (they usually hate to walk on crackly things), and you can also purchase spiky mats that are unpleasant to animal paws. This is a good way to recycle those plastic mats that go under office chairs — turn them spiky-side-up and hide them under your tree skirt.

Climb Blockers: Attach dark mesh or plant netting on the underside of your tree to keep your pets from climbing into the branches. You can also use netting to protect wrapped gifts or the tree itself when you’re away. To discourage climbing and scratching, wrap the base of your tree in double-sided tape.

Training Sessions: With some diligence, you can train your pet to stay away from the tree. For safety’s sake, stay away from squirt guns, but you can try clickers, compressed air, or noisemakers to discourage unwanted behavior.

Go High Tech: If all else fails, try a motion-activated repellent that uses compressed air to train your pet to stay away.

Jack Russell terrier looks up at Christmas tree, tempted to paw at Christmas ornaments hanging from the branches.
Secure your Christmas tree to the wall using fishing line — then it won’t topple over if curious pets try to climb on it (©Evrymmnt, stock.adobe.com)

Tips for a Pet-Safe Christmas Tree

Aside from keeping your pets in another room, there is no surefire way to keep them away from Christmas trees. Be sure to keep your pets as safe as possible by following these tips:

  • Tuck lights and cords deep within the tree — make sure there are no electrical wires dangling from the branches. Also, tape down any cords running across the floor.
  • Use the bottom third of your tree for sturdy, shatterproof ornaments (and bells!) that won’t hurt your pet if they do pull them off.
  • Don’t use additives in your tree water. You don’t need them anyway, and your pets may drink the water.
  • Use a fishing line to tie your tree to the wall so that it won’t topple over.
  • Make the tree inaccessible to pets when you’re not home to supervise. Close doors or use door gates to keep them away from danger. It’s up to you to intervene if your pet gets curious!

Christmas candle and potpourri on display
If you’ve got pets, avoid placing Christmas candles and potpourri anywhere within their reach. (©Silvano Rebai, stock.adobe.com)

Keep these decorations away from pets:

Tinsel, Angel Hair and Ribbon: These items can pose choking and strangling hazards for your pets.

Plants and Floral Arrangements: Poinsettias, hollies and mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and illness. Lilies can be deadly if eaten. Even so-called “nontoxic” plants can upset your pet’s tummy, and floral arrangements may be sprayed with preservatives.

Potpourri, Scented Oils and Candles: can be harmful if ingested and dangerous if spilled.

Candy and Human Treats: Common ingredients such as chocolate, raisins, alcohol and xylitol can be toxic to dogs and cats, not to mention the hazards of candy wrappers!

Snow Globes: Imported snow globes may contain highly poisonous antifreeze (ethylene glycol).

Bubble Lights: Contain methylene chloride, which can be harmful if swallowed or spilled on skin.

Dog in front of a Christmas tree with a chew toy and gifts
Get your dog a special Christmas chew toy to distract it from the neatly wrapped presents. (Elan Irving, Getty Images)

Invite Your Pet to the Party!

As the festivities kick into high gear, don’t forget to include your pet in the fun. Remember these tips:

  • Dogs love to unwrap their own gifts, and cats will play for hours in piles of tissue and gift paper.
  • Have plenty of pet toys on hand to encourage your pet to play appropriately.
  • Take your dog for long walks, to help dispel extra energy.
  • Reward your pet with healthy dog/cat treats rather than “people food.”
  • Also, make sure they have a familiar crate or bed nearby so that they have a place to calm down when they need to.

A little preparation on your part will ensure that your pet enjoys the party without crashing it!

Further Information

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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