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posted: 11/25/2012 6:02 AM

Keep curious cats clear of Christmas decorations

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  • Princess, a 4-year-old lap cat, is looking for a forever home.

    Princess, a 4-year-old lap cat, is looking for a forever home.
    Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

  • Roger and Rollie, 8-month-old buddies, need a home for the holidays.

    Roger and Rollie, 8-month-old buddies, need a home for the holidays.
    Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation


By Mary Hayashi

The Buddy Beat

Do you have a feline in residence, and are you dreading putting up the Christmas tree and the rest of the traditional decorations?

Has your cat demonstrated behavior to you in the past that has you convinced the only way to assure your tree will still be standing by Christmas is to secure it to the wall with cables and grommets?

This seems like a desperate measure, but to those of us with felines, we know that because of their agile jumping abilities, almost nothing can be placed high enough out of reach.

The only remaining options for feline caretakers is to avoid certain dangerous decorations altogether, make the tree less attractive, and condition your cat to avoid the decorations.

Once you have a feline in your house, there are certain decorative items that should never be used. These include tinsel, metallic garland, yarn, ribbon, cord-like metallic twine, pine cones, evergreens and poinsettias. Your cat will be attracted to all of these items and will chew on them. These items can be deadly if ingested.

If this list of dangerous items is too exhaustive and eliminates too many decorating options, your only solution is to watch the feline closely when you are home and limit the animal's access to the dangerous areas.

When you are not home to supervise the animal, why not confine it to a spare bedroom, bathroom or study. The animal's safety is of paramount concern, so do not feel guilty about limiting the animal's space.

You can also attempt to modify your feline's behavior. Every time your cat approaches the tree, decorations, or a holiday centerpiece, reward your cat with a squirt of water in the face. Spray bottles work well, as do the new high-powered super squirt guns children are so fond of (just kidding).

If the old squirt gun trick does not work; it's time to take a more serious approach. Try a flavor additive such as "No Chew" or "Bitter Lemon." These items are readily available at most pet stores. When your feline chews on something and is greeted with a bitter taste, you can bet he or she will not be back for more.

Felines are attracted to electrical cords, electrical extensions and outlets. Placing a bitter flavor additive on these items is a good idea. If you want to be sure your cat is safe from harm, unplug all the outlets before you leave your feline home alone. Cat boundary sprays also assist to some measure.

Next, you can also attempt to make the tree less attractive. Try to avoid placing ornaments and lights close to the bottom of the tree. We only invite our felines to sit underneath and bat the ornaments when they are placed too low.

Lights should be plugged in only when you are home to supervise. Our feline friends are attracted to bright lights and will readily chew on them. Even a light crunch on the lights will sear your cat's tongue and will necessitate an emergency trip to your veterinarian.

Our feline friends are less attracted to an artificial tree than a freshly cut evergreen. Cats live to chew on fresh pine needles.

To survive Christmas with an evergreen and a feline, you must closely monitor the animal's behavior and learn that your vacuum cleaner is your new best friend.

If you choose the evergreen for your Christmas tree, you must also "cat proof" the tree skirt and tree stand. Our animals love to drink the tree water. Keep your tree water additive free, and avoid adding aspirin or products to extend tree life. Commercial products that extend tree life contain high amounts of fructose and chemicals.

If you secure a towel around the tree before you place the tree skirt around it, this may further deter our animal buddies from drinking the tree water. The tree skirt should not be made of a material the cat can ingest.

Other holiday hazards include holiday plants and treats. Keep chocolate and all other tasty toxins out of reach and in the cabinet. If you are not sure if a plant is toxic, check with your veterinarian before leaving it in an area your animal has access to.

The Buddy Foundation's last tip for enjoying a healthy holiday with your pet addresses the issue of adopting an animal as a present for someone.

First, the holidays are a busy time for everyone, and a new pet will not get adequate attention. Second, to ensure the animal is truly wanted, the actual owner should be involved in choosing it. The Buddy Foundation will not allow its animals to be given as presents because we value the lives of the animals that are entrusted to our care.

An animal buddy is adopted and becomes a loving and loved member of the family. We easily get bored with our new Christmas gifts, but our love for our animal buddies will never waiver.

The Buddy Foundation wishes the readers of The Buddy Beat and their animal buddies a healthy and happy Howliday and Meowy Christmas too.


Princess is an elegant, blue-cream tortoise that is about 4 years old. She is calm and sweet for attention. This beauty is a true lap cat. She also gets along with other felines and small dogs. This smart girl could not wait to get rescued from the wind and the rain.

Roger is a red tabby boy and Rollie is red with white. Both are neutered and 8 months old. They are litter mates that still play like baby kittens. When playtime is over, you can also find them curled in a ball together. They reside in our multiple kitten room so they love smaller kittens and adult felines. These two were left behind at an animal hospital, never to be picked up. Perhaps those two could share a home for the holidays.

Santa Photos

In keeping with the retail tradition this season of starting the holidays early, Buddy too will have three Saturdays of fun photos with Mr. and Mrs. Santa and all of their helpers.

The time of opportunity will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 1, 8, and 15. A bake sale will be ongoing, as will treats for our animal buddies. Don't forget you can also select some special gifts from Buddy's gift shop and avoid some of the retail madness.

Our lobby will also be decked out to the hilt. Our 8-foot tree will be loaded with ornaments for sale for only a $5 donation. Be sure you inquire about other locations at pet stores and veterinary hospitals so you can collect all of your favorite ornaments.

Contact The Buddy Foundation at (847) 290-5806; visit us at 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights; or online at