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posted: 12/18/2013 1:58 PM

Decorating for the holidays can be tricky with felines

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  • Brad is a 4-year-old domestic shorthair gray and white male. He is a little shy at first until he gets to know you.

      Brad is a 4-year-old domestic shorthair gray and white male. He is a little shy at first until he gets to know you.
    Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

  • Rascal is a 4-year-old black and white domestic shorthair female. Rascal is very friendly and loves people. She will sit on your lap for hours at a time.

      Rascal is a 4-year-old black and white domestic shorthair female. Rascal is very friendly and loves people. She will sit on your lap for hours at a time.
    Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

 
By Mary Hayashi

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

Has your feline 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?

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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 our feline 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 feline 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're 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 its space.

You can also attempt to modify your feline's behavior. Every time your feline approaches the tree, decorations or a holiday centerpiece, reward him 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 doesn't 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 feline is safe from harm, unplug all the outlets before you leave your home. Cat boundary sprays also assist to some measure.

Next, you can also attempt to make the tree less attractive to your feline. Try to avoid placing ornaments and lights close to the bottom of the tree. We only invite our felines to sit under the tree and bat at 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 the veterinarian.

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

To survive Christmas with an evergreen and a feline, 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 or fructose and chemicals.

If you secure a towel around the tree before you place the tree skirt around the tree, 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 cabinets. If you are not sure if a plant is toxic, check with your veterinarian before leaving the plant 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 that 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 a Meowy Christmas, too.

• The Buddy Foundation is a nonprofit (501c3), all volunteer, no-kill animal shelter dedicated to the welfare of stray, abused and abandoned cats and dogs. The shelter is at 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights. Call (847) 290-5806 or visit thebuddyfoundation.org.

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