Pets and Holiday Decorating

By: Dr. Kassandra Garner

The stores are already decked in boughs of holly (or more accurately, plastic sparkly lights) and you are probably thinking about getting out your own holiday decorations. But for those of us with pets, before we drag those totes out of storage, consideration must be given to how to adorn our houses so that our efforts survive our four-footed companions. Yes, from Christmas trees to strands of garland, holiday decorations are a pet toy paradise from our pet’s perspective. Trimming the tree means nothing hanging from the bottom branches that will break when the cat invariably knocks it off. Stockings are not just hung from the chimney with care, but with something that will resist our dogs’ efforts to chew on them. Nativity scenes must be set up in rooms from which the pets are banned, or your pet may have surgery to remove a babe-in-the-manger. Candy bowls filled with chocolates or peppermints are a toxic temptation that’s hard to resist. 

When I was ten, my Siberian Husky jumped up on me and knocked me over into the Christmas tree – which was a real tree and hung with old-fashioned real metal tinsel. My Dad was very good at setting up trees that resisted our cats climbing them to hide out in the branches, but no tree can withstand an 80 pound Husky. My mom was more upset over the ruination of some of her precious impossible-to-replace tinsel than my scratches. This was the era when spraying trees with “fake snow” became popular, but luckily my Mom knew better than to attempt that particular fad, since our cats would have spent the holidays looking like they were suffering from severe dandruff!

So as you place your favorite Santa figures on your mantle (might I suggest sticky tape?), set up your reindeer in the front yard (where the dogs aren’t allowed to go or they will be “urine marked”), and finish hanging your ornaments on your tree (with more than half on the top third), know that your fellow pet lovers feel your frustration. But we also know that none of us would trade curling up on the couch in front of the crooked, haphazardly trimmed tree with our favorite furry friends for all the exquisitely decorated houses in Southern Living magazine. Besides, we can always go visit Grove Park Inn and the Biltmore House.

Happy decorating, friends and fellow pet lovers!