We Asked, You Answered: How to Keep Your Kids, Pets, and Tree Safe
Tired of finding your Christmas tree on the living room floor thanks to mischievous kids or pets? There's been a lot of talk on Hometalk about avoiding toppling Christmas trees, so we asked the community for their best tips and tricks. This is what our creative community of Hometalkers had to say:
1. Anchor Your Tree to The Ceiling Or a Nearby Wall
For Anna Williams, K Chandler, and many other Hometalkers, the best way to keep the tree from toppling is tying the top of the tree to a ceiling hook with fishing line, or even, like Cheryl J, a bungee cord. Once it's up, you can't even see the string! "Even if she climbs it," says 1957cmr, "it doesn't go anywhere!" notdmama adds a 20 lb. weight to the bottom of her tree, then throws a tree skirt over it, to keep it straight and sturdy. If you have beams in your ceiling, you can also secure heavy duty fishing line around those, like Deb did after her pets toppled the tree onto the woodstove and gave her a scare!
"After we have wired the tree," says Hometalker Donna King, "we deliberately attempt to knock it down. We push it and pull it from all angles. Sometimes it will lean slightly, but once we are convinced that it will not actually fall very far, we decorate it."
If your tree isn't near enough to the ceiling or installing a cup hook isn't doable, you can secure it to other points around the room. Carol West ties her tree with 2 pieces of fishing line, slips the knots under the window, then closes and locks it. Barb Johnson secures her tree by tying it to both sides of the doorway using command hooks. "I used to tie twine around the top of the tree (which was in the corner ) and attach the twine in a V to the opposing walls behind the tree with small nails," says cat owner Leslie.
After the holidays, you can remove the hook, "fill the small hole with filler and a dab of paint or put a picture over hole," like Donna. You can also leave your hook in, like Izzy Teddybear Doctor, and hang a string of tinkling bells from it, "to get good energy going."
2. Hang Your Ornaments Strategically
When planning where to put what on your tree, consider what you want to keep out of reach. Hang precious or very delicate ornaments near the top, where they're safer and more visible. "I avoid putting dangly ornaments on the lowest branches," says Randy Wanttaja, to give kitties less incentive to swipe. It might also be a good idea to switch to non-glass or shatterproof ornaments for the whole of the tree, like Sue Rauch, or just around the bottom, like Kathy. Fill in any gaps with cheap ornaments you don't care about too much - Patty Loveless buys fillers from the Dollar Store.
For no ornament hassle at all, there are some alternatives to the classic shiny balls. AEBJ only hangs cat-friendly ornaments, like toys, so that playtime is fun for everyone. Barb in Texas says that her cat owner brother doesn't use any ornaments, just lights, and his cats love relaxing in the tree.
"We humans love to touch and admire the ornaments," says Margaret Robinson, who also uses unbreakable ornaments, "and our fur family enjoys it too.
3. Secure Ornaments to Your Tree with Wire
On top of the fishing wire trick, Karen L. Grohs double guards her ornaments by twisting the hooks so that they're more secure on the branch.
Linda Joyner Lehn uses twist ties to secure her ornaments, so that her cats can't steal them. "The twist ties are safer than the wire hooks if they do manage to get one loose," she says, "and if you use the green ones, they blend right into the tree and you don't notice them at all."
4. Let Pets Adjust to The Tree Little by Little
"I introduce the tree in parts," says Susan, who brings each layer out little by little and allows her cat to investigate each piece completely. She does the same thing with the decorations, leaving the containers open for a thorough curious sniffing. "By the time I assemble and decorate," she says, "he's bored with the entire thing."
CJ lets her kitty join in the holiday fun, by giving her a branch all her own to play with beside the tree. "Now, she feels included without pulling down the decorations!"
5. Hang Bells Along The Bottom of The Tree
As a mini security system to keep you informed of your pet's mischievous activities, cat owner Kathy and many other Hometalkers recommend stringing bells along the bottom of your tree. When you hear the bells tinkle, you know trouble's brewing and you can stop it right away. Mother and pet lover Tammy Porter used a row of bells on the tree to keep track of her dog, cat, and kids. "Anytime one of the "critters or kids" came into contact with the tree it was a dead give away."
6. Use a Plush Tree Skirt to Catch Fallen Ornaments
Even the most secure tree can lose an ornament or two if your babies are really creative. Kitty owner Robin McDowell recommends laying down a thick, cushiony tree skirt, to catch falling ornaments safely, and give kitties a cozy place to distract them from climbing. If your tree skirt is thinner, just put some padding underneath it. "Padding can be as simple as an extra throw blanket, or a little more precise like batting cut to the size of the tree skirt," says Hometalker Julie.
7. Place Pet-Repelling Things at The Base of Your Tree
Hometalker Lynn Wood Herold says to "find something the your cat is afraid of and use that to your advantage." Her cat is terrified of the blow dryer, so she simply sits it under her tree (unplugged) and kitty stays away.
Even if your furbaby doesn't have a personal spook, most cats can't stand certain smells. Rayne Highsmith sprinkles orange peels under the tree, and Dexter Darling Rag Dolls hangs dried orange slices around the bottom branches. If you don't want oranges everywhere, try Trish's trick and use a bucket of rocks sprinkled in orange oil, or copy Samantha, who puts hers in little gift boxes around the base. "A few boxes of that should keep darling kitty from getting into trouble," she says.
If you're like your cat and can't stand the orange smell, try Lee Govan's idea and dab a little citronella oil on the bottom branch tips. You can also copy Leslie L's method: "boil cinnamon & ginger in water, strain and put it in a spray bottle, spray the bottom branches of the tree heavily and then the rest of the tree more lightly."
Other things cats avoid: peppermint, chili powder, and chili peppers!
8. Weigh Down Your Tree Base
If you have an artificial tree, this trick will be a bit easier for you. Find a way to add some weight to your tree base, whether that's mounting it on plywood like dog lover Valarie A. Lahti and Karen V, filling the base with cement like Cheryl O'Connor, or packing it with bricks like Elaine Young and Cindy. If you want to add a touch of glamour, wrap the heavy base up in a cardboard box with wrapping paper and pass it off as a present. You can even go no further than your bookshelf, and fill a box with heavy books to keep your tree in place (thank you Melly). Ronda uses everyone's favorite salvage - a free cable spool!
9. Block Your Tree from Harm
Make your tree untouchable, by setting boundaries around it, or putting it in a different room entirely. When Jewell Martin had a baby wandering around under her tree, she surrounded it with some big packages that the infant wouldn't be able to push past. Another easy option is using a mini fence around your tree, like sheltie mom Holiday Learn.
If you don't have big packages or a fence on hand, all you need is free seating. "I used to position several kitchen chairs around the tree for the first few days. After that, the cats got bored with it and never tried to climb it again," says Ann Laurence.
Instead of blocking your tree, you can try putting it out of harm's way by moving it into a different room, or sitting it in a playpen (more popular than you might think!) like Mary Solt, who figured that with two toddlers and a dog, her tree needed to be kept safe from them. Renee Combs has a much more pleasant holiday each year, now that she moved her tree into the glassed-in porch.
10. Use a Smaller Tabletop Tree or Place Yours Out of The Way
We all love that big, grand green tree, but if you've got pets or small children, it's OK to opt out of this tradition. Instead of spending your holiday worried about your family and your ornaments, get a small tabletop tree and set it up out of the way, so that you get to decorate but don't have to stress. "We stick with the 4 foot presto pine my husband brought home our first Christmas," says Deb. "Though the kids are old enough, it's still great up and out of the way for a big dog." For extra security, Anita Kackle, mom to 3 huskies and a greyhound, puts her small tree on a round table and attaches the base via bungee-cord to the table. She covers the whole thing up with a tree skirt - voila!
11. Warn Cats Away with a Spray Bottle
If all else fails, a quick spritz with a spray bottle full of water will teach your cats that the tree is a no-go zone. For Teresa, "it only took two or three times of spraying them to break them of the habit. They're 3 years old now and don't bother the tree."
Good luck with your babies and trees, and have a safe and blessed Christmas!