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Originally published December 17, 2008 at 12:32 PM | Page modified December 17, 2008 at 6:31 PM

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Keeping pets away from Christmas trees

5 ways to keep cats and dogs from destroying the Christmas tree and ornaments.

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Once decorated, a Christmas tree can become irresistible to pets.

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THE SEATTLE TIMES

Once decorated, a Christmas tree can become irresistible to pets.

Gift idea for dogs

THEY'RE MILKING THE PUNS FOR ALL THEY'RE WORTH: Udder Tugs are dog toys made from recycled rubber liners used in milking machines. Contact with all those bovines leaves a lingering smell that dogs find, well, udderly irresistible. Agility competitors have long used these tug toys as motivators to get their dogs ready to run courses and as a reward when they are finished. A percentage of your purchase is donated to rescue. Available for $10 and up from helpingudders.com.

Keeping pets away from your beautifully decorated branches is not easy, and some trees can eventually be whittled into a Charlie Brown-like state of sorrowfulness if you're not vigilant.

As if you don't have enough to do in this time-crunched holiday season, here are some tips for protecting your Christmas tree from canine and feline overtures:

Orange you glad?

Cats have an innate dislike for citrus scents. Try putting an orange- or lemon-scented room deodorizer near the tree, even attached to the trunk. Other home remedies that cat owners have tried: clove oil, peppermint oil, Tabasco sauce (for branch nibblers) and black pepper.

Remember, though, that cats have sensitive nervous systems, and exposure to essential oils can cause serious neurological problems. So make sure your cat does not have direct contact with potpourris, perfumes or any other substances you are using to keep them away from your tree.

Get outta here!

Indoor training mats such as ScatMats use low-power electric pulses similar to static electricity to startle animals and keep them away from areas their owners have deemed verboten.

If zapping isn't your idea of kinder and gentler, the SSSCat is a training device with a motion detector that, when activated, beeps and releases a scentless, ozone-friendly spray from an aerosol can. An adjustable nozzle lets you position the direction of the spray.

You can find both of these at Amazon.com, and at many pet retailers.

Help in a pinch

Here is a low-tech solution that can work for cats and dogs alike, particularly those sensitive to touch: Go to your local carpet or hardware store and buy a length of clear plastic carpet runner — the kind that has little plastic grippers on the underside. Place the runner wrong side up around the tree; the pointy surface should deter the patter of little paws. (It also works on chairs and couches that you want to declare no-snooze zones.)

Fence me in

Baby gates or exercise pens placed around the tree can keep furry intruders out.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

Just as you would with young children who can't keep their hands to themselves, invest in plastic or nonbreakable ornaments. Position the keepsakes on the highest branches closest to the trunk, or, better yet, pack them away until your critters develop better holiday manners.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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