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Re: catnip

For whoever asked about keeping the cats out of the tree, this
Washington Post article copied below, appeared in my newspaper this

A Christmas Surprise That Will Blow the Cat Away
By Jura Koncius
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 18, 2004; Page H01 
A message to any cats out there who are thinking of climbing the Christmas tree this year: 
Cats, as many owners will attest, rarely get caught up in the holiday
spirit. They despise those cutesy jingle-bell collars they are forced to
wear, do not purr kindly on caroling strangers or sugar-hyped children,
and get cranky about Meow Mix meals delayed by parties and shopping
trips. Then a live tree shows up in the middle of the living room that
they're supposed to ignore. A little rebelliousness is bound to set in.

But this year, there's a product to foil feline defiance. 
The new StayAway canister from Contech Electronics combines a
battery-operated motion-detection device that senses a pet prowling
nearby and activates a burst of compressed air and a one-second warning
screech. Animals run for their lives, hopefully never to return,
according to Karen Schindelhauer of the Canadian company, whose motto is
"promoting harmony between animals and humans." This is the same firm
that makes bird feeders that whirl to fling squirrels through the air
and mats that teach "good house manners" by zapping pets with a mild
electrical pulse (StayAway sells for $37.99 at www.futurepets.com; for
information about other products see www.scatmat.com.)

"Our customers were looking for a way to keep cats off countertops in
the kitchen and away from plants or candles on a mantel," says
Schindelhauer, a marketing manager. "This can help keep cats safe and
prevent them from eating things that are bad for them, swallowing tinsel
or burning themselves. We've heard too many stories about cats climbing
on trees and causing the whole thing to fall down."

A tiny drawback: Any moving creature -- such as, say, a 3-year-old
toddler or a visiting mother-in-law -- can set off StayAway. But,
assures Contech, the quick spray of air and blast of noise shouldn't
really do any harm. Though you might want to turn it off when the family
gathers round the tree Christmas morning.

According to California pet therapist Warren Eckstein -- a regular on
NBC's "Today" show and host of a syndicated radio show -- the holidays
aren't necessarily easy on our four-legged friends.

"This is the most dangerous time of the year for pets. People are
cooking turkeys, leaving chocolate around, coming and going all the
time, and not spending time with their pets," says Eckstein, who has
been dubbed the "Dr. Phil" of the animal world. "They can do destructive
things to get attention."

He is not familiar with StayAway but he has used a homemade solution to
keep cats off the tree: He puts a handful of pennies in empty plastic
soda bottles and balances them on the bottom branches. If a cat jumps on
the tree, the bottles fall with a clatter that spooks them out. He also
has tied balloons around the bottom of the tree, which are supposed to
pop if a cat lands on them. "Someone always comes up with a
technological way of doing these things."

Eckstein has yet more pet-friendly suggestions: Pet owners should not
use tinsel or faux snow spray because ingesting it can be unhealthy for
pets. And never leave lights plugged in when your cat or dog is
unsupervised, as they may chew on the wires.

And is water in the Christmas tree stand safe for animals to drink? "A
lot of people put aspirin in the water because they think it will make
the tree last longer," says Eckstein. "Aspirin can be deadly to cats.
And a lot of the chemicals sold to add to the tree water are dangerous
as well."

Ordinary tap water, however, even if does get laced with sap, should be
fine. "I use plain water and refresh it every day and it's not a
problem," says Eckstein. "On the streets, cats drink much dirtier water
in puddles. I've yet to encounter a cat that required Perrier."

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