Cats and Christmas Trees: Best Methods for a Stress Free Tree

Originally published Nov 26, 2016

Cats and Christmas Trees: How to Approach

Rags by Christmas Tree Copyright Floppycats.comCats and Christmas trees can be notorious for not mixing well. But it is hard to sacrifice such a major part of the holiday season, and nothing is cuter than the sight of a cat curled up under a glowing Christmas tree.

While some cats have zero problems with Christmas trees, others use them for climbing, scratching, batting at ornaments, or even attacking them, so owners have to seriously consider how to keep cats away from your Christmas tree.

However, there are a lot of ways to make sure that your cat can safely enjoy your Christmas tree with you. Check out these different factors to consider when planning how to cat proof your Christmas tree, and feel free to add your own suggestions below!

#1 Real or Artificial Tree?

Charlie Christmas 2013While neither are great for your cat if they start munching on them, real trees are actually a bit more dangerous.

This is because the needles of real trees can be dangerously sharp, and the pine can be mildly poisonous – same with the water for the base of the tree, so you need to make sure this is completely inaccessible to your cat. You can also try putting tin foil around the trunk to deter climbing if you have a kitten.

#2 Tree Height

Shorter is better! A tall tree crashing down with a kitty in it would be much more catastrophic. You could also try doing some smaller trees safely sitting on tabletops out of reach instead of one big tree.

Another creative trick to prevent too much climbing is to make a chicken wire barrier that can be hidden in the bottom branches of the tree. It won’t be visible from the outside, but will stop them from getting to high!

#3 Anchor the Tree

Cats are notorious for loving to climb Christmas trees, so you need to make sure your tree is secure by using a sturdy base and possibly even tethering it to a wall or ceiling with hooks and fishing line. Make sure even artificial trees have a strong base – you can hide any ugly fixes using a tree skirt.

Skittles at Christmas
Skittles at Christmas

#4 Location, location, location

Make sure the tree is in an open space – away from any shelves or furniture that your kitty could jump from. You could even try using a small table as a base for a larger tree just to put it a little out of your cat’s reach.

Another good idea is to put it in a room where you can close the door when you leave so there is no opportunity to make mischief while you are gone.

#5 Ornaments

One strategy to consider is holding off on decorating you tree for a few days so that the cat can get used to the tree itself first. Then, when you do decorate, try to do it when your cat is out of the way so they do not swat at the ornaments as you unpack them.

Avoid dangling the ornaments in front of them to play with – this will encourage your cat to see them as toys!

Try to decorate using more cat-friendly ornaments – especially at the base of the tree. Anything shiny dangling from the tree will be tempting for them, so try to go with paper or felt ornaments within their reach.

Caymus Christmas 2013 2

You could also consider putting ornaments that are okay for them to play with at the base of the tree, and then putting the more valuable or breakable ones higher up. You can also anchor ornaments more firmly by attaching them with a clamp and using quality wire ornaments that you can firmly loop around a branch.

Some decorations should be avoided altogether. Artificial snow is toxic for cats, and tinsel or ribbons could cause serious health issues or even death. You might want to avoid decorating with food as well, especially sweets, which could be harmful.

Caymus with Stockings
Caymus with Stockings

#6 Lights

Ragdoll Cat Caymus Gets Christmas Wrapped for Christmas 2014 - FloppycatsLights can be another source of danger, so make sure you tape down any dangling wires. You can also find some Christmas tree lights that shut down if they are damaged, which would reduce the risk of a chewing kitty getting shocked.

An adult should always be present in the room if lights or on, and they should be unplugged if no one is around.

Check periodically for damages to the wires, and if your cat is drooling excessively or showing other signs of impairment, get them to the vet immediately.

These are the biggest things to consider when putting up a Christmas tree in a cat household, and remember that you can also use other strategies that you use year round, like bitter sprays to make something unattractive to your kitty, or training them using a can full of coins or other deterrents.

Caymus Christmas 2013

Remember also that your cat might really love the Christmas tree! If they seem to be doing well, bring their bed over so that they can enjoy the warmth of the lights and admire the ornaments (from a safe distance!), or watch them nap burrowed in a pile of presents. Then relax and enjoy it with them!

What suggestions do you have for putting up a cat-friendly Christmas tree?

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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  1. LURVE the annual re-post of this wonderful & important holiday topic, Jenny!!! <3

    Big hugs & lots of love…Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle <3

  2. Great re-post of a wonderful topic, Jenny!!! 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love…Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3

  3. or put your tree in a cage or hang it upside down from the ceiling!!! hahaha! i have had cats that were all about the tree .. some climbers, some ornament stealers, some tree eaters, it’s all about the cat or cats you have. my boys now don’t bother the tree that much. they may bat at the ornaments a little bit but they are pretty good. they do love to lay under it and i swear they know which presents are theirs and they will try to open them. you just never know with cats. one thing i never put on my tree now though are the icicles. cats love to eat those and that is Jenny says.. a trip to the emergency vet!

  4. Pawesome post, Jenny! What great information and ideas! In the past, we used real and artificial trees and were lucky that our awesome kittehs left them alone for the most part. Would always hang the wooden ornaments on the bottom with cloth hangers that tied. Luckily none of the kittehs ever tried to climb the tree! 🙂 <3

    Since we've lived in our small apt (since 2009) we decided to not do a formal Christmas tree with ornaments (just no room, really) but opted for some Ceramic Trees (Polish Pottery!) that I place on end tables. I don't burn candles in them (as some have the option for that) or have ones that could hold tiny bulbs. They are just beautiful decorative ceramic trees that set the festive mood just right for us. We don't have any grandchildren so there's we don't do a lot of decorating at Christmas other than setting out the ceramic trees. Miss PSB is quite fine with them and once she checked them out the first time has left them alone and is used to them. It's all very safe here during the holidays for our girl.

    Wishing you, your family, Floppycatters and their families (including all the very cherished and beloved "furry purries"…lurve that term from Sweet T!) a VERY SAFE & MEOWY (sorry, HAD to do THAT!) CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY SEASON!!!!

    Big hugs!!!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3

    1. I haven’t done a tree in years – I am sure the cats would enjoy it, but it’s not worth the hassle! I too have ceramic trees that light up!

      1. I used to lurve to put up the tree but since it’s just me and my hubby and our beautiful Miss PSB, I don’t bother as it’s just too much hassle to try and figure out the space and rearrange everything to make room, etc…

        So happy to hear you enjoy the ceramic trees, too!!! YAY!!!! 🙂 <3

  5. Teresa Reid says:

    Love these ideas for a safe Christmas with our kitties. We always have put felted and cloth ornaments (the girls’ own ornaments) down on the lowest branches, so they feel free to bat and even knock them off the tree if they so desire. They seem to like that and leave all the other ones alone that are placed higher up. None of our 3 are climbers, so that’s not an issue so far.

    First time this year that I found some “snow” that is not really “snow.” It is a light mesh material with these little white balls woven into it giving it the impression that it is snow. Had the Dickens Village in storage and am going to take it out again this year to see if this new fabric will work. Never did like having that stuff around the kitties even if they didn’t bother it, but it was always on my mind so just didn’t even get it out the past several years.

    Wishing everyone a very wonderful and safe Christmas season with their furry purries!♥♥♥♥

    1. Sounds awesome, Sweet T!!! Wishing you and your family (which always include your furry purries!) a VERY MERRY & SAFE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY SEASON, too!!! 🙂 <3 <3 <3

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