Originally published Nov 26, 2016
Cats and Christmas Trees: How to Approach
Cats 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?
While 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.
#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.
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. 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.
Lights 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.
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?