Is your cat smitten by your Christmas tree, so intrigued that she clambers onto it, knocking needles, decorations and tinsel everywhere? Or perhaps she has even come close to knocking over the entire tree? Keeping your curious cat out of the Christmas tree is a wise idea for everyone involved, to help avoid injury to your cat and the potential for further damage to the items near the tree and people in the vicinity of it.
- Start off smart by considering the type of tree you’ll use. Real Christmas trees are potentially more dangerous to your cat than artificial ones. This is because the needles on a real tree are sharp and can pierce or puncture the skin of an overly curious cat, while the pine needles themselves are irritating to mildly toxic if chewed (depending on the species of tree used). However, a chewed artificial tree isn’t going to be that healthy either, so balance the choice of tree type with how you intend to keep the tree safe from your cat using the remaining steps.
- Consider the size of the tree. A small tree will be safer than a larger tree because there is less of it to crash down if things go horribly wrong. For a kitten, a tabletop tree might be a suitable choice until she grows up and stops being so playful.
- If you do choose a real tree, also choose a water container for the tree that is completely inaccessible to the cat. If she tries to drink from it, she risks poisoning.
- For small kittens, wrap tinfoil around the trunk. They don’t like putting their nails into it and it will keep them from climbing the tree.
- Select a strong and unwavering base for holding the tree. Always err on the side of caution when selecting a tree base and get one that is guaranteed to stay firmly in place if the tree is knocked. This is as important for the safety of children as it is for pets. Ask your retailer for advice on the options provided in-store.
- Even an artificial tree should have a firm and solid base.
- Use a tree skirt to hide all ugly but practical safety fixes at the base of the tree (including electrical items, see below).
- As well as a solid base, anchor the tree to the wall or ceiling to help prevent it from toppling over should your cat land in the tree or pull on it.
- Choose a safe location for the tree. There should be plenty of room around the tree so that it isn’t too near climbing items. If there are tempting shelves or furniture pieces to act as launchpads for kitty, she’s very likely to avail herself of them and jump onto the tree. Keep the tree in a clear space that makes jumping either difficult or unlikely.
- If possible, select a placement for the tree that allows you to shut the door at night or when nobody is about, in order to keep the cats away from the tree. Obviously this isn’t always possible or even doable but if it is an option, make use of it.
- If the tree is shorter than 6 feet (180cm), you might find it handy to use duct tape to tape the legs of the holder to a piece of wide plywood and put the whole tree on a short but very sturdy table. This keeps the tree above the level of the cat and the cat won’t be as interested. Of course, you still need to ensure that the tree is nowhere near any launching points for an opportunistic jump.
- Consider not decorating the tree initially. The rationale behind this is to provide adjustment time to the tree, as well as a possible lesson for your cat in leaving the tree well alone. Fill a spray bottle with water and hang on to it. It is a good idea to set the tree in place, then let her in to investigate but hover in the background with the spray bottle, just in case. If your cat shows any signs of wanting to leap at or on the tree, a light spritz of water on her back and a stern “NO!” will get the point across. This should deter her from trying it again and should be enough to teach her that the Christmas tree is not her playground.
- If you’re still concerned prior to decorating the tree, spray it with a product called Apple Bitter. This will deter her without leaving a noticeable odor to human noses. Or, you might try a citrus spray, as cats are repelled by citrus odor too.
- If it’s a plastic tree, a small amount of Citronella oil shaken into a bottle of water and misted on to the tree makes it smell unpleasant to the cat but fresh and citrus-like to you.
- You could also place orange peels under the tree to make your cat less likely to go near it. (Cats also dislike the smell of rotten apples but then you probably won’t like that smell much either!)
- Spray some pine cones with Citronella and pile them around the base of the tree. Cats do not walk on pine cones! (Pine cones also have the same effect in the base of your houseplants.)
- Decorate the tree with your cat firmly out of the way. It’s hard enough fiddling with trees, decorations and breakable ornaments without also having felines running up past you and pelting at the objects as you’re gingerly hanging them up. Your cat will assume this is a game you intend for her to play, so it’s just easiest to keep her out of the way until everything has been set up.
- While decorating, if your cat is about, resist the urge to tease her with decorations as you’re adding them. Doing so will only encourage her to see the glittery items as toys and things to swat at anytime she pleases.
- Choose ornaments less likely to be attractive to your cats. Some ornaments will prove irresistible because they sparkle, glow, dangle and shimmer. On the other hand, blander, less shiny or flat matte objects which don’t dangle much will have less allure for your cat. Felt, paper and plain decorations might be the best choice. And avoid anything that dangles a lot, jumps about or spins.
- Never put catnip stuffed items on the tree. That’s just asking for it.
- Consider not having certain decorations at all. Tinsel is potentially hazardous for cats who chew it and swallow it and it is not recommended for households with cats; it can cause choking or other internal problems if swallowed, such as intestinal blockage. So can ribbons and other items with length that dangle from the tree. Artificial snow is toxic and should not be used when you have pets and small children. Christmas is stressful and expensive enough without the emergency surgery necessary to save your cat’s life if sharp-edged tinsel slices through the intestinal wall or causes a blockage.
- It is recommended that you don’t use real candles on a tree when you have pets. Things can all too easily go wrong with a quick swipe of the paw and flames upon flammable items as a result.
- If you like decorating the tree with food, be careful what you add. Chocolate of any kind is toxic for cats and the odor may be tempting to them if hung from the tree. Lots of sweets aren’t healthy either.
- Place decorations that are especially delicate, enticing or dangerous high up the tree, in the top two-thirds of the tree. Your cat is less likely to reach for higher parts of the tree (provided you’ve ensured there are no leaping ledges or spots nearby), which will help to keep these items safe. Tinsel, if used at all, should be placed up high as it is likely to be dragged off by a curious cat and as already noted, it can be very harmful if ingested, including getting caught in the stomach and intestines. Some people choose to not even decorate the lower third of the tree at all. That way, there is nothing of interest at cat’s eye level.
- Some cats cannot help themselves and will climb up high whatever you do. If your cat is like this, then avoid having any delicate or potentially dangerous items on the tree at all.
- Attach ornaments onto the tree securely so that they cannot be simply pelted or lifted off. Use metal hooks that clamp to the tree and avoid using string, rubber bands or anything else dangly to attach the ornaments with. When you’ve attached the decorations, give them a tug to check that the method of attaching that you’ve used is adequate and requires dexterous strength to remove.
- Hang ornaments by using quality wire ornament hangers. Use a pair of pliers to clamp the hook part around the branch so that it doesn’t dangle and cannot be simply pulled off.
- Be careful with electrical wires and lighting. A Christmas tree is complete when its lights are on but the wires can prove too much of a temptation to a curious kitty. Be sure to tape down excess wire and to make it too hard for the cat to reach the power point and cord join. Do not leave any wires dangling – wrap wire around the base or tree rather than having it dangling anywhere. It can also be helpful to cover exposed wires in wire covers or piping to prevent the cat from chewing them.
- Cords can also be coated in “Bitter Apple”.
- Plug the tree lights into a short indoor extension cord and tape the plug into the socket with electrical tape. Simply unplug the lights from the extension cord to turn off.
- Consider using cords that shut off if damaged.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights when there is no responsible adult in the room to keep an eye on them.
- Relax now. You’ve done all you can to secure the tree and to make it a safe experience for your cat. Some cats will climb into the tree whatever you do and provided you’ve made it safe, it’s best to reach a place of acceptance about this and go with the flow. Decide to make it your cat’s Christmas and decide that you are not going to get frustrated trying to outsmart your cat this Christmas. Provided you’ve secured the tree to keep it from toppling and properly clamped ornaments to the branches, you will be able to cope if your cat does hop into the tree. And if that happens, be ready to take pictures of your cat sleeping in the Christmas tree branches – and smile.
- Consider getting the baby fences. This way, your cats can’t go near the tree, but they can still explore the house. The baby fence could even be painted holiday colors to make it less ugly. Decorate it too!
- Make sure that your kittens(or cats!) are way from the presents so that they don’t rip off the gift wrap.
- Consider getting Scotch Pines. They have sharp needles to repel cats. However, this very sharpness can be a potential hazard, so weigh this up before deciding.
- Distract your cat. Place toys she likes in the same room as the tree and place her scratching post reasonably near to the tree. These are her things and encourage her to use them rather than hang around the tree.
- Apple cider vinegar can be sprayed in place of “Bitter Apple
- You can place clear contact paper, sticky side up, under the tree. Cats won’t walk on sticky surfaces.
- Never use tinsel around cats. They may pull it down and spread it over the house and possibly chew on it and choke. Tinsel will cause the cat serious injury or death if ingested – contact your vet right away if you think your cat has chewed, eaten or swallowed any tinsel (or any ribbon or string for that matter).
- Aspirin is often added to tree water. This is toxic to your cat. Add sugar instead but still ensure that your cat cannot reach the water because it is likely to have pine sap, preservatives, pesticides and other toxic elements in it.
- If you have a live Christmas tree with needles, always sweep up dead needles daily to remove temptation from pets and little people.
- When you lock the cats up for the night, try to shut the door to the room with the tree. You’ll sleep better knowing they’re not swaying from it during the night.
- Be extra vigilant with kittens. Keep them from chewing on the extension cord and shocking themselves. Anything that wiggles and jiggles will attract their attention.
- Do not put any harmful things on the tree, like human food. If your cat decides to be curious and lick or eat it, then it could make your kitty very sick.
- Do not leave hooks laying around, your cat can eat them, and this will probably hurt your kitty’s insides.
- Don’t spray a tree that has electrical items on it. Water and electricity have a habit of short-circuiting into a house fire.
- Don’t decorate your cat. Allow her the dignity of not being your plaything.
- Never leave a kitten in a gift box or carrier under the Christmas tree as a gift; this is dangerous and cruel. If giving a wanted and agreed upon kitten for Christmas, keep the kitten in another room well cared for and bring her out as a gift when it’s time, in your hands. Be sure that someone responsible is available all day to care for her, as the noise and excitement is likely to be overwhelming and she should be allowed to retreat as needed. Most importantly, a cat should only be given as a Christmas gift if a family decision has been reached that this is a life-long commitment that particular family members willingly take on.
Things You’ll Need
- Cord ties, cord covers
- Bitter Apple, citronella oil, apple cider vinegar, etc.
- Spray bottle and water
- Things to tether or anchor the tree
- Solid, heavy tree base
- Proper metal clamp hooks and pliers
- Safe decorations
- Cat distractions
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- How to Keep Cats from Chewing on Electric Cords and Chargers
- How to Decorate Your Front Yard for Christmas
- How to Pet a High Strung Cat
- How to Make a Christmas Card Star
- How to Buy a Christmas Tree from a Tree Farm
- How to Care for a Christmas Cactus
- How to Have a Happy Holiday Season
- How to Care for a Christmas Tree
- How to Make a Fake Christmas Tree
Sources and Citations
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