A Christmas tree can look like the ultimate toy to a cat: something to climb on that’s covered in shiny things to play with, break, and eat—not to mention a water bowl, toilet, and scratching post in one! Unfortunately, this dangerous situation is probably not what you had in mind when you set up your tree. Here’s how to have a cat-proof Christmas tree.
A Tree of Dangers?
Cats are notorious for breaking ornaments, knocking over trees, or getting hurt or sick around Christmas tree season. Despite their beauty and tradition, these trees pose a lot of dangers to cats:
- Tree water that’s treated with additives can make cats sick – these additives usually have fertilizer, aspirin, and other ingredients harmful to cats. And even if the water is not fertilized, it can accumulate bacteria that your cat shouldn’t drink.
- Cats can get hurt when they step on or eat broken ornaments or pine needles.
- Eating tinsel or chewing cords can easily kill a cat.
- Fake snow, mistletoe, holly, and poinsettias are all toxic to cats in some degree, sometimes deadly.
- Cats that find candles interesting can hurt themselves or cause a fire.
So how can you enjoy your holiday tree while keeping your cat and home safe? If you take a few precautions you may be able to have it all—a Christmas tree and a healthy cat!
Solutions for Disinterested or Senior Cats
Not all cats will be interested in your tree, but may still have accidents unless you take precautions.
- Helpful Textures: To keep your cat from walking under the tree (and considering climbing up), put unpleasant textures on the tree skirt. Cats hate the feeling of walking on aluminum foil, pine cones, sticky surfaces (like double sided tape), or non-slip rug bumps (bumps-up).
- Not a Water Bowl: If your Christmas tree will be sitting in water, cover the water with a tree skirt.
- Up High: Avoid putting ornaments low on the tree, and limit glass or breakable ones, so that your cat won't be tempted or accidentally knock them off. Keep your heirloom ornaments near the top and well secured with hooks or fishing line.
- Protect from Shock: Cats may chew on electrical cords if they can reach them so keep them covered with plastic or cardboard tubes, start them higher on the tree, and unplug them when not in use.
- No Tinsel: Since tinsel can severely damage a cat's digestive system, avoid using it on your tree.
- No Dangerous Plants: Skip the holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias, since these are poisonous to cats.
Solutions for Curious Cats
In addition to the solutions above, curious cats can get into trouble if presented with extra temptations. Use these tips to discourage them from even thinking about it.
- Repellent Smells: Many smells, while safe, are unpleasant or repellent to cats, which can work to your advantage. Spray a washable or disposable decoration (like pine cones or cotton balls) with apple bitter, citronella, or Vicks to keep your cat away. If you decide to spray the tree itself, make sure you and your family can handle the smell and that you spray before adding electrical decorations. Orange peels or citrus potpourri around the base also work.
- Artificial Trees: If your cat has a history of eating what they shouldn't, you should opt for a nice looking fake tree to keep them from eating fallen needles.
- Keep Tree Upright: Buy a strong base that will keep the tree from falling over if a cat climbs on it. You can also tie the tree to the ceiling or wall with eye-bolts and fishing line to keep it secure.
Solutions for Kittens, Troublemakers, and Acrobats
Some cats require extra precautions to keep them safe—and you and your family sane—when it comes to Christmas trees.
- Separate the tempted from the temptation: Keep the tree in a room you can close with a door, or put the tree behind a child gate or in a child play area to keep your cat away entirely. You can also avoid risks by keeping the tree away from jumping platforms like sofas and counters.
- Reconsider Ornaments: Try using wood, felt, and paper decorations, which look far less exciting and enticing than shiny glass ornaments.
- Discipline: If your cat keeps getting too close to the tree, have a spray bottle handy to catch them in the act.
- Holiday Distractions: You can keep a very special toy or carpeted cat-condo that only comes out at holidays. With enough distractions, your cat won't even be interested in the tree.
More on Christmas And Cat Safety
17 of the Coolest Cat Christmas Presents
Pet Safety for the Holidays Infographic
Pet Fire Safety Checklist