Cat proof Christmas Tree title

Photo Credit: Lwp Kommunikáció via Flickr

It’s Christmas time again! Cats love our decorations as much as we do and sometimes those cute kitties can really make a mess of things. One of the biggest concerns – the Christmas tree. While the only truly cat proof Christmas tree is the one that the cats can’t get to, there are some things we can do to get a lot closer to having a cat proof Christmas tree.

Cat-Proof Christmas Tree Tip #1: Choose the right tree.

Merry Catmas

Photo Credit: Mark Rain via Flickr

Consider getting an artificial tree. While there are risks to both real trees and artificial trees, artificial trees have fewer risks. With either option, there is the chance that your cat could ingest the needles, which do not digest well and can do harm to the digestive track. Toxic pine needles are another danger. The needles of artificial trees could be coated with toxic chemicals and real pine needles can be naturally toxic to cats. As Catherine Angle DVM states on the Pet Poison Hotline website“Cats are very sensitive to pine oils and chronic ingestions could cause problems.”

If you choose to go with a real tree, you will need to take some precautions. Make sure that the container holding the water for the tree is completely covered. You don’t want your cat choosing that water as a source to quench their thirst. That water fills with pine needles, sap, bacteria, and the potentially harmful chemicals used to feed the tree. Keep plenty of water dishes around so your cat has safe alternative options. Also, if your cat is a tree climber, scratcher, or cuddler, you will want to wipe off all of the sap that gets onto their fur and paws before they ingest it.

Cat-Proof Christmas Tree Tip #2: Make sure the tree is sturdy

Wobbly trees will surely tumble down with cats around. Get a base that fits the tree and holds it tight. Modify the base, if necessary, to add extra size and weight. For extra stability, use fishing line (or something of the sort) to anchor the tree to the ceiling and nearby walls or windows. Don’t forget to try giving the tree a little push (before decorating it) to see how sturdy it is.

Cat-Proof Christmas Tree Tip #3: Decorate wisely

First things first, if you want a cat proof Christmas tree, move it away from potential “launch pads”. Place the tree a good distance away from any furniture that the cat could easily reach the tree from. This will limit the number of ornaments the cat can easily reach and the number of entry points for climbing.

To make a cat-proof Christmas tree, you might want to leave off any breakable ornaments. If you do choose to include these, place them higher up on the tree. About the bottom third of the tree should have only non-breakable ornaments since these are the ones the cat can play with while standing on the ground. Make sure that any ornaments you use are securely fastened to the tree. Don’t use string or rubber bands to fasten them as these may dangle and attract the cat. Twist the metal hook or twist tie onto the branch so that it holds firmly.

Cat-Proof Christmas Tree Tip #4: Use cat-safe aversions

Cat Proof Christmas Tree - Cinco

Cinco posing near the Christmas tree.

Using forms of punishment (yelling, squirt bottle, hitting, etc) to keep your cat of the Christmas tree will not only be ineffective, but they could cause problems for your relationship with your cat. The cat will relate these punishments to you and not to the Christmas tree. Therefore, whenever your back is turned, the cat will be back in the tree. The best things you can do are:

  • Reward the cat when they are not in the tree.
  • Give no attention to bad behavior (punishment is attention).
  • Let the tree be its own aversion. If the tree is causing the “punishment”, the cat will relate that to the tree instead of you.

Here are 4 aversions you can add to your Christmas tree:

  1. Place aluminum foil around the bottom of the trunk of the tree. Cats don’t like the feeling or sound of aluminum foil, so this will discourage using the trunk to climb the tree.
  2. Use citrus scents along the bottom branches of the tree. Cats don’t like citrus smells and won’t want to go near that part of the tree. You could also leave orange peels around the bottom of the tree.
  3. Use bitter apple spray on the bottom branches of the tree. This will put a bitter taste in  your kitty’s mouth without causing any harm. They probably won’t want to bite that again!
  4. Cover pine cones in a citrus scent or citronella and hang them as decorations from the bottom branches.

Cat-Proof Christmas Tree Tip #5: Enrich your cat’s environment

Why do cats go after the Christmas tree? Some answers include that it is something new, it is easy to climb, it provides a high, secluded perch over the room, and fun dangly things are hanging from it. Why not provide these things elsewhere in the room so that the Christmas tree doesn’t have to be a target? Make sure that  your cat has plenty of fun toys to play with (switch them up once in a while). Have scratchers and perches available, perhaps on the other side of the room. Take lots of time to have interactive play so kitty is too worn out to climb. Offer treats (or other rewards) for doing things other than playing with the tree. For example, give a treat for scratching the scratching posts in the room.

How do you keep your cats from destroying your Christmas decorations?