5 Tips to Cat-Proof Your Christmas Tree

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Tabby cat batting a hanging bell under the Christmas tree

Alena Haurylik / Shutterstock.com

The holidays are a magical time of year. From gatherings with friends and family to seasonal decorations, there’s a lot to love about the holidays. Your cat might even enjoy the festivities as much as you do!

Yet for certain cats, the holidays can be a stressful break from routine, filled with visitors and unfamiliar additions to the home environment. Take the Christmas tree, for example. Meant to be an expression of holiday cheer, covered with lights and adornments, the Christmas tree’s sudden appearance can be confusing, tempting, and even risky for our feline friends.

Let’s explore why some cats can’t contain their excitement around the Christmas tree and how to keep it (and your cat) safe this holiday season.

Why Cats Love Christmas Trees

Maine coon kitten batting a Christmas ornament in front of a Christmas tree

Christmas tree ornaments resemble dangling cat toys and offer a perfect batting opportunity for curious cats. Mariya Zimarina / Shutterstock.com

Cats are intelligent animals and curiosity is in their nature. The unexpected arrival of something as significant in size as the Christmas tree is bound to trigger temptation. But it’s more than just the novelty that draws cats to the Christmas tree.

Here are some of the reasons cats love Christmas trees.

Cats Are Eager to Explore

As predators, cats are naturally territorial and eager to investigate anything new that comes around. Not only is the Christmas tree something new and unfamiliar but it’s filled with exciting outdoor scents and enticing textures. Even if you go the artificial route, the tree will carry scents your cat will want to explore.

Climbing Opportunities

Cats have strong legs and sharp claws for a reason—they’re built for climbing. To a cat, the Christmas tree looks like the perfect place to survey their territory from on high. The temptation may be particularly hard to resist if your cat doesn’t have appropriate alternatives like a cat tree or cat condo.

Ornaments Resemble Toys

Christmas ornaments are perfect batting opportunities for a mischievous cat who lacks indoor play opportunities. Tinsel, garland, and other ribbon-like adornments may also be hard for a curious cat to resist.

Sparkly trinkets and hanging decorations look like fun new toys to your cat but they can be dangerous. Ribbons and tinsel come with a risk of breakage and accidental ingestion, which could cause your cat harm.

Scratching Surface

Scratching is a natural behavior for cats and a necessary one. It helps them shed the brittle outer layers of their claws, exposing the healthy new growth beneath. With its rough bark, the Christmas tree may offer a satisfying scratching surface for your cat.

There’s also the height of the tree to consider. Small scratch pads don’t allow your cat to fully stretch their limbs as they scratch, but a tall Christmas tree might.

Hiding Place

Composed of layered boughs and needles, the Christmas tree offers cats a nice place to hide. Some cats may enjoy the security of curling up at the base, while others might climb up into the branches, seeking a higher hiding spot. Once the tree is decorated, of course, the act of climbing in and out of the tree puts your cat at risk for injury.

How to Keep Your Cat Out of the Christmas Tree

Black and white cat looking up at a decorated Christmas tree

Thoughtful placement and careful decoration can keep both your cat and your Christmas tree free from harm. Alena Haurylik / Shutterstock.com

With its dangling globes of fragile glass and tangled strings of twinkling lights, the Christmas tree presents certain risks to your cat. Taking steps to keep your cat out of the Christmas tree is essential for their own protection—not to mention safeguarding the centerpiece of your holiday decor scheme.

Cat-proofing your Christmas tree helps ensure you get to spend the holiday at home, not in the vet’s office. Here are five ways to do it.

Choose the Right Location

The perfect spot displays your Christmas tree in all its festive glory, but the location that looks best might not be the safest option for your cat. Place your Christmas tree away from shelves or cat furniture that might give your cat easy access to the higher boughs.

And don’t forget to secure it properly. Choose a sturdy base and consider anchoring your tree to the wall or ceiling, just in case your cat decides to go for a climb.

Select Cat-Friendly Adornments

Choose unbreakable ornaments and place them high enough on the tree that your cat can’t bat them off from the ground. Shiny, reflective ornaments will likely pose the greatest temptation. Soft fabric ornaments may be best, just in case they fall or hang low enough for your cat to reach.

If you decorate the tree with tinsel or garland, limit it to the upper half of the tree. Not only do these decorations pose a choking hazard if swallowed, but if your cat catches hold of one end they could topple the tree over on themselves.

Avoid Exposed Wiring

Unaware of the risk of electrocution, some cats can’t resist chewing on exposed wires. Choose your Christmas tree lighting carefully, avoiding thin wires that might be easy to chew through. When placing the lights, keep them toward the center of the tree and use a cord protector to cover the end of the string that plugs into the wall.

Keep the Base Covered

Make sure your Christmas tree base is sturdy and secure. If you’re using a live Christmas tree, cover the base to prevent your cat from drinking the water. A tree skirt may do the trick but determined cats may require additional deterrents. Try wrapping the trunk in foil and place presents or heavy decorations on top of the skirt to weigh it down.

It’s particularly important to cover the base if you’re using a potted Christmas tree. The soil could contain fertilizers that might make your cat sick, not to mention the temptation of the soil-filled pot as a litter box alternative.

Offer Enticing Alternatives

Your cat may be less interested in the Christmas tree if there are more enticing alternatives available. Set up a dedicated play area away from the tree and encourage your cat to use it with toys and treats.

Even better, surprise your cat with an early Christmas present of a new cat condo, timing its arrival to coincide with the Christmas tree. Just be sure to place cat furniture far enough away from the Christmas tree that your cat can’t use it to jump onto the tree.

By decorating with care and taking certain precautions, you can keep both your cat and your Christmas tree safe this holiday season. Even if you do, however, be vigilant and check the tree daily to make sure there’s nothing to tempt a curious cat into a potentially dangerous situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I spray on my Christmas tree to keep cats away?

To repel your cat make your own spray by mixing water plus lemongrass or spray citronella oil. You can also hang juicy orange or lemon peels as decorations however you’ll need to replace them every few days to ensure their freshness.

How do I stop my cat from attacking my Christmas tree?

If your cat insists on attacking your Christmas tree, either fence off the tree or keep your cat out of the room in which the Christmas tree is in while you’re out of the house.

What smell keeps cats away from Christmas tree?

Cats can’t stand many smells, particularly citrus like orange, lemon and lime. They also don’t like vinegar; you can try spraying pine cones with apple cider vinegar and placing them under the tree to keep your cat away.

How do I keep the pets away from my Christmas tree?

Try covering the trunk of your live tree with aluminium foil, most cats dislike the feel of the foil and place few orange/lemon peels round the base. Exercise pens, baby gates or a barrier may deter a dog, however a mischievous cat may need its own cat tree and additional playtime to burn off surplus energy.

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About Melina Grin

Melina’s love of animals began in childhood when she cared for sick or stray dogs and cats while dreaming of becoming a Vet. While working in the Veterinary field as a Vet Nurse, she found a distinct interest and passion in Cat Behaviour and Small Animal Rehabilitation. Melina recently obtained her Feline Behaviour and Training certification and is the proud director of Pet Nurture in Sydney (Australia). Melina contributes to various animal publications in the United States, Australia & NZ and is also the founder and admin of the Facebook group: Feline Courses, Seminars, Webinars & Events.

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  1. Eva Lawrence

    Your article is very well written. A safe cat repellant will do the trick for you. In case you are looking for an online place to secure it from, i usually prefer to order mine from websites like PetCareRx and Petco.