Adorned with shiny baubles and glittering lights, it's no surprise why cats are drawn to Christmas trees. The pine needles are an enticing treat, the ornaments are shiny, and they even have a bowl of water to sip from if they choose. It makes sense why our feline companions are drawn to them, but there are steps you can take to keep your kitty safe and out of the tree so you can enjoy the Christmas holiday.
Getting the attention of your cat as they begin to play with the tree and changing their focus to a safer activity is an important tool. But be sure you're not rewarding your feline's behavior. Avoid using toys or treats to distract them. Instead, try using a cue word such as "come" or a disruptive noise like shaking a jar of coins. It's important not to let your kitty know the diversion came from you and that the sound is not frightening. The ultimate goal is for your cat to leave the Christmas tree and investigate the sound. From there, you can change their focus to another activity or give them a treat as a reward for leaving the tree.
There are important reasons why it's best not to let your cat climb your Christmas tree. Many parts of your family's holiday tree can be dangerous and even lethal to your precious pet. For example, wires lighting up those twinkling bulbs on your tree can be chewed on, becoming a fire hazard and potentially shocking your cat. If your cat enjoys chewing on things, your Christmas tree will be no exception. The shiny ornaments, sharp hooks, pine needles, and other items can cause severe gastrointestinal upset leading to expensive vet bills and serious health complications for your cat.
It's essential to secure your tree to prevent it from being knocked over by your cat. Start with a wide, stable-based tree stand to support your tree. We recommend tree stands designed with curious kitties in mind, which limit access to the water intended for the tree. This water can be dangerous for your cat. Another helpful tip for cat owners is to secure your tree from the top or center by attaching a strong line of nylon or rope and adhering the opposing end to the wall or ceiling. This will help ensure your tree stays standing tall.
Another effective way to keep your cat off your Christmas tree is to wrap the tree's base with aluminum foil. Most cats find the feel of foil under their paws uncomfortable, and the sound is discouraging too. If you're worried the foil will look tacky, simply hide the foil under your tree skirt!
Some find using pet gates around the base of the tree an effective method for keeping your kitty off your tree. But when foil and other methods of deterrent are ineffective, you can try using sprays of deterring bitter flavors, like green apple or lemon. Applying the spray to things such as wires or the lower branches of the tree can help keep your cat's mouth off potentially dangerous items.
Choosing cat-safe decorations is essential to having a safe and happy Christmas. You want to pick sturdy decorations without a lot of glitter, rhinestones, or otherwise hanging pieces that can fall onto the floor or easily distract your playful kitty. Picking shatterproof ornaments that aren't made of glass is a great choice to help keep your cat safe. You will want to keep clear of any décor made from food. Strings of popcorn and cranberries are fun and festive but can also be dangerous if your cat is found snacking on them. Ornaments scented with essential oils can also be dangerous. Oils from plants like peppermint, cinnamon, and even some artificial scents can cause respiratory problems.
You may have grown up adding Aspirin to your tree's water to help extend its overall life in your living room but doing this with a cat in your home can spell disaster! If your kitty ingests enough Aspirin through the tree's water, it can suffer from stomach ulcers and internal bleeding.
Sometimes, no matter what precautions you take, some cats will not be deterred and will still climb your Christmas tree. Instinctively, cats look for tall perches where they can relax safely and keep an eye on their surroundings. One of the most effective ways to keep your cat away from your tree this holiday is to give them something else to climb. Providing an acceptable alternative that meets your feline's needs, such as a cat tree. Reward them when your cat climbs the cat tree, and they will soon accept this as the better option.
The holiday season is an excellent time of year to train your kitty so that they will use a cat tree or other safe perch instead of your Christmas tree. Most cats love receiving rewards like treats, verbal praise, petting, or even playing with a particular toy. Reward your cat if you observe them sitting calmly next to the tree, and alternatively, if they begin playing with the ornaments or trying to climb the tree, you can call them away or remove them from the room if they persist. Cats are intelligent animals and should catch on quickly to which behavior is welcome and which is not.
In some situations, cats will just do what they want to do and ignore your pleas to stay off the tree. Here it's best to use the steps we covered above to ensure the tree is as safe as possible for your feline friend, from securing your tree and ornaments, avoiding food and essential oils for décor, and using less glitter and sequins. Taking steps to ensure your cat's safety this holiday season is one of the best gifts you can give your feline friend.