Getting ready for the holidays and about to put your Christmas tree up? Keep in mind that the tree makes a tempting target for many curious cats. Here are some tips on how to pet-proof your Christmas tree.
Consider the type of tree to buy
When it comes to buying a Christmas tree, I prefer and love real trees. After all, they fill our house with the holiday smells of evergreen. However, keep in mind that if you have cats, real trees are much more tempting. Not only are real trees fragrant and the pine needles more fun to chew on (thankfully, rarely poisonous) but the tree trunk is perfect for scratching and climbing. Consider an artificial tree (after all, less trees are cut down and thrown away, right?). If you do get a real tree, avoid one that is very tall, as a tall tree would be more likely to topple.
Placement of the Christmas tree
Looking for the right spot to put your Christmas tree? Make sure you have plenty of free space on all sides of the tree so your cat doesn’t have a launching point (i.e., jumping off point) to attack the tree! Ideally, place it in an area with an equal amount of free space as the height of the tree (i.e., if the tree is 8 feet tall, consider leaving an 8 foot berth around it).
Securing the Crhistmas tree
Make sure you use a sturdy base to secure the trunk. While these bases are ugly, it beats having your tree topple over. (Simply wrap the base with felt or a tree skirt to hide it.) Also, consider securing the tree from the top (to a ceiling hook) for additional bracing and support.
Pet-proofing the Christmas tree
Here are a few ways to pet-proof your Christmas tree:
- When watering your real tree, consider wrapping the base with plastic wrap so your cat doesn’t drink the fertilizer or chemicals. (Don’t worry, these are rarely poisonous but can cause gastrointestinal upset.)
- If you have a real tree, wrap the base of the trunk with aluminum foil. As cats hate the crinkling sound and texture of foil, they are less likely to scratch on the tree trunk. Also, by wrapping the tree trunk with foil you hopefully prevent the initial climb.
- Avoid dangling ornaments on the bottom 5th of the tree; place ornaments high up on the tree and make sure they are well secured (try twisty ties or zip ties to secure ornaments).
- Never use tinsel in a household with cats. While tinsel isn’t poisonous, when accidentally swallowed by cats, it can get stuck around the base of the tongue or in the stomach, and result in a life-threatening linear foreign body. This can require expensive surgery to fix, so avoid this holiday emergency by not using any tinsel on your tree this year.
- If you have a young, curious kitten, make sure to hide the electrical cords for the Christmas lights as best you can. When accidentally bitten, they can result in severe burns in the mouth and even rare fluid accumulation within the lungs (e.g., noncardiogenic pulmonary edema). Hide cords, and consider spraying them with Bitter Apple to prevent chewing. Also, make sure to turn off the Christmas lights and unplug the cords when cats are unsupervised.
When in doubt, avoid a holiday emergency trip to the veterinarian and keep your household safe during this holiday!
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Jess H (author) from Oregon on December 04, 2020:
Thank you for your comment! Consistency is definitely key, along with making sure the tree is safe for the times you can't watch them.
Sp Greaney from Ireland on December 03, 2020:
I always wonder how people with nosy cats cope during the Christmas season.
Our cat couldn't give a damn. If a cat owner consistently corrects their cats bad behaviour each time it should eventually work.
How to Cat-Proof Your Christmas Tree
You can’t change your cat’s instincts, but you can put safety measures in place to ensure their love affair with the Fir by the fireplace doesn’t end in tragedy. Follow these expert tips to keep your cat and Christmas tree safe this holiday season.
Anchor Your Tree
Cats’ climbing instinct works well for them in the wild, where trees are firmly planted in the ground. The tree in your living room, on the other hand, is far easier to bring down.
“If you have a tree-climbing feline, your Christmas tree may topple, so make sure your tree is well secured to the ceiling or a wall,” Dr. Dilmore says.
Coll agrees, and adds, “Be sure to have a heavy and sturdy base for the tree. You can also place small eye bolts in the wall or ceiling around the tree and fasten the tree with clear fishing line. It’s an almost invisible fix to help keep your tree standing and your cat safe!”
Coll also recommends placing the tree away from any place that your cat already likes to climb or perch on—cat trees, counters, shelves, etc.
Avoid Glass and Sharp Objects
Climbing isn’t the only hazard Christmas trees present to curious kitties. Dangling ornaments can become potential playthings in the eyes of cats.
“Kittens are especially curious about new things in their environment, making your holiday decorations prime candidates for swatting, chewing and general mishaps,” Dr. Dilmore says. “Keep an eye out for glass ornaments and ornament hooks, both of which can cause puncture wounds and serious injury to probing pets.”
Cover Electric Cords
“Electric cords connected to holiday lights are a tempting chew-toy for any kitten,” Dr. Dilmore says.
And it doesn’t take much imagination to understand that chewing a live wire can be dangerous for your favorite feline.
“Be sure to secure and cover them to prevent shocks or burns, as well as the potential for falling lighted objects that could cause injury,” Dr. Dilmore advises.
Block Off the Tree Water
Cats enjoy a refreshing drink of water just like anyone else—but that’s a problem if the water’s coming from the basin beneath your Christmas tree, Dr. Dilmore says.
“If you have a live Christmas tree, make sure your cat can’t get to the water bowl underneath,” he says. “Some of the chemicals added to it to help the tree stay green can actually be toxic to pets and make them sick.”
Luckily, there are several ways to prevent your cat from drinking the tree water.
“Getting a covered base, or covering the base with a cover, some tin foil or even a tree skirt can prevent a cat from getting into the water,” Coll says.
And there’s always the option of decorating with a tree that needs no water at all: “If your cat has been known to chew or eat things they’re not supposed to, I would highly recommend going with an artificial tree,” Coll says.
If blocking your cat’s access to the Christmas tree water is impossible, Dr. Dilmore advises, “use fresh, clean water with no preservatives or chemical additives—and change it daily.”
Keep Dangerous Chewables Out of Reach
Chewing and tasting are instincts cats use to explore their environment. To them, gifts, boxes, ribbons and tinsel are not only a game waiting to happen, they’re new to the environment and chewing on them is a way to check them out. But they’re also highly dangerous, says Coll, who advises cat parents to avoid tinsel altogether and keep gifts in a safe place until it’s time to open them as a precaution.
“If swallowed, ribbon can cause serious issues, including blockage and perforation of the intestinal track,” Coll says.
Even the tree itself could present an issue, Dr. Dilmore says. Whether the tree is real or artificial, swallowing the needles can cause intestinal blockages.
“Also, avoid putting gifts under the tree that contain food,” he adds. “Cats have a keen sense of smell and can hunt out food not meant for them, even through decorative wrapping and packaging.”
Separate Your Cat From the Tree
One way to keep your cat safe from your Christmas tree is to remove their access to it, Dr. Dilmore says.
“It’s best to limit your cat’s access to the Christmas tree if they’re a climber,” he explains.
But how do you keep your cat out of your Christmas tree when they’re drawn to it by instinct?
“[Try] keeping them out of the room where it’s located, using a barrier in front of it, or try spraying your tree with a repellant approved by your veterinarian,” he suggests.
A barrier like Primetime Petz 360 Configurable Gate with Door, which comes in heights up to three feet tall, can help keep your feline friend away from the tree. And a number of remedies can also separate cats from Christmas trees, including sprays with unpleasant odors to cats, such as bitter apple, citronella, citrus and menthol, Coll says. TropiClean Stay Away Chew Deterrent, for example, is designed to train cats and dogs to stay away from places they’re not allowed, like on top of the sofa, near a poisonous plant and, yes, under the Christmas tree.
She adds that many cats also have aversions to certain textures, like foil or vinyl carpet runners, so they may make ideal barriers between the cat and the tree.
Keep a Normal Routine
Helping cats feel secure during times of stress and change, like the holidays, can help curb problem behavior, Dr. Dilmore says. Extra guests and different house decorations can stress some cats out, leading to more elusive or even aggressive attitudes.
Dr. Dilmore suggests sticking to your regular routine to help keep cats at ease.
“Feed and play with your cat at the usual times,” Dr. Dilmore says. “They will appreciate staying on their regular schedule.”
He also recommends creating a place where cats can feel safe if they become overwhelmed.
“Give your cat an area of the house such as a bedroom where he or she can go to be alone and get away from the commotion,” he says. “Make sure there is food, water and a litter box in this quiet area.”
Understanding your own feline’s instincts and proclivities can go a long way in preventing a disastrous cat-Christmas tree mishap. When you celebrate the holidays with safety in mind, every member of the family can enjoy the festive fun of the season.
How to keep your cat away from the Christmas tree
Posted by Argos, December 20th 2017, last updated October 1st 2020.
Are you confused about how to keep your cat away from the Christmas tree?
It’s true that cats love to climb, and it’s especially exciting for a cat at Christmas when the Christmas tree arrives indoors. To a cat, a Christmas tree is like a big green climbing frame with shiny objects that swing.
However, Christmas trees can be deadly for cats.
Pine is highly toxic to cats, and if the pine needles are ingested, they can puncture a cat’s intestines. Additionally, the oils from fir trees can cause irritation to cats, so please be aware.
Also, make sure your cat doesn’t drink the water that Christmas trees are placed in. A Christmas tree skirt can help with this.
Here are our top tips on how you can keep your cat away from the Christmas tree:
Why do I need to cat proof Christmas trees?
What’s the harm, you may think? Cats look cute batting the ornaments and poking their head through the branches half-way up the tree. There are pictures of them doing just that all over Instagram! Well, apart from them ruining your Xmas set-piece, it can also be dangerous your feline pal can suffer a nasty injury from pulling a Christmas tree down on top of them. Cats can also get ill from eating pine and fur needles, fake snow, tinsel, or drinking the treated water that’s keeping your tree alive for the season. They can also have an unhealthy fascination for tree lights, and can electrocute or burn themselves if they chew through them.
To avoid all these potential cat calamities, here are our seven top tips to keep your cat and Christmas tree apart this holiday season:
- Pet safety at Christmas: Three holiday dangers lurking in your home
- Seven truly outrageous Christmas gifts for pets
- Best cat toys: Keep your feline friend occupied with these great toys