How to Make it Work
December is here, and for many households, that means holiday decorations are making their annual appearance. But for the nearly 32 million households that are home to a cat, decorating for Christmas (and particularly, setting up a Christmas tree) can be…complicated.
The combo of indoor cats and Christmas trees are a tricky combination. Your cat’s natural curiosity and tendency to investigate anything unusual in his environment means that your Christmas tree could prompt climbing, pawing, and chewing. In short, a Christmas tree is the ultimate feline paradise, but one that you’ll want him to leave alone.
Let’s look at some ways you can do just that.
Secure, deter, and distract
Your cat loves to climb, right? It’s not unheard of for a daring feline to climb high into a Christmas tree and actually knock it over—tim-berrrr! Luckily, the tried-and-true anti-tree-toppling technique is easy and takes only a few moments: just secure the tree’s trunk to the wall or ceiling for stability.
But while that’s fine for preventing a disaster, odds are you’d rather not have your cat climbing around in the tree in the first place, knocking down delicate ornaments and batting at the lights. To help keep kitty off the tree altogether, you can try a simple cat-deterrent spray to help make the tree an unpleasant place for him to hang out.
Also, consider avoiding low-hanging ornaments and garlands that might look a little too much like dangling cat toys.
Watch the water
If you’re using a live Christmas tree you probably keep it in water to prevent the needles from drying out and dropping too quickly. But many clever cats are attracted to this unusual water source, and may try drinking from it, which isn't a good idea.
Even if you forgo preservatives in the water, the Christmas tree will still leech sap (or even fertilizers) into the stale water, all of which can become a hazard to your pet. You’ll want to cover any access holes or use a water container that fits snugly up against the tree trunk.
Go on pine needle patrol
Even with proper watering, sooner or later your live Christmas tree will start dropping needles. “No problem,” you think, “I’ll just get an artificial tree.” Not so fast—artificial pine needles drop too (though not as quickly) and they can be a feline health hazard just the same as real pine needles. Be sure to vacuum loose needles and don’t allow your cat to chew on the tree.
Be careful with the lights
Obviously, electrical cords for holiday lights are another issue for cats, especially those who are prone to chewing or playing with similar items. Holiday lights can be made safer with cord protectors, but you can also go a long way towards keeping your cat safe by simply unplugging the tree whenever you’re not in the room. When you are enjoying the tree, keep an eye on your cat at the same time.
Be a Grinch!
Finally, you could try the most obvious but least convenient tactic: be a Scrooge or Grinch and keep your cat out of the room with the Christmas tree until after the 25th.
Obviously this isn’t always possible—perhaps you have an open floor plan and the tree shares a common space with, well, everything else—but if there is a way to shut doors or use barriers to keep kitty away from the tree, this could be an option. It might mean that your cat will miss out on some Christmas excitement (though he might not care!) and the kids and guests will have to remember to keep the door shut, but it is an effective way of keeping your cat away from the Christmas tree altogether.
With a little effort and planning, it’s possible for cats to co-exist peacefully with Christmas trees, just don’t put any priceless family heirloom ornaments within kitty’s reach, and always skip the tinsel!
About the author
Samantha Johnson writes about the happy things in life—pets, home, family, food, and gardening—and thinks Mondays are the most wonderful day of the week. She fills her rare spare moments by crafting to-do lists and fulfilling the commands and demands of her bossy Corgi. View her portfolio at samanthajohnson.contently.com.
Cats and Christmas trees—what could go wrong?