From a cat’s perspective, Christmas can be an exciting time: their humans are home, there’s giftwrap to shred - and the sudden appearance of a brand-new scratching post, complete with dangly toys (in other words, your Christmas tree!) Festive feline mishaps can result in tangled lights, shattered ornaments and they can even endanger your cat - so here’s how keep cat away from Christmas tree so you can keep them safe - while keeping your decorations intact.
Yes, real trees look and smell fabulous - but if ingested, pine needles can pose a serious health risk to cats (as well as the water in tree bases, which can poison them). Fortunately, there’s an array of clever alternatives to choose from.
The most obvious choice is an artificial tree - ideally a small one (so if your cat does decide to climb it, it’s less likely to injure them if it falls). You can even find specially-designed trees where the branches are placed higher up on the “trunk” to prevent kitty from clambering up.
That said, it’s worth bearing in mind that fake trees aren’t the most sustainable option and actually have a higher carbon footprint than a natural fir - so where possible, look for a second-hand one online, or alternatively, you could try…
Switching Things Up
Search for “alternative Christmas trees” on Pinterest - and you’ll be met with thousands of quirky alternatives to your traditional tree, ranging from wall decorations to repurposed ladders. Whichever you opt for, make sure it’s safe, stable and most importantly - cat safe.
Wait It Out
Where possible, leave your tree up for a few days before adding your decorations so your cat has time to get bored of it. Place it against a wall, away from any “launching pads” your cat could use (such as sofas or tables) - and make sure it won’t topple over - for that, you’ll need a sturdy base.
Ace Your Base
Make sure your tree stand fits your tree and that the fittings are properly secured. You can also try wrapping the bottom of the tree in aluminium foil (a known cat deterrent as they dislike the feel and sound of it). Specially-made pet fences or gates can also help keep pesky paws away from your tree - you can even choose a finish to fit with your seasonal decor.
Tis the season for giving - so if your cat is intent on scaling your tree, why not tempt them away with a few toys? Or - as another “alternative tree” idea, you can even get festive cat perches (many come with scratching posts - and some are even Christmas tree-shaped!) While these might not be everyone’s cup of eggnog, at least your cat gets to join in the fun without breaking a single ornament.
While essential oils are not recommended for use around cats, citrus peels are a festive option that smell lovely to humans - while acting as the purrfect feline deterrent. You can also get cat-proofing spray which contains similar ingredients like citronella.
You’d Better Watch Out!
Christmas decorations can be especially hazardous to cats - so when sprucing up your tree, take extra care, especially with electrical items which could cause shocks or burns.
Place your lights towards the centre of the tree so your cat is less likely to gnaw them - and cover the end of the wire that plugs into the wall with a cord protector.
Alternatively, you could go wireless and use a pre-lit tree - think of all the time you’ll save on untangling fairy lights!
It’s also wise to avoid using any items that could injure your cat, including
- Fire hazards, such as real candles
- Strangulation or choking hazards (best to skip the tinsel)
- Shiny or shimmery items that your cat might be tempted to pull down. Instead, consider minimal alternatives made from materials like felt and wood (very “hygge”)
- Glass ornaments, which could shatter and cause injury
- Metal hooks that could injure your cat - instead, use quality wire hangers to secure your ornaments using a clamp.
- Never use string or rubber bands - these can cause bowel obstruction if swallowed.
- Potentially poisonous or harmful materials such as fake snow, candy or popcorn.
In general, it’s best to keep any potentially poisonous food or plants out of the house year-round (you can find a list of them here) - but at Christmastime, you may find that certain hazardous items find their way into your home (such as mistletoe, poinsettias or chocolate). If this happens, you can either place them safely out of reach - or better yet, re-gift them.
If there’s one thing that will get you on Santa’s naughty list, it’s punishing your cat for unwanted behaviour - whether by shouting, spraying water, or using aversive products like scat mats.
Cats can’t help being curious - and using any of the above will only make them wary of you and damage your relationship (and they’ll probably repeat their misdemeanours while you’re not looking!)
Instead, use positive reinforcement by ignoring “naughty” behaviour and rewarding them when they’re “nice” with treats and fusses (clicker training can be especially useful here).