With the holiday season upon us, there are many things to consider when being a pet parent. Particularly playful cats that are natural hunters and climbers will find the family Christmas tree an interesting and entertaining object in the house. The Christmas tree is usually placed into the most socially significant area of your home, so your cat or even cats, will have easy access to it.
Now you don’t need to worry – you do not have to hang your Christmas tree upside down to the ceiling or place it in a cage to protect it from your cat/s. There are however things that can and will go wrong with Christmas trees and cats!
Let’s talk about the cons first – what can go wrong?
Pine needles – they can be dangerous for cats (and dogs or other pets alike) if ingested by your pet - they are sharp, they do not digest easily and they can pose a serious health risk for your pet which might end you up at the vets on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day
Tree water – the tree water is toxic for cats and dogs and can make them very sick, which again will result in a trip to the hospital.
It’s a tree! Cat’s climb trees, they are programmed to climb a tree, they love to explore the vertical world. It is inevitable that your cat will try to jump the tree or climb up on it. Your Christmas tree is the ultimate playground for a cat with those shiny, dangling ornaments that make such a fun noise when ripped off the tree and chased over the floor. Basically anything your cat will do to your tree will seem like destructive behavior to you, but for your cat it’s simply following her natural instincts.
Now how can Christmas trees and cats co-exist in the same household?
Do not use glass or crystal ornaments – ornaments are cat toys (well at least in the eyes of your cat!) and will easily break when your cat decides to redecorate the tree. Cats are natural hunters and what resembles prey better than shiny, dangling ornaments from the Christmas tree? Consider using wooden or plastic ornaments which are nowadays just as beautiful as those made from glass or crystal and try not let them swing too much. Tie them close to the branch so that they cannot move around a lot. Avoid using tinsel as a decoration as it’s a serious hazard for cats when playing, chewing and possibly ingesting it. Last but not least, refrain from using very small decoration that your cat could choke on.
Use a deterrent – you can use natural deterrents like orange or lemon peels - most cats usually do not like the scent of citrus, so put them around the base of the tree or disguise them as ornaments to the lower branches of the tree. You can use double sided tape and put it around the perimeters of the tree or try a commercially available, pet safe deterrent spray to discourage your cat from coming too close to the tree.
Secure the tree: It might be a good idea to think about fixing your tree to the ceiling or walls, particularly when having a large tree that poses a much larger risk of injury to your cat when if falls over when your cat decides for that leap! Possibly consider a smaller tree which does not pose the same risk and will be easier to manage when indeed falling over.
Take care with lights - if your cat seems interested in chewing on the wire of the tree lights, make sure to secure them and unplug them if you cannot be in the room to supervise your cat.
Give your cat an interesting alternative. As you are saying No to the Christmas tree, give her a place where you say Yes and encourage her to go there. The Christmas tree is always placed in the most socially significant area of a home, so complement that area with a cat tree, a window perch or anything else your cat will love to use. But keep that cat furniture out of jumping distance to the Christmas tree!
Get an artificial tree – not the preferred option for many pet parents as it just does not bring the same original Christmas feeling with the smell of pine, but it is a much safer alternative when having pets. If you must stick with a real tree, cover the water bowl with a tree skirt so your cat and any other pets cannot drink the water.
When we decide to take on a pet into our family we need to agree to some sort of compromise. You might notice that one cat is more interested in the tree than another or that kittens are naturally cheekier with the tree and cause more harm than an adult cat. Once your cat or cats are used to the tree they might even ignore it. Only 1 out of 3 cats in our household plays with the ornaments – which are plastic yet beautiful on an artificial tree.