How To Cat-Proof Your Christmas Tree

Tips to keep your cat and tree safe 🎄

cat in a Christmas tree with ornaments

If you’ve ever seen “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation," then you know that cats and Christmas trees don’t always mix.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t. You just have to be strategic about it and maybe even invest in some shatterproof ornaments.

While your cat might add a little chaotic magic to your tree, you should still make sure it’s as safe as possible — for you, your tree and your cat.

We spoke to Dr. Paul Cunningham, senior emergency clinician at BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in Michigan, and Jackson Galaxy, cat behavior and wellness expert and host of Animal Planet's “My Cat From Hell,” to find out how to cat-proof your Christmas tree this year.

Are real Christmas trees safe for cats?

Before even getting into tips on how to cat-proof your tree, it’s important to know what kind of Christmas tree is safe to begin with.

Unfortunately, real Christmas trees aren’t always your best option when it comes to cat safety.

“Not to be a grinch, but there are many reasons to not have a real Christmas tree if you have cats,” Galaxy told The Dodo.

Pine needles are toxic to cats

While your cat simply walking past your Christmas tree isn’t a toxic danger, your cat ingesting the pine needles of your tree definitely is. “They are sharp, they don't digest easily and they will wreck everything in their path inside your cat,” Galaxy said.

The water under the tree is toxic to cats

Just like with pine needles, the water under the tree is toxic to animals because it’s soaking up all the toxic things found in Christmas trees.

“If cats drink the tree water, they will likely end up in the hospital, and trying to keep your animals out of that toxic water is tough because they will flock to it,” Galaxy said. (So if you do choose a real Christmas tree, make sure you keep the tree water covered.)

Are artificial Christmas trees safe for cats?

While your cat can still climb and potentially knock over your fake tree, there aren’t any of the poisonous risks that come along with a real one.

You’ll still want to make sure your cat isn’t chewing up all of the fake branches, but at least you don’t have to worry about her getting poisoned.

Tips for cat-proofing your Christmas tree

Now that you know that a fake tree is your best bet, here’s how you can make it as safe as possible for your curious cat.

Make sure the tree is secure

According to Dr. Cunningham, the first thing you should do is ensure the tree is stable and secured in its stand to prevent tipping — especially if you have an adventurous climbing cat.

Secure electrical cables or plugs

Rather than having a mess of cables and plugs, keep them out of reach — and covered — so that they’re less prone to being chewed on or causing electrocution.

Use citrus smells

According to Galaxy, most cats are not fond of citrus smells, so he recommends using a citrus scent deterrent around the tree.

“An old trick I've used is to zest lemon and orange and put them in a Ziploc bag, poke holes in the bag and then hang it down low on the tree like an ornament,” Galaxy said. “That will keep most cats away from the tree, as cats don't typically like the smell of citrus, especially when it's really strong.”

Secure your ornaments

When hanging ornaments, you need to remember that they’re really just cat toys in your cat’s eyes.

“Your cat will try to climb up there to play with the ornaments, especially shiny ones, and no one wants an ornament falling or a kitten falling,” Galaxy said. “Make sure to tie your ornaments up as close as you can to the branch so they're not swinging in the first place and acting as an invitation.”

Use twist ties to secure ornaments to your tree rather than loose wire hangers. “Opting for plastic rather than glass ornaments is an easy way to prevent accidents,” Dr. Cunningham told The Dodo.

Deter your cat from climbing the tree

There are some options out there to help deter your cat from going on an adventure in your tree. “You can purchase items such as pronged mats [which are uncomfortable, but not painful for your cat], mesh screens for the underside of your tree or even household items as simple as tinfoil sheets that will discourage your cat from climbing the tree,” Dr. Cunningham said.

Galaxy recommended using double-sided sticky tape on top of the tree skirt to deter your cat from even walking on it to begin with.

“One of my own personal favorite deterrents is the SSSCAT motion-sensored air canister from PetSafe,” Dr. Cunningham said. “It uses an unscented jet of air to keep pets away from any desired area in the home.”

Give your cat other places to hang out

“If your cat doesn’t already have a cat tower/tree or hiding space in the home, your Christmas tree is more likely to become the new treehouse,” Dr. Cunningham said. “Consider introducing new enrichment items and positive reinforcements to keep kitty away from the Christmas tree.”

By following these simple steps, your cat and your Christmas tree should be able to celebrate the season in almost perfect harmony.

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