Christmas trees delight both people and pets, particularly when those Yuletide trees are decorated with lights, ornaments and garlands. Curious cats may be particularly intrigued by the appearance of a sparkling Christmas tree in the home. Every year, cats are injured and Christmas tree decorations destroyed when these peeping pets poke around inside tree branches and perhaps even attempt to climb to the top.
Cats are curious creatures. A brightly adorned Christmas tree may be almost too much to pass up for a frolicking feline. Still, certain safety measures can help. Here are 12 tips for protecting cats and keeping Christmas trees from becoming a curious nuisance – or worse.
1. Choose a Christmas tree with sharper needles to deter cats.
Both artificial and natural Christmas trees are available in many evergreen varieties. Scotch Pines and blue spruces have particularly sharp needles, which may be less attractive to felines in the home.
2. Fasten the Christmas tree securely to a sturdy base.
Cats love to climb trees, and most inevitably will try during the holiday season. The smart cat owner will ensure the Christmas tree stands firmly, even if this occurs. Bolting the Christmas tree stand to a large square of sturdy plywood helps to prevent tipping. Smaller Christmas tree bases may be secured with duct tape.
3. Surround the base of the Christmas tree with tin foil.
Most cats detest tin foil, although some may find it intriguing. Some cat owners crinkle tin foil around the base of the Christmas tree trunk before decorating, as this may discourage felines from trying to climb.
4. Place the Christmas tree inside a baby gate corral or play pen, if needed.
Although it may be nearly impossible to prevent nimble, climbing cats from approaching (or even climbing) the Christmas tree, many families have had some success by placing their holiday trees inside child-safety corrals or even play pens. Others have set up their Christmas trees inside enclosed rooms, where cats are not permitted. It’s a good idea to set the Christmas tree apart from furniture, so cats cannot jump up onto the tree.
5. Add a cat deterrent to the Christmas tree before decorating.
Savvy cat owners often choose to scent Christmas trees with aromas that offend cats. Pet stores sell cat deterrent sprays, but several cheaper options may be used. Cayenne pepper, cinnamon/clove spray, citronella, citrus, peppermint, perfume have been effective for many cat owners. Others tuck dryer sheets, Flaming Hot Cheetos, Irish Spring soap, orange peels or Spicy Doritos inside tree branches (perhaps concealed inside ornaments). Cedar, eucalyptus and moth balls can be dangerous for cats and should not be used on the Christmas tree in home with felines.
6. Plug Christmas tree light strands into an extension cord for easy and safe access.
Dangling cords may lure cats to paw and play, perhaps topping the Christmas tree or entangling pets. Instead, decorative light cords should be neatly fastened to tree branches, tethered to the Christmas tree trunk (with twist ties or string) and gathered to an extension cord. The extension cord may be tucked under the Christmas tree skirt and fastened directly to the wall socket.
7. Use wire hooks to hang Christmas tree ornaments.
Wire Christmas tree ornament hooks are ideal for fastening decorations to the tree securely. Smart cat owners bend the tops of these hooks around tree branches to prevent ornaments from falling and breaking. Also, no errant ornament hooks may be left on the floor, where cats may be tempted to play with them.
8. Skip food items for Christmas tree decorating.
Christmas cookies, cranberry strings, popcorn strands and other goodies are popular Christmas tree decorations. However, these food items may be altogether too tempting for cats and other pets.
9. Place precious and breakable ornaments at the top of the Christmas tree.
Cats will undoubtedly consider low-hanging Christmas tree ornaments to be their personal playthings. For this reason, all fragile and keepsake ornaments should be placed securely on the highest branches of the tree. With an artificial tree, cat owners can even bend wire-cored branches back over ornament hooks for extra safekeeping. If an ornament should fall and break, the pieces must be picked up immediately to protect cats from choking hazards, cuts, splinters or other related dangers.
10. Avoid using tinsel to decorate the Christmas tree in a cat home.
Garland or single-strand tinsel is a definite choking hazard for cats and should be omitted from the Christmas tree in a cat home. Artificial snow spray is another big no-no in a home with a cat.
11. Do not leave cats unsupervised around the Christmas tree.
In addition, a cat needs to have a readily available drinking source nearby and to be prevented from drinking the water under a genuine Christmas tree, as this may be tainted with sap or evergreen juices. Some cat owners actually spray cats lightly with water misters, if the felines try to climb the Christmas tree. Although this cat deterrent may work to some extent, it can be virtually impossible to train a cat to avoid holiday decorations that appear for just one month each year.
12. Sweep frequently around the Christmas tree.
Christmas tree needles can choke, or even poison, cats. Genuine evergreen needles are especially toxic, although artificial ones can be dangerous too. By sweeping or vacuuming often under the tree, a cat owner can minimize this digestive hazard.
These simple safety tips may help keep cats safer at home throughout the holiday season.