‘Tis the season for decorating! Twinkly lights, snowflakes, reindeer figurines, and don’t forget the Christmas tree. Whether you go for petite and artificial or cut down a towering fir that scratches the ceiling, there’s one important factor you need to consider: your cat. Cats could care less that Santa is watching, and they tend to be on their naughtiest behavior when the holiday decorations come out of the attic. If you’re a cat parent, you’ll need to protect your tree from your cat, and your cat from your tree. Here are tips to cat-proof your Christmas tree without sacrificing your holiday spirit.
1. Make Sure It’s Secure
If your cat is young and active, it’s basically guaranteed that they’re going to at least try and climb your Christmas tree. Learn from my mistake and make sure your tree is super secure and isn’t going to fall over when this happens. My cat Jack taught me this lesson the year I moved into my first apartment. I came home one day to find the Christmas tree flat on the floor, ornaments everywhere, and Jack sitting innocently on the couch.
Tighten the tree stand as much as possible, and it’s not a bad idea to add extra weights to the base to keep things secure. You can also attach fishing string to some of the upper branches and secure them to the wall via removable hooks. We started doing this after the Jack fiasco, and we haven’t lost another Christmas tree yet.
2. Place Deterrents at the Base
Most cats will attempt to climb a Christmas tree starting from the bottom. (The really mischievous ones might launch themselves off the back of the sofa.) You can cat-proof your Christmas tree by putting a layer of tinfoil on the floor around the base of the tree. Cats typically don’t like the sound tin foil makes, and they’ll try to avoid it.
Besides tinfoil, you can also use scent deterrents. Citronella and citrus are two smells cats don’t like. If you spray the bottom of the tree with those scents, it might be enough to keep your kitty out of the branches.
3. Don’t Hang Ornaments On Bottom Branches
Ornaments are going to be tempting to your cat no matter what. They’re shiny and swing when you hit them, which basically describes your cat’s ideal toy. You can make things harder for your cat, however, by only hanging decorations on the upper branches.
The lower branches are right in your cat’s face, and ornaments will stand out if they’re dangling toward the floor with no greenery around them. While you’re planning your ornament placement, you also want to make sure all decorations have a sturdy and trustworthy hook. They need to be strong enough to withstand a cat’s pulling or batting. And if you have especially fragile or sentimental ornaments, make sure those are placed on high, strong branches. Glue those babies to the tree if you need to.
4. Skip the Tinsel
Not only is tinsel shiny and eye-catching, it’s also super fun to play with—if you’re a cat, that is. The problem is, it’s also dangerous. Tinsel is like yarn in that it does not make a good cat toy. If your cat were to accidentally swallow or inhale those shiny strands, they could choke or cause a gastrointestinal obstruction.
If you’re serious about how to cat-proof your Christmas tree, this is one sacrifice that will be worth making. Tinsel has the potential to seriously harm or even kill your cat. It’s best to keep it in the box.
5. Protect the Cords
Cords are a potential problem no matter the time of year. But the ones attached to your Christmas tree will be especially intriguing to a curious cat. If your cat decides to play or chew on the cords, they could electrocute themselves or start a fire.
If you can, put your tree as close to the outlet as possible, so there isn’t a long cord to catch your cat’s attention. Hide the cords as best you can or put them somewhere your cat can’t reach. You could also invest in cat-proof cord covers that are designed to withstand kitty teeth and claws.
6. Limit Potential Climbing/Hiding Space
You won’t completely squash your cat’s curiosity, but you can cat-proof your Christmas tree by limiting the areas where they could potentially climb or hide. If you put the tree in a corner, for example, the entire back and part of the sides will be inaccessible to your cat. That leaves you with a smaller area to protect.
Another idea is to choose a tree on the skinnier side. Those big, full-bodied trees offer a lot of places where your cat can grab on and really go exploring in the depth of the branches. A skinny tree, however, has less access. Therefore, it’s less fun for cats, so they might get bored and leave the tree alone.
7. Get Creative if You Must!
If this is going to be your cat’s first experience with a Christmas tree, there’s no way to predict how they’ll react. Maybe you’ll get lucky, and they’ll be totally uninterested. That’s not exactly likely, but you can hope. Assuming your cat is like most and develops a fascination with the Christmas tree, you might need to get creative. Every cat thinks differently, and you can adjust your cat-proofing strategy depending on how things go.
Maybe your cat is attracted to the shiny glass ornaments, but they leave the others alone. In that case, you can either remove the shiny stuff completely or put them out of reach. There are some seriously creative cat people out there who go to extreme measures to cat-proof their Christmas trees. From enclosing the entire tree in a wire dog kennel to only decorating the very top, there are some clever (and hilarious) ideas. Do what you have to do to have a merry and cat-safe holiday!