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How To Keep Your Cat Out of Your Christmas Tree

Updated Dec 8, 2022

Updated Dec 8, 2022

Home > Pet Insurance > How To Keep Your Cat Out of Your Christmas Tree

There are few holiday traditions as iconic as the Christmas tree. Decorating a tree is a fun, family-friendly activity that creates a beautiful centerpiece for your seasonal parties, gift openings, and family get-togethers. Once the ornaments are dangling, the lights are twinkling, and the presents are out, the glow of a Christmas tree can light up the entire room. That is, until your favorite four-legged friend sends it crashing to the ground. 

We all love our pets, and cats are some of our favorite companions. But they can be chaotic, curious little rascals. And Christmas trees, in particular, with their bright lights, flashy colors, delicate ornaments, and foreign scents, act as veritable siren songs to felines. So while decorating, it helps to take a few preventative measures to keep your entire family, including its furriest members, safe this holiday season

The Dangers of Cats and Christmas Trees

cat playing with Christmas decorations
Image Source: Canva

Christmas trees and holiday decorations pose a unique challenge for cat owners. Many decorations are attractive to cats and dogs, potentially leading to destructive consequences. Even worse, some of the most common adornments are dangerous to our furry friends. Before we get into how you can pet-proof your Christmas tree, we wanted to go over some common decorations that pose a potential threat to your cat. 

  • Tinsel: Pets, especially cats and dogs, love to chew on and eat tinsel. While not poisonous, it isn’t digestible and can become lodged in your pet’s mouth, throat, or digestive system. We recommend skipping out on tinsel altogether, or only placing it up high, where your pet can’t get to it.
  • Fake snow: While most fake snow is low toxicity, it can still cause stomach irritation and distress if ingested. 
  • Christmas tree lights: Some cats love to chew on electrical wires. Combine this habit with enticing, sparkling Christmas tree lights, and you have a recipe for disaster. When using Christmas tree lights, always place them deep inside the tree, and avoid placing them on the bottom-most row of tree limbs.
  • Small, easy-to-swallow ornaments: Some cats, and most dogs, chew on just about anything they can get their paws on. Small ornaments can fall victim to our pets’ gnawing tendencies and pose a serious choking and gastrointestinal hazard. We recommend not placing anything small and “chewable” on the bottom-most part of the tree. 
  • Poisonous Christmas-themed plants: Unfortunately, many of our favorite holiday plants are poisonous to pets. When decorating or placing gifts, always make sure to keep the following plants out of your cats’ and dogs’ reach: 
    • Mistletoe
    • Lilies
    • Holy
    • Poinsettias
    • Daffodils 
    • Cyclamen
    • Amaryllises (Belladonna) 
    • Christmas cactus – not technically poisonous but highly irritating if ingested
  • Christmas tree water: If you opt for a live tree, ensure your pets can’t get into the basin/tree stand where the water pools. The oil from Christmas trees, fertilizer, and bacteria within the basin can make your cat sick. To avoid this problem, keep the bottom of your tree stand covered in a tree collar. If your pet is persistent and can still get through, we recommend covering the top of the basin with tinfoil. 
  • Pine needles: Real trees, while beautiful, pose a few problems for pets. Eating pine needles and the preservatives coating them can cause gastrointestinal distress and irritation for dogs. But for cats, the needles of the pine tree are mildly toxic. While fatal interactions are rare, pine needle ingestion can cause sickness and liver damage in felines. The safest way to avoid this is by using a fake tree, but if you prefer live trees, we recommend going with spruce or fir. These trees are not poisonous to cats, but their needles can still cause irritation, so be sure to keep them well watered to reduce needle drop. Also, you should always clean up your pine needles every few days; the longer they sit, the more likely your cat is to chow down.
  • Ribbons: Some holiday ribbons contain parts that are dangerous to pets if ingested, such as metal modeling wires, tinsel, plastic, and glitter. We recommend only using whole cloth ribbons, or if using more decorative ribbons, placing them high up on the tree, out of your pet’s reach. 

How to Cat-proof Your Christmas Tree

cat looking intently at a Christmas tree
Image Source: Canva

Now that we know some of the most common decorations to avoid, let’s look at the best hacks to cat-proof your Christmas tree. 

Pick a Spot Without a Launch Pad

The first step in Christmas tree cat-proofing is picking the right spot in your living room. Keep in mind that cats are excellent jumpers and will try to dive onto the tree from anything that provides a decent perch. We recommend positioning your tree at least 2 feet away from other furniture your cat can leap off.

Anchor Your Christmas Tree

Cats are excellent climbers and will shimmy up a tree trunk with ease. While fun for the cat, this can easily tip the tree over, leading to catastrophic crashes. These crashes are not only bad for all your ornaments and any furniture in your tree’s path, but your furry friend too, as it can be injured as the tree impacts the ground. It can be difficult to keep your cat from climbing inside the tree, but you can help keep it secure to avoid falling. Insert two screw-in hooks to each side of the tree, placed within the walls or windowsill. Then, take a length of twine or fishing line and tie each side of the tree to a corresponding hook. This way, when the tree becomes unbalanced, it will be anchored.  

Cover Your Bases with a Tree Collar

Tree collars, or tree skirts, are a great way to keep your pets out of tree stands. As a fun bonus, they create an elegant display for presents. Some tree collars are also thick and fur-lined, which can be difficult for pets to get past, preventing access to the unsanitary water within the tree stand. If your pet is still getting through, adding aluminum foil underneath the skirt can prevent them from getting into the basin.

The extra covering of a tree collar can also be helpful for artificial trees. The cover protects the thin wire legs of the tree stands, making it more difficult for dogs and cats to trip on them, reducing the risk of crashes. 

Be Careful With Electrical Cords

Some cats love to gnaw on power cables, and a determined kitty can damage even thick extension cords. Unfortunately, if your cat or dog is successful at chewing through a cable, it can be electrocuted, leading to serious injury or death. The best way to protect your furry friend while keeping up Christmas lights is to tape down the cord or use a cord protector. Then keep all Christmas tree lights deep within the tree’s branches. This way, your cat won’t have easy access to the wires. Better still, some artificial trees have lights built directly into the branches, with no exposed wires, giving you the best of both worlds. 

Decorate Smart

Smart placement of ornaments and Christmas decorations is one of the best steps you can take to keep your pets free of injury during the holidays. Keep any tree decorations that your cat might find attractive (like icicles, ribbons, shiny baubles, or anything dangly) above the bottom few layers of branches. 

You should always keep anything easily broken or chewable from this area, like glass or plastic ornaments. This way, if your pets play with these low-hanging attractants, they won’t be at risk if they fall off. Some of the best ornaments for the lowest levels of the tree are anything made from felt or fabric, along with anything that is plastic and not small enough to chew. We also recommend strategically placing a few bells on the bottom branches of the tree. With these, you will be alerted if your feline friends begin to climb or investigate. 

Speaking of falling ornaments, you’ll want to avoid using metal ornament hangers. While inexpensive and convenient, these small hooks can be painful when stepped on and extremely harmful if eaten by your pet. Furthermore, they don’t provide the most secure attachment to tree limbs, making them inefficient for heavier and delicate ornaments. We recommend tying ornaments onto your tree limbs with a small loop of twine or fishing line. This way, your decorations will be more securely fashioned and pose less risk to your pets if they do fall to the ground. 

Keep Your Cat Entertained and Cared For

The last major step in keeping your cat out of the Christmas tree is ensuring it has plenty of food, water, and entertainment. Place things like cat toys, scratching posts, or cat trees inside the same room as the tree. When your cat gets interested in the tree, direct it to the toys or posts instead. Keeping your cat’s water bowls and food dishes full will make it less likely to get into the water basin and eat pine needles.

If Using Repellents or Sprays

Be mindful of repellent sprays and other DIY deterrents, like citronella oil, apple cider vinegar, pine cones, and orange peel. While these do a good job of keeping curious cats away, they can irritate your cat’s eyes and sinuses. So before spraying down your tree with a repelling spray, talk to your veterinarian to ensure it’s safe. 

Closing Thoughts on Keeping Cats Out of Christmas Trees

cat with toy in front of Christmas tree
Image Source: Canva

While it might be cute to see your cat’s head poking out of the Christmas tree, it isn’t the safest thing for it to do. It can get tangled in cords, poked with pine needles, and even cause the tree to crash to the ground. Thankfully, with the tips in this article, you can ensure your tree and feline friend are safe throughout the holiday season.

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