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Expert Cat Care Advice
What's the best way to cat proof your Christmas tree?
Dr Jo Lewis MRCVS | 13 Sep 2021 | 5 min read
So what is it about your Christmas tree that cats seem to find so alluring? I think the presence of a Christmas tree somehow seems to awaken a cat's five senses and fuel their natural instincts...
Of course there is no quick fix for keeping your cat from showing interest in your Christmas tree and in some situations you might find it easier to locate your tree in a room that can have a closed door between it and your cat. But if this is not an option, or your cat is the anxious or vocal sort, they may protest too much, so here are some other ideas...
Pick the right tree
Both real and artificial trees have their pros and cons but in terms of risk with cats, choose an artificial tree as there is far less risk associated with these. If you still want a real tree then you will need to take some precautions. Cover the container holding the water for the tree. Keep plenty of bowls or glasses of water around so your cat has plenty of safer options to quench their thirst on. Read up on the risk of trees in my Festive Hazards advice. Some people even choose an upside down tree suspended from the ceiling.
Make sure the tree is secure
Ensure you use a tree base appropriate for the size of the tree and that the fittings are tight and sturdy. If need be add extra weight to the base. For added security position the tree in a corner and use string or fishing line to tether it to the ceiling, walls or windows. Never leave Christmas lights on when your tree and cat are left unattended.
Position the tree away from your cat’s preferred resting/play areas and from any potential surfaces that your cat could use to get up into the top of the tree or sit on and attack the ornaments. Avoid using any particularly fragile ornaments but if you can’t do this, at least put these at the top and the more robust ones on the bottom half of the tree. Rather than loosely hanging ornaments or using dangling string that may further entice your cat to want to play with them, try using twisty ties to firmly attach each item. Put any tinsel out of reach and ideally don't use foil angel hair decorations as these often fall off onto the floor and can be problematic if swallowed.
Think outside the box
When it comes to anything to do with cats or small children you have to stay one step ahead. If you are really stuck with your cats attacking your tree, try looking at it from a different perspective... literally! Why not consider an upside down Christmas tree?
You may think it's madness but they're the latest trend - don't believe me, ask Google! Particularly if you have high ceilings then these are a few creative ideas that can be suspended from the ceiling.
Use cat-safe deterrents on & around your Christmas tree
Never punish your cat for playing with the tree by yelling, using a water pistol - your cat is being naturally curious and playful and reprimanding your cat will just make them wary of you, not the tree Chances are they’ll just wait until you’re not looking and continue their fun! Instead, why not try positive reinforcement and reward your cat when they are not in the tree. Give no attention to “bad” behaviour (punishment is still attention and is not a kind or helpful way to teach cats).
- Put double sided sticky tape or tin foil around the bottom of the trunk of the tree. Cats don’t like the feeling or sound of the foil, so this may discourage them from using the trunk to climb the tree.
- Use citrus scents along the bottom branches of the tree. Most don’t tend to like citrus smells and won’t want to go near that part of the tree. You could also leave seasonal clementine or orange peels around the bottom of the tree or make the more sightly traditional dried citrus decorations pictured perhaps? You could even coat pine cones in citrus scent or citronella and hang them as decorations from the lower branches of your tree. To make a safe but effective homemade citronella spray, add 30 drops of pure Citronella oil to 200ml of water and spray on the trees lower branches to deter interest.
Supply plenty of cat friendly distractions
By enriching your cat’s environment, you can help distract them from the lure of the tree. Provide plenty of interesting things elsewhere such as:
- Toys aplenty (be sure to swap these around daily and refresh interest with catnip, silver vine etc).
- Have lots of available scratching pads and high perches on the other side of the room.
- Make time to interact and play with your cat during the day to burn off some pent-up winter-time energy, preferably before a meal.
- Offer treats, praise and a fuss when your cat plays with things other than your tree.