To Tree or Not to Tree: Cats Versus Christmas Trees

Cats versus Christmas trees is a matter of holiday pet safety

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… for your cat to tear apart any holiday decorations you put up, that is. If you have cats, this comes as no surprise. The internet is full of “hilarious” videos of cats versus the Christmas tree, but your cat’s natural affinity for the biggest cat toy in town can not only wreak havoc on your holiday decor, it can also be dangerous for her.

It is possible to have a merry and bright Christmas, though, even with cats and Christmas trees. Here, Schertz Animal Hospital explores some ways to answer the question: to tree or not to tree?

Cats Versus Christmas Trees

Cats love christmas trees, and for good reason. According to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, there are scientific reasons for this, including the outdoor smells, the trunk which so clearly resembles a scratching post, and the sheer newness of the tree. All of those shiny, dangly ornaments .

If you have pets, there are a few basic safety precautions you need to take with your Christmas tree. Choose a sturdy tree base, that minimizes the chance of the tree tipping over. You may also choose to tether the tree to the wall or the ceiling using fishing line. Protecting your pets from tasting the tree water is also important especially if the water or the tree have been treated with chemicals to make the tree last longer. You can cover the water with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to help deter them from taking a sip.

Christmas Tree Deterrents

One way to protect your Christmas tree from cat attacks is by deterring your cat from it. Each cat is unique, so just know that each strategy might have to be tried before you find the one that works for your cat.

Sprays and solutions you can try a dilute vinegar solution at the base of the tree, or purchase any number of commercial sprays designed to deter cats. Keep in mind that these need to be reapplied as the smell dissipates, and that you may need to try more than one to find one that your cat doesn’t become accustomed to the scent.

Motion detection noises you can place a motion detector near the base of the tree that either sprays or uses noise to deter your cat from coming closer. Like the scented products, your cat may become acclimated to the noises and explore the tree anyway. And this is not a good option for cats who are easily stressed. You don’t want to trade a Christmas tree problem for a litter box problem, after all.

Use an obstacle to block her from getting to the tree you can use a cat pen to obstruct her path to the tree. Again, some cats will go right over this as the tree is just too tempting. However it can prevent some cats from going under the base of the tree and into it.

Aluminum foil or tape around the base of the trunk can discourage your cats from using the tree as a scratching post. An aluminum foil moat can also work, as cats don’t like walking on it – but you may understandably not relish foil as a part of your holiday decor.  

To Tree or Not To Tree

Other ideas for cats versus Christmas trees is to simply separate them. You can do this if you can place the tree in a room with doors, for example a formal living room rather than a more open family room.

As a last resort, you can also set you cat up in a bedroom or other room with her food, water, litter box, and toys for the season. As long as you spend lots of time with her, she should be fine until the decorations come down.

Speaking of spending time with your cat, working off excess energy in productive and fun playtime can help minimize her focus on the tree. Use food puzzles, feather wand play or her favorite crinkly mouse stuffed with catnip to distract and amuse her – sans Christmas tree.

Christmas Tree Safety for Cats

Christmas tree lights can pose a risk of strangulation or electric shock, so examine strings frequently for fraying and keep them up off the floor. Hang your glass and breakable ornaments high up in branches to avoid broken shards on the floor that can cut mouths, paws, or noses. And skip the tinsel and other string like decorations, which can cause serious intestinal blockage if ingested.

One other pro tip: before you decorate the tree, let it stand in your home undecorated for a day or two to allow your cat to acclimate to this new object before it becomes even more enticing with ornaments.

With a little awareness and attentiveness plus some preventive measures, most cat owners find success in having a Christmas tree with cats. Let us know if you have had success with any of these tips! And if you have any questions or are worried your cat has gotten into something they shouldn’t, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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