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Are Christmas Trees Dangerous for Cats?

Cat next to red stocking underneath a Christmas tree

Christmas is often referred to as the most wonderful time of the year. And why not? The reason to cheer is aplenty. From the Christmas music, Christmas trees, the Christmas parties, the Christmas cookies; it's colorful and joyful everywhere. Like all things special, Christmastime requires planning, time, and attention to make sure that everything goes smoothly. This can be especially challenging when you have pets in the house. The temptation to tear apart the gift wrapping, to jump on the tree, to steal the Christmas cookies, to drink the Christmas tree water, or to paw at and even unintentionally break the ornaments may be just too much for your kitty. As cute and adorable as kittens are, cats and Christmas trees can be a dangerous combination.

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Like toddlers, living with a cat gives you a whole new perspective on life. Where once all you ever thought was "How do I decorate my home", as a cat parent you will often ask yourself some different questions like: How do I keep kitty off the counters? How do I keep my cat from scratching the furniture? How do I keep my cat occupied? ... but when it comes time to set up the Christmas Tree, the two most important questions are:
1. How will they climb this?
2. Can they knock this over?

How to Keep a Cat Away From a Christmas Tree

It's a given that a cat can climb anything, including your beautiful Christmas Tree. Imagine a child's experience in Disneyland: - all the excitement, curiosity, and fun time that the child would experience is the same reaction a cat has when they see the Christmas tree. For them, it's a grand, shiny, exciting place full of tempting free snacks. And they just can't wait to get on the ride. With careful planning for a cat friendly Christmas tree, you and yours will have the centerpiece for your Christmas decorations to enjoy, and cat-proofing the tree will also keep you away from that emergency visit to a vet's office. There are important things to consider when getting a Christmas Tree for the home of your sweet kitty:

Real Tree Verses Faux Tree

Real Christmas trees can be toxic for cats. An artificial tree may eliminate the risk of your cat chewing on the pine needles, some of which produce an oil that may be toxic to your cat, but it also removes the temptation of having them drink the Christmas tree water. Not to say the plastic from the artificial tree much safer than the real thing, but the plastic lacks the novelty factor that the pine needle from the real tree brings and hopefully will dissuade your kitty from paying too much attention to this new scratching post in the house.

Location! Location! Location!

In keeping with a cat’s curiosity, consider putting up the tree a few days before decorating it. This way you can give your furry companion time to adjust to it. The initial attraction will then wear off and you can then decorate it at your own pace. Consider getting a smaller tree and keep it elevated and secured. Having a steady, secure tree will reduce the risk of your cat toppling it over and getting hurt. Also try and keep the tree away from bookshelves or other furniture that make an easy launch pad for your cat to jump from. In addition, most cats hate foil and citrus scents, so wrap your tree trunk in foil, and place a few lemons or orange peels around the base. You can also place pine cones around the base, to discourage climbing.

Lights, Ornaments, Decorate!

Every pet owner's fear is having their precious family heirlooms be destroyed by their loving, but sometimes unpredictable pet. And Christmas decorations are no exception. When decorating the Christmas tree, save the high value or treasured ornaments for the top of the tree and use non-breakable ornaments as much as possible. If this is your pet's first Christmas, you may even want to keep the special ornaments off this year until you see how your kitty reacts. Keep glass and breakable ornaments at the top and towards the center of the tree so your kitty isn't likely to hurt themselves. Secure the ornaments to the tree, but careful not to use metal hooks which can hurt your kitty, but rather use a bit of string to attach the ornament to the tree branch. It is important to make sure the ornaments are secure enough so your cat can't just run off with them.

Don’t use food or candles to decorate your tree as both of those are too tempting and can cause serious problems if your cat decides to nab them. Tinsel can also present a choking hazard for cats, so put that on the naught list. And leave the ends of the branches for paper, felt or wooden ornaments.

Remember to also cat proof the Christmas lights. Place lights towards the center of the tree so that your cat is less tempted to chew on the wires and cover the end of the wire that plugs into the wall with a cord protector. Always unplug the lights when you're not able to supervise your cat. If your cat tries to chew the wires, it's better to take the lights off the tree than risk your fur baby being hurt. For cats of any age that have the energy and curiosity of a kitten, check out the tips on How to Stop Destructive Behavior. 

Wishing You and Your Feline Family a Very Happy and Safe Holiday Season!

Even if you’ve taken every precaution, curiosity will often get the better of a cat who doesn’t have anything better to play on. Cats are territorial and they instinctively seek out tall perches where they can lounge safely and survey their surroundings. And although they may seem lazy at times, they will always find the extra energy when it comes to jumping and climbing, especially if it is something they shouldn’t climb.

Small or big, kitties are on a constant look out for a stimulating environment where they can scratch, paw at, chase, climb or jump on something; and a Christmas tree to them is all that and more. Try distracting them with safe toys to play with like old socks or a ball of yarn.

If you are trying to keep your cat from climbing the Christmas tree, you can also give them a cat tree to climb on. Most cat trees have a scratching post which is also good for keeping them both occupied and stopping them from scratching the furniture. If your kitty does get into some mischief, they will likely feel bad or be just as startled as you if an ornament comes crashing down. If your cat is just too excited about the tree, and the distraction techniques are not helping enough, utilize Pet Relax to calm kitty down while they adjust to having the tree in the home. 

Most importantly, don't stress! Holidays can be a very hectic time of the year so remember to just enjoy it! Cat parents know that life may be unpredictable with our kitty companions, so we should do our best to set up a beautiful tree in the safest way possible... and then relax and enjoy kitty's antics as we celebrate the season together!

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