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Cats and Christmas Trees can be a Dangerous Combination

cat under the Christmas Tree with some ornaments

Christmas is considered 'the most wonderful time of the year'. And why not?
The reason to cheer is aplenty. From the Christmas trees, the Christmas parties, the Christmas cookies, it's all colorful and joyful everywhere. But like all things special, this holiday event needs that extra care, time, and attention to make sure that everything goes as planned. 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.

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 owner you will often ask yourself some different questions like:

1. How to keep my cat off the counters?

2. How to keep a cat from scratching the furniture?

3. How to 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,  and

 2. Can they knock this over?

Notice the selection of words here:
"How will they climb this" and not "Will they climb this?"

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 exactly the same emotion 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. 

All you can do is prepare well in advance for a cat friendly Christmas tree.

Cat-proofing the Christmas tree will not only ensure you and your family get the holiday season you deserve but also keep you away from that emergency visit to a vet's office.

If you live with a cat, here are some things to consider when getting a Christmas Tree:

Real Tree vs an Artificial 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!

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. Whatever you decide, keep ornaments at the top and towards the center of the tree so your kitty isn't likely to hurt themselves; especially with a glass ornament.

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 – the kind you, your kids or some friends probably hand-made at some point. This is really a great place to showcase them.

Finally, 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.

Don't's just another Holiday!

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, kitty cats 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 most probably feel bad or be just as scared as you if an ornament comes crashing down. If this happens, don't scold them too much but try to relieve your cat's anxiety over the situation. 

Most importantly, don't stress! Holidays can be a very hectic time of the year so remember to just enjoy it!

Cat owners know that life can be unpredictable with feline companions, so just do your best to set up a beautiful tree in the safest way you can and then just relax and enjoy watching your felines’ antics as you celebrate the season together.

Wishing you and your feline family a very Happy and Safe Holiday Season!

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