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Cats And Christmas Trees

Dec 6, 2012 · Updated Dec 14, 2012 · ·
  1. Anne
    "You can take the cat out of the jungle, but you can't take the jungle out of the cat."

    Indeed, it almost seems like our cats' wild ancestry hard-wires them to interact with trees. It's little wonder that when we bring a tree into our house, it proves to be a source of infinite fascination for our felines. We usually don't stop there, either: We make the extra effort of hanging these wonderfully attractive jingling cat toys decorations all over them. It's little wonder that these trees become cat magnets the moment they're put up.

    Over the years, members of our forums here on TheCatsite.com have shared many stories about their cats' interactions with Christmas trees. To be fair, cats' reactions to Christmas trees are as idiosyncratic as cats themselves. Many report that their cats, usually elderly ones, show little interest in the tree or its decorations, while others describe a variety of shenanigans -
    • "They love the tree skirt. Occasionally they will fight for a spot and climb on the lower branches during their attack."
    • "PJ just sneaks through the doorway, races around the corner upstairs.....stops dead in his tracks when he sees the Christmas tree....we've had it about 4 hours now, not decorated yet. Realizes I'm hot on his heels, so he takes off... makes his leap... and.... lands smack in the middle of the Christmas tree! "
    • "I can only have a tree up on a table. There's no way I could ever have a tree on the floor, Sash would destroy it. He loves to eat any artificial plants or trees or real trees."
    • "We put our tree (fake) up about 2 weeks ago. The first few days we had to stop Jack from chewing the lights. That stopped and he decided to use the trunk as a scratching post (which works great because it's better than our couch) and yesterday my husband pulled Jack out of the middle (he had climbed up the trunk)."
    • "I couldn't keep the four cats OR the 2 dogs out of mine last year... Swiffer was the absolute WORST of them all. For whatever reason, she was fascinated with the tree topper and tried every single, possible way to get to it. Including climbing on top of a lamp."
    Funny stories aside, Christmas trees pose some serious potential risks for your cat. For some of our members, the risk was simply too high and they decided not to have a tree in their home. Yet, depending on just how obsessed your cat is with the tree and the precautions you take, it may be possible to have a Christmas tree and a cat safely together.

    Cats Chewing on the Tree and Paraphernalia

    Some cats just love chewing on stuff. When it comes to the Christmas tree, branches and needles seem to be a favorite item on the menu for many a feline. Real pine needles can be toxic to cats, and even plastic ones can hurt the cat's digestive system. Trees are often sprayed with fire retardants which could be harmful if ingested in large amounts. Chewing on the lights and any electric cords is very dangerous as well.

    What You Can Do-
    1. If possible, opt for a plastic tree. Plastic pine needles are less harmful if ingested and they are less likely to fall off the tree on their own. If you have a real tree, water it properly to prevent it from drying out and excessively shedding its needles.
    2. Unplug the lights and any electric appliances when not in use or during the night when you cannot monitor your cat's interaction with the tree.
    3. Place some orange peels around the base of the tree or spray the lower branches and electric cords with bitter apple spray. Some cats can be repelled by the scents and stay away from the tree (or will at least avoid chewing on it).

    Cats and Christmas Tree Decorations

    Christmas ornaments and tinsel can seem like toy-heaven to your kitty, yet they are very unsafe. Some cats love playing with tinsel, yet if swallowed it can literally cut through their intestines or create a blockage. The same is true of the string or hooks used to hang ornaments with. Fragile ornaments that get smashed on the floor become dangerous glass shards with the potential to hurt paws and human feet alike.

    What You Can Do -
    1. Avoid decorating the lower branches of the tree.
    2. Avoid using tinsel on your tree. If you must have some, keep it way up where your cat is less likely to reach it.
    3. Opt for durable ornaments rather than glass balls and other fragile decorations.

    Watering a Live Tree

    The water in the tree stand can be hazardous to your cat. The tree itself secretes toxins into the water, and as if that's not enough, many people add preservatives to the water, aspirin being a common choice, that are just as toxic to cats, if not more so.

    What You Can Do -
    1. Opt for a plastic tree that doesn't need watering.
    2. If you have a live tree, make sure the water is not accessible to your cat by covering it tightly.
    3. Keep your cat away from the base of the tree by spraying the area with bitter apple spray.

    The Tree's Stability

    Most cats try to climb the tree at some point or another, or at the very least use it as a scratching post. A regular tree stand may not be able to support the weight of a cat, or hold up against a well-aimed charge, and you may end up returning to a toppled over tree with the decorations shattered or strewn around the home.

    What You Can Do -

    Secure the tree, either to the ceiling, a nearby wall or the floor. Our article Cats and Christmas - Tips for Cat Owners has some ideas, along with diagrams, on how to keep your tree stable and secure.

    Play it safe!

    What measures need to be taken in your home is for you to figure out, depending on the temperament of your own cat. Some people choose not to have a Christmas tree because of their cats; others choose not to have any ornaments on the tree, or avoid electric lights and tinsel; and many simply keep ornaments off the lower branches. If this is your cat's first Christmas with a tree, make sure all interactions are supervised until you identify all possible risks and address them.

    Let us know in a comment to this article what you do to keep your kitty safe during the holidays! If you have any questions or wish to share your pictures too, do visit the cat forums section and post them there.

    Happy Holidays!

    Enjoy these pictures of TCS cats and Christmas trees we've had posted on the forums along the years:

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  1. tarasgirl06
    Though I don't celebrate this, my ex did, and he always wanted a natural tree, so we would get one and decorate it. Shortly after we set up house, he got one and we made it look very nice. I returned from being out one time to hear that our young yellow boy had climbed it and knocked it over, after which he was remonstrated with at length by my ex. I was not home for this. Thereafter, he put a tree in a room that he could close off, and enjoyed it safely. Our little boy did not have to be disciplined from then on, either, which I was very glad of. ;)
  2. calico man
    Unfortunately I don't have a picture, but many years ago my black Persian Bailey became a "white" Persian after she decided to play in the flocked x-mas tree!
      tarasgirl06 purraised this.
  3. mazie
    Yes, and a year later, I still say, "Look at those little Sinkers!"   lol  
  4. mazie
    All I can say is "Look at those little stinkers!"
  5. camillel
    My 2 older cats Tigger and Sam Adams usually sleep under the tree. This year we decided not to put a tree up Salem is only 3 monthe old and into everything. We are afraid the tree might fall on her when we are not home. The grand-daughters are at first were upset but we told them Santa will still come over without a tree. He will understand Salem is very important to us and we don't want her getting hurt.
      tarasgirl06 purraised this.
  6. goddessgirl
    I like cat toys/decorations it's true! 
  7. godgirlcatlady
    All my cats so far have licked to lay under the tree on the tree skirt, especially to hide behind the presents so we can't get them. But I have a very playful and curious kitten this year and this will be his first Christmas, with us I believe. Any advice?
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