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‘Tis the Season for Cat-Proofing Your Christmas Tree

’Tis the season to confront an annual holiday dilemma: Cats and Christmas trees — what could go wrong, right?

You bring a fresh lovely evergreen inside from the wilderness or purchase a pretend one; then deck the boughs with all sorts of jingly, jangly, twinkly, dangly things.

Beyond getting a rare whiff or glimpse of something that looks like the forest, even a mildly curious feline is apt to see your tree as a big, bedazzled bundle of visual catnip. Why, you can practically see their whiskers twitching with excitement. Yes, when the calendar says “Noel,” a lot of cats are like … “Mee-ooww.”

Even fake trees are not safe from the very real threat of being climbed into, sneak attacked, torn down, and toppled. However, there is good news. Safeguarding your tree from Mr. Whiskers is relatively smooth sledding. Here’s what our seasoned pros of festive feline aficionados came up with:


1. First Things First: Real or Fake?

Many pet owners prefer a fake Christmas tree because the factory-made variety holds less wilderness intrigue for curious cats. And while real evergreens are not typically toxic for kitties, they do contain chemicals called terpenes, meaning there is some risk involved if the cat in question is inclined to sip the water, taste the tree, or nibble the needles.

“Live Christmas trees are not toxic to any animal brushing past them,” veterinarian Dr. Paul Cunningham told The Dodo. “Rather, the ingestion of branches, needles or water in the tree stand can cause illness.”

2. Consider a Smaller Tree

If erecting a large Christmas feels like you’re just offering up a bigger target for your cat, consider opting for a smaller one (the tree, not the cat). However, if your little buddy has their heart set on a real-deal, full-size Tannenbaum, fear not, there are other precautions you can take.

3. Offer a Proper Introduction

What’s the rush? We know you’re eager to start decorating, but why not treat your cat to a quick meet-and-greet with the new arrival before you start transforming it into a winter wonderland? PETA suggests: “Set up the tree a few days before decorating it so that your companions can investigate it (and hopefully, soon lose interest in it).”

4. Cover the Water Supply

Real trees need water — water that your cat should NOT even be thinking about drinking. So be sure to cover the water basin with a tree skirt or a makeshift wrap and secure it in place (presents can be useful and decorative for weighing down the tree skirt).

5. Firmly Anchor Your Fir

If the hilarious videos seen on YouTube are for real (hint: they are!), many cats seem to get a big kick out of knocking over Christmas trees. So, especially for taller trees, you’ll need to make sure it has a sufficiently solid base; some homeowners also utilize wire or fishing line to secure the tippy top of the tree.

6. Keep Out of Reach of … Flying Cats

PETA counsels Christmastime kitty custodians to eliminate so-called “launching zones,” meaning nearby furniture or perches kitties can use to catapult themselves through the air and into the waiting limbs of your tree.

7. Utilize Common Household Deterrents

Many cats dislike citrus, so “place fresh lemon and orange peels around the base of the tree or within the branches,” suggests Treehugger, noting that homemade citronella scents or apple cider vinegar spray can also help keep the cats away.

8. Curses, Foiled Again

Aluminum foil is another DIY disincentive. “Wrap the tree trunk and base entirely with aluminum foil,” says Treehugger. “Since most cats don’t like the sound or feel of foil, they’ll keep their distance.”

9. Top Tips for Trimming Those Limbs

For maximum security, aim high and close to the trunk when placing lights and decorations. PETA suggests placing the majority of ornaments out of reach of children (and cats of all ages!) — higher up and closer to the trunk, rather than dangling from the ends of lower-hanging branches.

10. Forgo the Tinsel 

It’s OK, Santa probably won’t even notice the difference. But these shiny, shimmering strands can be particularly appealing to certain four-legged tree inspectors.

11. Secure Your Wires

“Place lights toward the center of the tree so that your cat is less tempted to chew on the wires” says PETA, which also recommends using cord protectors and unplugging the lights when you’re not present.

12. Avoid Other Holiday Hazards

This may go without saying, but PETA says it anyway: “Don’t risk using decorations such as real candles, small ornaments that your cat could choke on, or fake snow (which may contain harmful chemicals).” Also, beware of foods and plants that could be poisonous, including chocolate, mistletoe, lilies, cyclamen, poinsettias, and amaryllises, among others.

OK, now that you have a good idea of how to avoid cat-related holiday hassles, here’s a fresh look at the why (clue: because cats love monkeying around with Christmas trees).

Check out these videos of cats wreaking Christmas tree chaos!

And similar to Christmas Trees, common houseplants can also be the target of your cat’s desire. Here are some helpful tips on how to keep your kitty away from your potted plants.

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