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Is a cat-proof Christmas tree a myth á la Santa Claus, or can it really exist? Many pet parents regard the term "cat-proof" with suspicion, and rightfully so. Keeping a cat away from something it likes is daunting (especially when said something is gigantic and lighting up the living room), but it is possible!
Unfortunately, trees don't come with a handy "How To Keep the Cat Out of the Christmas Tree" manual. In light of this oversight, this guide will walk pet parents through the process of cat-proofing a Christmas tree — and help them understand why cats find trees so fascinating in the first place.
During the holidays, pet parents do something strange: They bring a live tree into their home, decorate it, and place brightly wrapped boxes underneath it. One can hardly blame a cat for being curious. In addition to the novelty, Christmas trees provide a few potentially harmful things cats find attractive:
Scent. Discovering new outdoor scents inside familiar territory is quite exciting for cats — this is partially why cats love rubbing their faces all over shoes and anything else that's been outside. Artificial trees won't have the same intoxicating effect.
Height. Cats are drawn to higher vantage points, which is why cats often climb Christmas trees, much to their parents' chagrin or amusement. Why scale a cat tree when there's a real tree?
Shelter. Cats are always seeking new hiding places, so it's not uncommon to spot cat eyes glowing from under (or inside) the tree.
Ornaments. If the tree wasn't attractive enough, decorations take it to another level. A tree packed with shiny, dangling, jingly ornaments looks a lot like an enormous cat toy.
The reasons cats love Christmas trees are clear — but is this a healthy obsession, or one pet parents should monitor?
Good news: Standard varieties of real Christmas trees like spruce, fir, and pine are nontoxic for cats. Swallowing too many pine needles can cause health problems like oral irritation, drooling, or stomach upset, but the tree itself usually won't present a danger. Cats can run into trouble if they start snacking on ornaments or sipping fertilized tree water, however — and that's where Christmas tree cat-proofing comes in handy.
There's no need to resort to an antigravity holiday tree. These tips will ensure that neither cat nor Christmas tree is harmed this holiday season. Here's how to cat-proof a Christmas tree.
A Christmas tree wouldn't be complete without twinkly tree lights, but frisky cats can get tangled in the electrical wires. To ensure this doesn't happen, tuck all cords and wires underneath a tree skirt and secure that tree skirt to the floor.
Guard a tree with a baby or pet gate, exercise pen, or barrier at the base to prevent cats from getting tangled.
Cats find some ornaments more tempting than others.
Let it shine (or not). Shiny ornaments are more likely to catch a cat's eye and should be placed out of reach.
Pass on glass. Glass ornaments are more likely to become broken ornaments, so stick with less fragile material if possible. If glass ornaments are a must, place them on higher tree branches where they're less vulnerable to cat attacks.
Ta-ta to tinsel. Tinsel is long, shiny, and dangerous if swallowed. Tinsel and ribbons can cause gastrointestinal upset and choking risks in cats, so try to avoid these decorations.
Light candles with caution. Candles are popular this time of year, but lit candles should be kept away from cats. Note: Lighting a tree with real candles is a fire hazard with or without a cat.
Keep it food-free. Cats may be particularly intrigued by food-based decorations, like popcorn garlands or homemade cookie ornaments.
Pet parents should consider their cat's curiosity level when deciding which decorations are a no-go.
Standing tree water can grow bacteria and mold, which can make a cat sick. Some people add fertilizer or preservatives to the tree water to make their tree last longer — in this case, cats definitely shouldn't be allowed to drink it. Such additives can turn tree water into toxic water.
To deter a feline from drinking tree water, invest in a covered tree base or cover the existing base with a tree skirt.
When touched, aluminum foil makes a high-pitched sound that's inaudible to human ears — but many cats hate it. This makes it an ideal deterrent. Wrapping foil around the Christmas tree trunk and base should discourage the cat from scratching the trunk or sipping the water.
Many ornaments come equipped with metal hooks for hanging on the tree. These are convenient but can be dangerous. To prevent cats from batting these ornaments off the tree and potentially swallowing the metal hooks, use wire or twine to fasten decorations securely to the tree. If it's too difficult to remove the metal hook from some ornaments, don't place them on the lowest branches.
If a cat is determined to explore the Christmas tree, aluminum foil may not be enough to keep them away — but citrus spray may do the trick. Cats have a natural aversion to citrus scents, so place a couple of orange or lemon peels around the base of the tree. Alternatively, fill a spray bottle with apple cider vinegar and spritz it on decorative pine cones before placing them around the tree.
And remember, a sturdy base is the foundation of a sturdy tree. Make sure the tree base is strong enough to hold the tree in place. For particularly adventurous cats, it might be wise to tether the tree to the wall or ceiling.
A cat-friendly Christmas tree is just one part of creating a pet-safe holiday environment. Holiday parties, visitors, and traditions can present unique challenges for cats and cat parents alike. Luckily, pet parents can count on Fuzzy vets to answer any questions or to provide recommendations for a safe and healthy holiday — because there's no gift greater than peace of mind.