How to Stop Your Cat From Using Your Holiday Decorations to Torture You · The Wildest

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How to Stop Your Cat From Using Your Holiday Decorations to Torture You

There is a way to keep these holiday chaos demons at bay — here are some tips.

by Savannah Admire | expert review by Cristin Tamburo, CFTBS, CAFTP
December 7, 2022
A woman in a fun Christmas sweater with bright red nails holding a shiny red Christmas tree ornament in front of her grey cat
Marco Govel / Stocksy

Cats are notoriously curious — there’s a famous saying about it for a reason — and they often can’t resist scaling the Christmas tree or knocking that shiny new menorah off the table. Next thing you know, your favorite glass ornament is shattered on the floor, your holiday bunting is in tangled tatters, and your classy and festive home has become a minefield of knocked-down and broken decorations.

Now that we’re in prime holiday decorating season, how can you trim the tree or decorate your mantelpiece without your feline friend bringing total destruction down upon you? At this point, your tree, stockings, and tinsel are probably already close to or ready to go, so the real question is: How do you keep it all in tact?

The Wildest has already compiled some veterinarian-approved tips for how to keep your cat safe during the holidays, so let’s talk about how to prevent your holiday decorations from becoming your kitty’s newest playthings. 

Let Your Cat Scale the Heights (of the Christmas Tree)

One of the joys of decorating for Christmas is putting up a massive tree and spending the day adorning it with lights and ornaments. But if you have a cat, you may want to take the whole process a little more slowly. 

Certified Cat Behaviorist and The Wildest Expert Collective member Cristin Tamburo says that cats are naturally drawn to play with or “hunt” things that are hanging, moving, or sparkling. “As one of the few animals that are both predator and prey, cats like to hide and climb, as this helps them feel more safe and secure in their territory,” Tamburo says.

Whether your tree is authentic or artificial, your cat’s eyes are sure to light up at the sight of a new tower to climb. So, if you have yet to hang those ornaments, let your kitty check it out first. Instead of turning on the holiday music and pulling out your box of favorite ornaments, give your cat a day or two to explore the tree (and, yes, climb the branches). Once your cat gets bored with the new addition to your home, you can decorate in heavenly peace.

Shut the Door, Keep Out the Kitty

Decorating the whole house for the holidays is half the fun, but it becomes a hazard when your cat wants to knock literally everything off the table, shelves, and counters. Anyone who’s stumbled on a broken item that their cat tossed onto the floor can attest the feeling is far from holly jolly.

If you have a particularly curious (and obnoxious) cat, you may want to confine your holiday decorating to a single room — preferably one with a door you can close. While it may be less exciting to lock your holiday spirit away, you’ll be grateful that your favorite nutcrackers and ornaments will survive for another year.

Make Sure Christmas Comes Early

You don’t have to wait until December 25 to give your cat a gift. (Let’s face it, they don’t even know what Christmas is anyway.) Sometimes Santa Paws arrives a little early, even if your kitty is more naughty than nice. 

Instead of wrapping that perfect gift up for the holidays, save yourself the trouble and let your cat enjoy their presents a little earlier. A new scratching post and some fun catnip toys can be a very convenient distraction from all the decorative touches going up around the house. 

“The more enrichment (and entertainment) we can have for our cats throughout the home, the less interested they will be in our holiday decorations,” Tamburo says.

Keep Your Favorite Breakables Out of Reach

Many of us have those special ornaments and holiday decorations that have been passed down for generations. And it takes a cat approximately five seconds to completely destroy that family heirloom.

To safely celebrate the holiday season with your favorite feline, it’s a good idea to keep all breakables and potentially hazardous items either in storage or in a room that your cat can’t access. Instead, opt for felt, paper, or wood ornaments and decor that won’t break when it falls (or is unceremoniously knocked from its perch). 

Teach an Old Cat New Tricks

Contrary to popular opinion, you can train a cat just like a dog, through positive reinforcement — and it’s never too late to start. You’re probably rolling your eyes at the idea of hiring a behaviorist for your cat or trying some training methods at home. But you can do achieve change in your cat’s behavior, even if it’s a Christmas miracle.

“With any unwanted cat behavior, the best training methods are the art of distraction/redirection and positive reinforcement,” Tamburo says. “When trying to keep your cat away from holiday decorations, try adding more alternative things that pique their attention. Once the cat is refocused on that item, reward with treats and praise (or whatever that cat considers motivating). Be consistent with this, as it will take a little time for the cat to learn that new, more appropriate behavior.”

Of course, the sooner you can start training your cat not to be a holiday-decoration menace, the better. Stock up on their favorite treats to encourage them to play with designated scratching posts and toys, rather than batting at the colored lights. Your decorations — and your holiday mental health — will be in much better shape if you do. 

Savannah Admire

Savannah Admire is a writer, editor, and pet parent to two dogs and a cat. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing Animal Crossing, or being an obnoxious nerd about her favorite movies and TV shows. She lives in Maryland, where she constantly debates whether or not to get a third dog.

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