How to Keep Your Cat Safely Away From the Christmas Tree · The Wildest

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How to Keep Your Cat Away From the Christmas Tree

It’s their favorite of your holiday decorations—for better or for worse (usually worse).

by Savannah Admire | expert review by Cristin Tamburo, CFTBS, CAFTP
December 21, 2023
Woman with cat posing near Christmas tree at home.
Serhii Sobolevskyi / iStock

The weather is getting cooler, the Christmas tree is up, and everything feels merry and bright. Well, almost everything. Your cat still won’t leave your tree alone — climbing the branches, knocking down ornaments, and just being a general menace to your holiday spirit. How do you keep your curious cat from breaking all your favorite ornaments and turning you into a real Grinch? 

If you’re looking for tips on how to keep a cat out of the Christmas tree, you’re in luck. Follow these strategies and maybe you can pull off a holiday miracle. 

Why do cats love Christmas trees? 

Cats are natural-born climbers, which makes a high place like a Christmas tree practically irresistible. Shiny, sparkly ornaments certainly don’t dissuade your feline from exploring — if anything, they just make your cat more eager to check out what else might be hiding in those branches. 

“Cats are curious by nature,” certified cat behaviorist and The Wildest Collective member Cristin Tamburo tells The Wildest. “Holiday decorations offer all kinds of fun and interesting things for cats to get into. Things that dangle are especially enticing to cats, as many like to hunt or play with things that are hanging, moving, sparkling, or flying through the air.” 

What are the dangers of cats getting into the Christmas tree? 

For a persistent cat, Christmas tree protection may be as much about protecting your pet as it is about protecting the tree itself. An authentic fir tree may set the mood for the holiday season, but the oils, sap, and resin found in evergreens can be poisonous to cats. If that’s not bad enough, the needles on these trees can also cause gastrointestinal issues and even injury if your cat ingests them. So, even if you do your best to make your Christmas tree cat-proof, you still have to worry about your cat sneaking a potentially deadly bite. 

Fine, you think, I’ll get a fake tree. While an artificial tree eliminates the risk of poisoning, it still presents its own dangers. Some ornaments may not be cat-friendly and could be made with materials hazardous to cats, and the wire hooks commonly used to hang ornaments can poke into your pet’s teeth and gums. Adventurous cats can even manage to pull the whole tree down, causing injury to themselves — and damage to your tree and the surrounding furniture.

How to keep your cat away from the Christmas tree

So, how can you celebrate the holiday without stressing about your cat making a mess of your decorations? Keeping cats away from the Christmas tree may require some seasonal strategizing. 

1. Select the safest tree for your cat.

If your cat loves to chew on everything, a real tree may not be the best option. Instead, consider an artificial tree, which eliminates the risk of poison. You may even want to place your tree in a room that you can close off when you’re not home. But if you don’t have the space to hide your tree away from prying paws, consider opting for a smaller tree that won’t cause as much damage if (OK, when) your cat knocks it over. And if worse comes to worse, ditch the traditional evergreen and opt for a festive cat-safe plant

2. Avoid dangerous decorations.

Tinsel and garland may add a festive sparkle, but they can cause injury or illness if your cat ingests a piece. Instead, look for pet-safe ornaments and Christmas decorations and hang more fragile (or favorite) pieces higher on the tree, out of your cat’s reach. While you’re at it, cover any electrical cords — the last thing you want is a curious cat getting electrocuted. 

3. Make the tree less appealing to cats.

“You can place deterrents under the tree to keep the cat away right from the beginning,” Tamburo says. “Carpet runners have those little bumps on them to protect the carpet. If you place that upside down under the tree, many cats will stay away as they don’t care for the feeling on their paws.”

Other options to send your cat packing include wrapping the base of your Christmas tree in aluminum foil. Many cats don’t like the sound or feel of foil and will stay away. 

4. Construct a barrier around the tree.

Castles used to be protected with moats, and sometimes you have to protect your Christmas tree with a wall of cat-deterring items. Think crinkly plastic bags, strips of masking tape (sticky side up, of course), and piles of gifts. For a less messy look, try pinecones, which are seasonal and may deter your cat from climbing into the tree. You can even use a baby gate or exercise pen as a makeshift barrier. It’s not pretty, but you have to do what you can to save your holiday.

5. Distract the cat with other toys and playtime

The best way to keep a cat away from the Christmas tree is simply to keep them entertained and occupied elsewhere. Make sure you have lots of scratching posts and interactive toys, and take the time to engage in play with your pet. 

“The more enrichment (and entertainment) we have for our cats throughout our home, the less interested they will be in our holiday decorations,” Tamburo says. Maybe invest in a fun cat toy subscription box to give you both something to look forward to and enjoy together during playtime. 

6. Try training

Yes, you can train a cat, contrary to popular belief. It just takes a lot of patience and consistency. Use positive reinforcement to reward your cat with a favorite treat and praise when they stay away from the tree. Praise your cat for choosing a more appropriate activity or coming away from the tree when called. 

Are there natural ways to keep your cat away from the Christmas tree?

If you’re looking for natural ways to keep a cat away from the Christmas tree, you can easily make your own spray repellent. Many cats dislike the smell of citrus, so try creating a mixture of water and citronella oil as a cat repellent spray for Christmas trees. As an alternative to a spray, you can place fresh lemon and orange peels in the branches of the tree or around the base for the same effect. Apple cider vinegar diluted with water can also be a natural cat Christmas tree deterrent. 

Additional tips for cat-proofing Christmas trees

Above all, cat parents want to keep their pets safe. As annoying as it is to deal with your cat climbing your Christmas tree, you don’t want them to get hurt. That’s why one of the best tips to cat-proof a Christmas tree is to make sure it’s secured so your cat is less likely to bring the whole tree down. Use a heavy tree stand or add weights to a lighter stand and consider attaching the tree to the wall with a clear fishing line or thin wire. 

FAQs (People also ask):

What if my cat keeps climbing, despite all efforts?

Unfortunately, if you just can’t keep your cat out of the tree, you may have to consider if decorating for the holiday is worth all the hassle. Consider other, pet-safe ways to show your festive spirit around the house or place your Christmas tree in the bedroom or office, where you can shut the door and keep the kitty out. 

Should I supervise my cat around the Christmas tree?

It’s a good idea to supervise your cat when you bring something large and new into the house, especially something that has the potential to be dangerous, like a Christmas tree. Keep an eye on your cat for the first few days to see how they react and get an idea of how much supervision they require. 

How can I make the tree less appealing to my cat?

Try natural spray repellents, such as apple cider vinegar, to give your cat the ick. You can also wrap the base of the tree in aluminum foil. 

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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