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Catproofing Your Tree

December 15, 2023

Season’s Greetings! One of the many things we love about this time of year is seeing all of the beautiful decorations. We also love getting cards and photos from our clients. We never get tired of seeing adorable pictures of our furry patients! Fido and Fluffy always look super cute in front of the tree. Of course, we also get our fair share of photos of cats looking adorably proud of themselves after clearly demolishing their humans’ trees. We can help! In this article, a local Ada, MI vet offers a few helpful tips on how to keep your feline companion out of your tree.

How Do I Train My Cat To Leave My Christmas Tree Alone?

As anyone who has had a kitty for any amount of time knows, it’s usually the cat that trains the human, rather than it being the other way around. If you think about it, Fluffy probably already has you wrapped around her paws, and may have you trained to feed, pet, and play with her on demand. However, your feline overlord isn’t quite as all-powerful as she thinks. You certainly can teach your furball what is and isn’t acceptable. You just have to make her think that it was her idea. In this case, you’d do that by forming a negative association with the tree, by making her just wary enough to be suspicious of it.

Why Is My Cat So Obsessed With My Christmas Tree?

You can’t really blame Fluffy for her tree obsession. In the wild, cats use trees as lookout points, napping spots, and nail care stations. They also run up trees to reach safety from weather, floods, or, in some cases, other animals. Of course, there’s also the fact that kitties like to survey their kingdoms with that cute, smug look they are so good at.

Are Christmas Trees Dangerous For Cats?

We probably wouldn’t list the Christmas tree as the most dangerous thing in your home. The average house certainly has no shortage of unsafe items for Fluffy to get into. Toxins are a big danger here: the average household contains over 400 chemicals, many of which are poisonous to cats. 

That said, there are some risks. Many of those ornaments are choking and/or strangulation hazards. Anything small or sharp should in general be considered unsafe. Stringy or ropy items are dangerous as well. There’s also the risk of Fluffy injuring herself by bringing the tree down. For those with real trees, the water also poses a risk, as it could contain leached chemicals. Ask your Ada, MI veterinarian for more information on household and holiday hazards.

Should I Punish My Cat For Climbing The Christmas Tree?

We know, it can be pretty frustrating to find that your feline pal has knocked over your tree, and possibly ruined a few heirloom ornaments in the process. However, you should never actually punish your pet for making a mess. Because the urge to scratch and climb trees is so deeply-ingrained in Fluffy, she won’t understand that she did something wrong. She also may get quite confused as to why you are angry. This could make her feel threatened or unsafe, which can then snowball into other behavioral problems, such as anxiety and aggression. It’s better to use gentler tactics. Ask your Ada, MI vet for more tips on cat care and behavior.

What Methods Do I Use To Keep My Cat Out Of The Tree?

The main thing here is to make your furry friend a bit wary of the tree, without causing her to have (yet another) existential crisis, or become frightened of the tree. Ideally, you want to startle or annoy your pet, but not actually scare or hurt her. When Fluffy goes near it, try making a loud noise. You can bang two pots together, rattle a jar of change, sound an alarm app on your phone, stomp your foot, set off an air horn, or even activate that singing snowman. (You could also try squirting your pet with water, but this may not be a good idea when it comes to Christmas trees. After all, you don’t want to ruin your tree or gifts, or get water into the outlets you’re using for lights.)

After a few of these incidents, your feline pal will probably retreat to her favorite corner to scowl at you and think things over. 

How Do I Make The Tree Less Appealing To My Cat?

Now for the important stuff. We have definitely had more of our fair share of feline patients make Santa’s naughty list for their holiday shenanigans. The key is to remember that your cute pet is a predator, and an opportunistic one at that. Many of our feline pals also can’t resist shiny things. Therefore, you can pretty much expect your kitty to get excited about the tree. 

You can take a few steps to make the tree less appealing to your pet.

  • Decorate Carefully: Minimize the amount of decorations you have on the lower third of the tree. You really only want a few things within paws’ reach. These should all be dull, unbreakable ornaments, such as that fabric Gingerbread Man. Put most of the ornaments, including anything sharp, shiny, or fragile, on the top part of the tree.
  • Block Access: Another thing you can do is position the tree in a way that makes it hard for your cat to reach. A corner is often a good choice. Try not to put the tree too close to sofas, desks, or chairs, or anything else your kitty could use as a launchpad.
  • Scent Deterrents: Scent deterrents may also help here. Citrus is often recommended, as cats just don’t like its smell. Just keep in mind that you may need to reapply it.
  • Go Artificial: Real trees look and smell great, but they are costly, cumbersome, and, well, a bit wasteful. Consider switching to an artificial tree. Your feline pal won’t have much luck climbing wire trunks and branches. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the water. Tree water is often contaminated by chemicals such as pesticides or fire retardants. This is a danger to pets, as some will drink out of the bowl.

How Can I Make My Cat Lose Interest In The Tree?

It’s hard to make cats do anything: Fluffy is known for doing exactly what she wants, when she wants. That said, you may find that bribery can be quite helpful here. Give your feline pal some of her toys early, and take a few minutes a day to play with her. The point is to tire your pet out a bit, and let her work off some of her kitty zoomies. We all know what happens when kitties get tired: naptime!

This is also a good time to point out that there’s a great kitty alternative for actual trees: cat towers. If Fluffy doesn’t have one, consider buying or making her one for her gift this year. This may also distract her enough so that she leaves the tree alone.

How Do I Keep My Cat From Knocking My Tree Down?

If all else fails, you may want to reinforce your tree a bit. One option is to use clear fishing line to attach the top of the tree to the wall or ceiling. It won’t show at all, but may offer just enough extra support to prevent a wipeout. We also would recommend getting a tree with a sturdy base.

Conclusion: Kitties are very frisky and playful, and these traits are often front and center during the holidays. A little forethought, a little trickery, and a little luck may help you keep your cat from knocking your tree over. The key is to keep this in mind when decorating.

All of us here at Arrow Veterinary Clinic, your Ada, MI animal clinic, wish you a wonderful holiday season. Please contact us anytime!