BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

How to Keep Cats Away from Your Christmas Tree: Keep Your Tree and Ornaments Safe from Your Kitty This Year

Image of a cat playing with Christmas ornaments
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Christmas is everyone’s favorite time of the year, and it’s just around the corner. Holiday spirits are running high—not just yours but your kitty’s too. That big tree full of sparkling ornaments, twinkling lights, and tons of tinsel is a perfect playground for any feline. After last year’s experience—where you lost several of your favorite ornaments and possibly found your tree toppled on the ground—you are perhaps currently wondering how to keep cats away from your Christmas tree this year.

Fascination with Christmas tree is common for every cat, but luckily there are things you can do to keep your kitty from creating a disaster this year. Are the Christmas lights irresistible to your kitty? We will help her understand that the lights look better up on a tree, and not in pieces on the floor. Is she always reaching for the star on top of the tree? Don’t worry—with all the information that we are going to provide on how to keep your Christmas tree standing tall and pretty, this holiday season will be one to remember.

Two cats sleeping under the Christmas tree

In this article, you will find out how to create a safe perimeter around your Christmas tree and presents. You will also learn several different ways to secure your tree and the ornaments if your kitty tries to climb it. We will also explain the hidden dangers on your Christmas tree and how to minimize them, so your kitty wouldn’t sustain any serious injuries during the holidays.

How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Safe

The holiday season should be a special and stress-free time in every household—the time to relax and cuddle with your kitty in the glow of your (intact) Christmas lights. But as they say, curiosity kills the cat. Not only will a toppled Christmas tree and ruined ornaments spoil the joys of Christmas for you, but they could also prove perilous for your cat. There are some things you can do to prevent such accidents.

Make Your Christmas Tree a Cat-Free Zone

Many people try to fence off the area around their Christmas tree to limit their cat’s access to it. Although this approach works well with dogs, there is no fence high enough to prevent a cat from jumping across. And cat products that emit shocks or high-pitched noises when the cat steps across boundaries can lead to stress and behavioral problems.

Image of an interior with Christmas tree, presents and fireplace

But don’t despair just yet. The answer on how to keep cats away from your Christmas tree is actually fairly simple. There are many kinds of cat repelling sprays, like Bitter Apple, Citronella oil, or citrus spray. These sprays are perfectly safe for your cat’s health, but they are too strong for her delicate nose.

  • You can use citronella oil mixed with water to spray your tree with. It will leave a pleasant citrus smell to you, but it will smell horrible to your kitty. You can also spray some of the citronella mixture on pine cones or garland and place them at the base of your tree, for additional protection.

  • Because cats don’t like the smell of citrus, you can use lemon or orange juice and mist it on your tree.

  • You can also use orange peels and place them strategically under your tree.

  • Another option is to use the slices of oranges as a decorative piece on your table, but also as an additional way to keep your cat away from your tree.

Of course, there is always the option of placing your tree in a room with doors, so you can close them whenever you like it and keep your kitty away. But we recommend that you first try some of the repelling spays before deciding to exclude your kitty from the room in which you will have your holiday celebrations.

Secure Your Christmas Tree to Keep it from Toppling

The tips above should do well enough to make the Christmas tree look unappealing to your cat, but just in case your cat is a very special one, and she isn’t affected by the strong smells, you’ll have to resort to other measures.

Method #1: Place Your Tree in the Corner of the Room

Picking a safe location for your tree can go a long way if you suspect that your kitty will try to climb or topple it. By choosing a nice corner of your home as a location for your Christmas tree this year, you will significantly diminish the chances of it getting toppled by your kitty. Two walls will serve as a protective barrier, restricting the access of your kitty to the tree.

christmas Tree in the Corner of the Room

Also when you have finally found the right place for your tree, look around to see if any of the surrounding furniture could work as a launching pad for your kitty. If there is a sofa or a table that can help your kitty get a closer look at your vintage ornaments, it is better to move it away for the duration of the holidays.

Method #2: Anchor the Top of the Tree to the Wall or the Ceiling

There are additional means of protection if you think that putting the tree in a corner will not discourage your cat from mischief. You can anchor your tree to the wall or ceiling by using eye-bolts.

Mother and child in front of a Christmas tree in house

If you don’t want to make additional holes in your walls, place your Christmas tree near a wall where you have hanging paintings. Use a fish line or some type of cord that will not be visible and tie your tree to the nails of the painting, or eye-bolts.

Method #3: Anchor the Base of the Tree

Securing your tree to the wall is one of the best ways to keep your Christmas tree safe from your cat’s threats. But if you expect your cat to be especially infatuated with your ornaments, you should consider securing its base as well.

Custom Made Christmas Tree Stand

It is good to invest in a heavy duty tree stand if you suspect that your cat will try to practice her tree climbing abilities on it. Besides, it’s better to be safe than sorry because a knocked-down tree can seriously injure your cat. You can also utilize some wires or a fishing line to secure the base of your tree to the floor in the same manner as what we did to secure the tree to the wall or ceiling.

Make Decorations Less Appealing to Your Cat

All those radiant and swaying ornaments can overwhelm even the best of us, but they are especially captivating to cats. They resemble hanging cat toys so much, and there are so many of them that your cat just can’t help herself. So exactly how can you keep cats away from your Christmas tree, but still manage to decorate it your way?

Method #1: Pick Your Ornaments Carefully

The safest option is to pick non-breakable ornaments and stick with them, but if you have glass ones, it is better to put them on the higher parts of your tree where they will be safer from your kitty’s paws.

a cat playing with a christmas tree ornaments

To make your Christmas tree less appealing to your cat you should avoid decorating it with edible decorations. All the aromas coming from them will attract your kitty’s attention to the tree even more. And although they are beautiful, they are not safe for your cat’s health.

Method #2: Secure the Ornaments

It is best if you could secure the ornaments with twist ties to the branches. This will limit the swaying of the ornaments, and even if your cat tries to swing them, they will remain safely on the branch.

Method #3: Don’t Decorate the Lower Parts

According to some cat owners, not decorating the lower part of the tree makes it less appealing to cats. Not seeing decorations on their eye level makes your cat lose her interest in the whole tree.

Christmas Tree in Living Room

But if you don’t want to have half of your tree not decorated, the best way to secure ornaments is by using wire ornament hangers or twist ties. Place them in the middle of the branches and not hanging from the edge.

Method #4: Keep the Sparkles to a Bare Minimum

If nothing from above works, try to see your Christmas tree from your cat’s point of view. Wooden decorations, paper ribbons, and ornaments will be of little interest to your kitty. Without all the sparkle, your tree will have a more subdued look that will not invite your cat to investigate.

Method #5: Be Careful with Tinsels

If you are a fan of tinsel, it is best to place it high on your tree and out of your cat’s reach. Wrap it tightly around the trunk of your tree and avoid any dangling ends.

Alternative Hessian Christmas Tree Tinsel

Tinsel can be extremely dangerous if swallowed by a cat. It can cause intestinal blockage if ingested. You can also cover it with a bitter, anti-chewing spray in case your cat can’t resist examining it.

Arrange the Lights Carefully

The lights are the highlight of the tree (pun intended). But they can also be the most dangerous part. That’s because they have electricity coursing through them and they are often made of fragile, yet dangerous materials such as glass. The slightest mistake could prove fatal, which is why you should arrange them very carefully.

  • It is best to pick steady-glowing lights as opposed to twinkling lights because cats show less interest in the former.

  • Cover the electrical cord leading from the outlet to the tree. Use per-slit tubing to totally restrict your kitty’s access to the cord.

  • Cover the tree lights with an anti-chew bitter spray before placing them on your tree. Use gloves when you are dealing with the anti-chew products; you don’t want any of that bitter taste in your mouth.

  • When you are finished with coating your tree lights, wrap them tightly around your tree, so there wouldn’t be any dangling parts that will tempt your kitty to play with them.

Never leave the lights on if you are not at home to supervise all of your kitty’s actions. Also, it is very important to inspect any exposed cord or tree lights for any damages from chewing. Check your kitty’s mouth for signs of burns or singed hair or whiskers.

Image presenting the Christmas Tree Light

If you notice any changes in your cat’s behavior—like loss of appetite or difficulty breathing—and you found chew marks on the cord, take your cat to the vet immediately. It is possible that some internal damage has occurred.

Don’t Forget About Play Time

We know that the holiday season is the busiest time of the year, but it is important for your kitty that you stick with her playing routine, and that she receives enough attention. If your cat gets bored, it is likely that she will get herself entertained by playing with your Christmas tree and decorations. So indulge your cat’s curiosity by participating in play sessions.

  • A great way to keep your kitty’s attention occupied during the holidays is to let her play with food puzzles. This type of toy is great because it requires all of your cat’s attention that would otherwise be directed to your tree.

  • Also, it is a good idea to place your cat’s furniture, scratching post, or a cat tree near your Christmas tree. Chances are that she will ignore your tree when she sees that all of her stuff is easily accessible.

If your cat doesn’t have any such toys, maybe you should consider buying her an early Christmas present in the form of a new scratching post or other environment enrichment toys.

A cat sitting on a scratching post

Encourage your cat to play with you at least two times a day during the holidays so that she will burn all the extra energy and tone down her enthusiasm for your Christmas tree.

How to Keep Your Cat Safe

We have discussed how to keep your Christmas tree safe from your cat, but have you considered how to keep your cat safe from the Christmas tree? We can all agree that both the look and the smell of a real tree are what we all associate with the holiday spirit and Christmas.

Cat looking at the Christmas tree

But bringing pets into our homes also means making some adjustments and changes, and you should consider going with the artificial tree from now on. A real tree will bring a sense of freshness and outdoors inside, and it is perfectly safe for you, but contains several hidden issues that can pose a threat to your cat.

  • If your cat has the tendency to chew on tree branches, you should know that tree needles are toxic if ingested by cats.

  • Besides, you don’t know if the tree was treated with any kind of preservatives or pesticides that can be very harmful to your cat’s health.

  • Also, you should prevent your cat from trying to drink water from the tree reservoir. Tree sap and any preservatives that may have been added to the water are highly toxic. People usually use aspirin to keep their tree fresh for a longer period of time—completely unaware that it is extremely harmful to cats. If ingested in large doses it can cause bleeding and ulceration of the stomach and intestines.

Although there are still chances that your cat can choke or ingest toxins by munching on the branches of a “fake” Christmas tree, they are a lot less significant. The chances are high that your kitty wouldn’t be interested enough in your “fake” tree to ingest enough toxins that it would be dangerous to her system.

cat-playing-under-tree

Also, the needles are not sharp like the ones of the real tree, and they can’t cause any injuries to your cat’s paws. If by any chance we managed to change your mind and you are considering buying an artificial tree, we suggest that you go with the natural-looking one and not the one with shiny coating. All that sparkle can entice your kitty further more, and that is not our goal.

But if you decide to go with the real tree, do your best to cover the water reservoir, and restrict your cat’s access to it in any way possible. Also, you can use bitter spray or some citrus spray on the branches to repel your kitty from them.

Wrap Up

We hope that we were able to provide you with a complete solution on how to keep cats away from your Christmas tree. Remember that simply by misting your Christmas tree with a few sprays of citronella mixed with water or lemon juice, you can successfully keep your kitty away from your fragile decorations.

You’ve also learned how to make your tree more secure and less appealing to your cat, and that a real tree contains hidden hazards for your kitty. An artificial tree is the safer option for cat households.

Two childs ornamting the christmas-tree

As your cat gets older she will show less interest in your Christmas tree, so you can hope that next year will be different and that you won’t have to cat proof your tree again. For now, though, we wish you a Merry Christmas and good luck on keeping both the tree and your cat safe this holiday season!

How does your cat usually react to your Christmas tree? If you have more ideas on how to keep cats away from the Christmas tree, please share them with us and our readers in the comment section below.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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