To you it may look like a classic symbol of Christmas, but to a cat it looks like the ultimate climber complete with dangling toys. Having pets doesn’t mean having a Christmas tree is impossible, but there are a lot more considerations that have to be made to keep your pet safe and your Christmas from being ruined.
Cat-proofing your Christmas tree starts with the tree you choose and extends all the way to the ornaments your have on it. If you’re sharing your house with pets this year, find out how you can all have a safe holiday while still enjoying the beauty of Christmas tree.
1. Choose the right tree that cats won’t knock over (that may mean artificial)
Sure they may not have the traditional pine smell or the classic Christmas appeal, but there’s a lot of compelling arguments for using a fake tree over a real one.
First of all, the Norfolk Pine, which is the most common type of Christmas tree, is actually mildly toxic to both dogs and cats. This doesn’t mean that consuming a few needles will kill your cat, but it could result in vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy. Second of all, the needles are extremely pointy and could pose a threat to your pet if they swallow them or even rub up against them.
Whether the tree you end up choosing is real, or artificial, it’s essential that you also choose the right size when it comes to pet safety. The taller and thinner your tree, the higher the center of gravity, and thus, the more likely it is to topple. The ideal size for a tree is around five feet, with fullness at the bottom.
2. Pick the Right Location for the Christmas tree
The prettiest spot in the house may not also be the safest. First, try to choose a room that can be closed off entirely from your pets. The best way to prevent pets from messing with the Christmas tree is to not have them around it. If you can’t be there to supervise, you can just shut the door behind you.
Secondly, try to choose a space that doesn’t have nearby jumping-off points. Placing your tree too close to a hearth or a couch art provides a perfect launch point for a pet to jump directly into a tree and tip it over.
Finally, consider what’s nearby. Glass-top tables or vases that are within the falling path of the tree could end up hurting your pet in the event of an accident.
When you do choose your location, don’t let your pet be there while you decorate the tree. The movement of ribbons and garlands and the hanging of ornaments can all seem like play behavior to your pet and could confuse them later on.
3. Keep the Christmas tree stable
The average Christmas tree stand isn’t designed to withstand a climbing cat or the battering ram of a retriever’s tale so pet owners may want to consider some additional reinforcement.
To cat-proof your Christmas tree, tie one end of clear fishing line to the top of the tree and pull the other end upward toward the ceiling, securing it to a nail in the ceiling.
Another option is to increase the width of your tree’s base. To do this, use a piece of plywood 3×3 feet and duct tape it to the bottom of your tree stand. This will make the tree more stable and less likely to tip in case of a major incident, and can easily be covered with a decorative tree skirt.
One of the easiest options though is to simply put your tree into a corner of the house where it’s at least protected on two sides.
4. Choose the right decorations that are cat-proof
Having a cat doesn’t mean that you can no longer use those vintage, glass blown ornaments, but you may want to think about where they are on the tree.
Try to limit the bottom limbs of the tree to sturdy wood or paper ornaments that aren’t easily broken and leave the fragile pieces for the highest branches. Use metal ornament hooks that can be easily bent with pliers or your fingers and tightly grasp the hook to the tree.
Although it may make a tree look sparkly, never use tinsel. This shiny, wispy, silver decoration looks like icicles on a tree, but can easily be eaten by a playful cat and cause bowel obstruction that can only be solved with surgery.
Finally, electrical wires for Christmas lights can also be a major danger chewing hazard. Although there are special cord covers you can buy, you can simply run the wires through a paper towel tube, or use duct tape to secure the wires to the floor. Check all your Christmas lights for loose bulbs or fraying wires that could prove to be a hazard. If your pet should ever display drooling or panting, be sure to check that they haven’t burned their mouthes chewing on wires.
5. No Food Decorations
Although this tip for cat-proofing a Christmas tree may seem obvious, there are actually lots of food-related items that owners frequently miss.
Hanging candy canes from limbs is a clear no no, but cinnamon sticks are another common decoration that can get overlooked. Although a little cinnamon is fine for pets and can actually help with inflammation, too much cinnamon can prove toxic, and it’s not a good idea for a pet to chew a cinnamon stick.
One of the most deadly food-related decorations that is frequently overlooked is salt dough. Made simply from salt, flour, and water, this dough is frequently used by grade school children for sculpture projects like ornaments. Drawn by the salt, cats and dogs eat these ornaments and are delivered a toxic level of salt and often proves fatal.
Another frequently overlooked edible isn’t ON the tree, but rather UNDER it. Christmas tree water often uses additives, like Aspirin, to help keep your tree perky and green all through the holidays. Pets who are attracted to the tree water take a sip and become sick. Use your tree skirt to cover the top of the tree stand and keep thirsty pets away from the water.
One food-related item you can leave on the tree? Oranges! Cats are naturally repelled by citrus so a citrus spray or orange peels on the lower level of your tree can actually keep cats away.
6. Be on the defensive against the cat knocking over the Christmas tree
Even the most prepared owner is no match for a determined pet, so be ready that even with all these precautions you still may need to be on the defensive.
If your cat continues to mess with the Christmas tree, there are two natural remedies you can spray on the tree or lower branches that will deter them. First is a citrus spray made up from water and lemon, lime, and/or orange peels and juice. Mix the peels and the juice and spray it throughout the tree, focusing on the bottom branches. The bonus is that while the scent is repellent to pets, it’s appealing to people.
The second recipe involves cayenne pepper. You can sprinkle cayenne directly into the tree, or you can mix with water and brush or spray on to low hanging branches. This mild spice won’t hurt your pet, but will make the tree an uncomfortable place to hang out.
If these natural remedies don’t keep your cat away from the Christmas tree, use water as your weapon of choice. Fill a spray bottle with water and give your cat a squirt any time it starts to play with the tree.
7. Give your cat something better to do to keep your cat out of the Christmas tree
Santa Paws may have to come early in order to keep kitty from knocking over the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree is a new exciting item in the house and the only way to compete is sometimes providing something equally new and exciting. If you’ve been waiting for the purrfect time to introduce a new cat tree, this is it! Puzzle toys and thinking games are also a good way to keep your pet’s paws busy and out of the Christmas tree. Alternatively, give your pet plenty of play. A few long sessions a day will drain their energy and make it less likely they’ll climb the Christmas tree.
8. Use a Pet Camera to Spy on Your Pet around the Christmas tree
Short of hiring a security guard or growing a second pair of eyes, there’s just no way to always be watching your pet. A pet camera lets you watch your pet right from your smartphone, and some brands like the Petcube Play even have sound and motion alerts that will let you know when your pet is up to no good.
Even if your pet SEEMS to be well behaved around the tree, their behavior in front of their owners may differ from how they behave when they’re away. Some pet cameras, like Petcube, also have a cloud recording system that catches clips while you’re away. Just like Santa, you can know when they’ve been bad or good!
Petcube pet cams are the only interactive pet cams that actually let you interact with your pet via laser play and treat throwing. It’s the perfect gift for any pet whether they’ve been naughty or nice.