The Christmas tree: the most beautiful part of the season. It’s the place where we gather round, open presents, be merry and – oh wait, the cat’s knocked it over again. Every year, every cat person asks the same question: how do you make your Christmas tree cat-safe? Let’s get a jingle on and find out:
Aim for a non-dropping tree variety
Whether it’s a real tree or an artificial one, aim for a Christmas tree that doesn’t drop a lot of needles. If you’re going for a real tree, you want to look for something like a Nordmann Fir, known for its needle retention. But why does all this matter? First of all, real Christmas trees are considered mildly toxic for cats in large quantities: if your cat eats a lot of needles, it can irritate their mouths or cause a tummy upset.
With artificial Christmas trees, you won’t have to worry about the oil and sap being an irritant, but since they’re made of plastic, it’s still important that your cat shouldn’t eat these needles. Whether your tree is real or artificial, there’s a small chance that if your cat swallows a tree pine, it could puncture their intestines.
With all that in mind, if it’s a tree that drops a lot of needles, discourage your cat from eating them and vacuum or sweep them up as soon as you can.
Think about shorter trees, high branches, or thin branches
Part of the feline appeal of Christmas trees is their height. It’s a chance for your cat to survey their kingdom, and to look out for any threats in the room. A shorter tree will discourage them from climbing, but you can also look for a larger tree that’s difficult to climb. For instance, a natural alpine tree has a long section of bare trunk at the base of the tree, meaning branches start much higher up. Trees with more slender or bare branches are useful too, since they won’t support your cat’s weight so well in order to climb higher up the tree.
Secure your tree
The biggest reason why you don’t want your cat to climb the tree is that they might hurt themselves. Yes, you’ll have to tidy up the scattered bobbles too, but most importantly, we don’t want a full-size Christmas tree landing on any adventurous cats this year.
So how do you secure your tree? First of all, weigh it down at the bottom. A sturdy, weighted stand means that a mischievous cat in the higher branches won’t send the whole tree crashing down. Next, secure your tree to the wall, if you can. Wrap wire to the top of the trunk, then fix it to a nearby wall, to help keep your tree from falling.
Cover the base
If you’ve got a real tree that needs to be watered, you need to make sure your cat doesn’t drink the water – particularly if it has toxic fertiliser in it. At the same time, if the tree is planted in earth, cats may also use it as a litter tray. To avoid both scenarios, hide the base with a cover or blanket, and place presents or weights on top.
Avoid nearby furniture in placing your tree
We all know cats are impressive jumpers – and you don’t want them doing a heroic leap from the dining table to pounce on the Christmas angel. So, if you can, place your tree away from any high surfaces – tables, shelves, cabinets – that might act as ideal launchpads.
Put valuable and fragile decorations further up
Unless you’ve gone for something like a natural alpine with higher branches, your decorations are going to be low-hanging fruit for your cat. The lowest baubles on the tree are the ones most likely to be batted, so place soft or tough-to-break ones here; not, say, a fragile family heirloom or a glass bauble. Glass and easily broken plastic baubles could shatter and hurt your cat, so best avoided, particularly at the lowest branches.
Tie your decorations on
Rather than metal or plastic hooks (which your cat might also eat), tie your decorations onto the branches with string, thread or wire. This way, if your cat gives a bauble a good right hook, it’ll still stay on its branch. Nice one.
Be careful with your lights
Cats and dogs alike can chew on the wires of Christmas lights, so keep an eye on your cats near the wires, and turn the lights off when you’re not in the room. If you prefer to leave your lights on all the time, you might be best to consider battery-operated lights. If they’re mains-powered and your cat goes for a nibble, it could mean a nasty shock – not to mention posing a possible fire risk.
Ditch the sparkles on your cat-safe tree: tinsel is a tempting treat to cats, and if they eat it, they can choke or get it stuck in their intestines. Plus, in most cases, it’s made with non-recyclable plastics, so by skipping the tinsel, you’re not just keeping your cat safe: you’re doing the planet a favour too.
Got more questions on how to cat-proof your tree? Or want to show us pictures of your cat sleeping under your newly-safe masterpiece? Join the KatKin Club House, where all the cat lovers of the KatKin Club are making merry all December.