Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how much I want to bite thee. Or climb or scratch or knock down. Such is the refrain likely going through your cat’s head when she sees your tree all decked out with glittering ornaments, shimmering tinsel and blinking lights. It’s basically Disney World for excited little paws. But with all those enticing decorations (as well as the tree itself) come some major safety risks.
Why Christmas trees and cats aren’t a great combination
While most live Christmas trees aren’t toxic for cats, the sap can irritate their mouths and the needles are not easily digested and can cause tummy issues. (Note: Mistletoe, Holly, Lilies, Amaryllis and Poinsettias are all very dangerous for kitties and should be avoided all together.) Even if Brownie chooses to simply drink the water at the base of the tree rather than chomp away, he may experience some negative symptoms. And that’s not including any ill effects from the use of fertilizer or tree-preserver you pour in with the water.
As for fake trees, your feline may be less inclined to chomp on the plastic, but if he does ingest any needles or small bits of faux tree it can cause sometimes serious gastrointestinal problems. Last, but not least, are the dangers of decorations—tinsel poses many of the same concerns as fake tree bits, glass ornaments are fun to bat until they break into tiny sharp pieces and strings of lights carry the risk of electrocution or burns. So, yeah, cats and Christmas trees don’t mix well.
What can I do to keep my cat safe? And also my tree?
Ahead of the holiday season we talked with Dr. Natalie Marks, veterinarian and Royal Canin spokesperson, to see what we can do to make sure our furry little troublemakers can safely enjoy the holiday season.
1. Place your tree in a room with no cat access
You may have traditionally placed your tree in the living room in year’s past, but it’s time to consider moving it someplace Snowball doesn’t typically venture. Some of you may be thinking, “what do you mean no cat access? She is the ruler of this land and long ago asserted her dominance over everything the light touches, from the kitchen counters to our dirty laundry hamper.” If that’s the case, Dr. Marks has some additional tree placement suggestions.
2. Position your tree in a corner and anchor it there
Limit your kitty’s access to the tree by placing it in the corner of the room or up against a wall rather than floating in the middle, leaving room for attacks on all sides. Even better, anchor your tree to the wall for additional protection. “You can use fishing line to secure your tree to a picture frame anchor on the wall to help prevent it from being knocked down,” advises Dr. Marks. It’s also important to use a heavy tree stand to further decrease the likelihood of your little monster tipping the whole thing over.
3. Move chairs and other tall objects out of the way
“Remove chairs or other high furniture that typically sits near the tree to help prevent a platform for jumping,” advises Dr. Marks. This may prevent Morris from developing interest in or further exploring the ornaments near the top...or from bringing your tree crashing to the floor.
4. Use an anti-chew spray
Dr. Marks suggests spraying your tree down before decorating. These sprays work on both live and fake trees and help to discourage your cat from chomping on the branches.
5. Cover the water under a live tree
While drinking the water under your tree isn’t as bad for your feline as eating the tree itself, it’s still not great. This is especially true if you use a fertilizer or tree preserver in the water (yes, even the so called pet-friendly ones). If you don’t want to deal with uncovering and recovering the opening every time you water your tree, invest in a Christmas tree funnel that can easily be hidden in the back branches and makes watering much easier.
6. Give her some other options
“You can offer catnip or cat grass and a vertical scratching post next to the tree as an alternative choice,” advises Dr. Marks, “and be sure to reward her for choosing them in the moment.”
7. Stow presents elsewhere until it’s time to open them
Ribbons and crumpled paper can be mighty tempting for feisty kitties, so keep any presents from Santa (or mom or dad or Aunt Maureen) in the closet or hidden away until it’s time for opening. And be sure to clean up soon after opening, even if that means simply throwing everything in a large trash bag to be sorted and dealt with in full later.