Last year, you may have read my husband’s and my ‘Christmas Tree vs. Our Cats’ fiasco. Here is the ‘Cliff Notes’ version: Eager to feel some holiday cheer, we put up our Christmas tree just to be reminded that the cats chewed through our lights the year prior (no cats harmed). That night, we go to Target, purchase a new tree, go home, decorate it, and then bask in the glory of our non-mutilated piece of Christmas heaven. The next morning, we wake up to the sight of broken limbs on our new, artificial tree, thanks to our cats’ attempt to climb it, and chewed-up ornaments, thanks to our black lab, Ozzy.
If you are a cat person, like me, this scenario is more like your every day life of being a cat owner. You can buy your cat all of the cat towers, string-wand toys and cat nip in the world, and they’ll still want the one thing they know they can’t have (usually in the form of an empty box). As a cat owner I know this, you know this, yet I still have unrealistic expectations of a Norman Rockwell Christmas. As I Googled ways to keep our cats away from the tree and have my perfect Christmas, I came upon an article stating that Christmas trees can provide cats with great enrichment.
Suddenly, my mindset changed from ‘Christmas Tree vs. Our Cats’ to ‘Christmas Tree and Our Cats.’ How could I lower my expectations, have a nice Christmas and extend some holiday cheer to our cats that we love dearly? After reading numerous articles, I gathered the best advice I could find to keep your kitties safe and happy this holiday season, while keeping your tree safe from those curious felines.
If you struggle with your cat knocking your tree down, the first step is to choose a location. Maybe try a room that your cat doesn’t have access to. Of course, many living rooms, where most families set up their tree, are an open space with no doors that cats are free to explore. If you can’t block off the room, find a spot where you’re willing to anchor the tree to your wall with one eyebolt and fishing line. Catbehaviorassociates.com suggests using a spot that already has a picture hanging and use that hole in the wall to avoid making new holes. Lastly, make sure your tree has a sturdy tree base that will provide some extra weight.
If your cat likes the taste of tree branches, go to your local pet store and buy an anti-chew bitter spray. If you purchased a live tree, this is very important to do, as tree needles and the preservatives sprayed on them are toxic to cats. You can also use this spray on the lights to prevent your cat from chewing those up. Speaking of lights, make sure they are wrapped tightly around the branches and avoid twinkle lights, which are more enticing to your furry friends.
To prevent your cat from drinking the water from the tree base, purchase netting or a cover to place over the base. ‘Sticky Paws for Pets’ can even be used over the reservoir to keep your cat away. Again, tree sap and the preservatives used in the water to keep your tree fresh are highly toxic to your pets.
As far as decorations, ornaments are probably the most attractive part of your tree to your cat. To limit this temptation, avoid placing ornaments on the bottom branches. Be sure to buy non-breakable ornaments and secure any glass ones towards the middle of the tree. Also, avoid tinsel and garland, as your cat will most likely eat it, resulting in intestinal blockage.
Now, for the grand finale: How to keep your cat out of the Christmas tree. I found a genius product called the ‘Christmas Tree Defender’ that acts as a barrier around the base of your tree, keeping your pets and tree safe. Using the previously mentioned ways to make your tree less enticing will also help. Be sure to provide plenty of other places to perch and keep your cat distracted from the Christmas tree by playing with them. Lastly (and this was an idea from a genius coworker) hang bell ornaments on your tree. This way, any time your cat begins to play with the tree, you can stop them.
If all else fails, oh well. As long as our pets are safe and happy, then a wonky Christmas tree is a small price to pay for the years of love and companionship. After all, that ‘perfect’ Rockwell Christmas is pretty overrated, don’t ya think?
P.S. This year, my husband and I took notes from these pieces of advice, and we, along with our cats, are enjoying a beautiful, safe holiday, with minimal tree-climbing, ornament-chewing incidents.
Happy Holidays &
a Happy New Year
from our fur family to yours!
ABOUT CLAIRE R. GRIMES
An Aiken native and self-proclaimed cat lady, Claire Grimes is the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Development Director. She attended College of Charleston, where she graduated with a degree in Nonprofit Business and interned with Charleston Animal Society, the leader in No-Kill South Carolina. She is excited to now be working in animal welfare in her hometown and is proud of the community's robust efforts to better the lives of Aiken’s animals. Her family includes her husband, Logan, adopted black lab Ozzy, and two always-hungry kitties, Anakin & Luna (plus, in spirit, her pup Sophie).