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How to Cat-proof the Christmas Tree

By Liz Palika

cat in a Christmas tree

We’ve seen the videos and photos online of lovely Christmas trees toppled on the floor with happy cats peeking from the rubble. Christmas trees are made to order for cats; they are new and unique, the real trees smell good, and there are lots of dangling toys hanging from the branches.

It is possible to have a Christmas tree while sharing your household with a cat or two. It just might mean changing some traditions.

Go Artificial if Possible

Live trees attract cats more than artificial trees do because of the smell of the outdoors, critters that might have been in the tree before, and the smell of the tree itself all call to your cat. Plus, once the tree is set up in your warm house, those odors intensify.

A live tree also poses some dangers to your cat. Needles, if swallowed, can cause harm to your cat’s mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal tract. Was the tree sprayed with anything at the tree farm? Insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and preservatives can all be toxic. The water for the tree is also a problem as any additives, as well as the tree sap, can make your cat sick.

This isn’t to say that an artificial tree is completely safe, but by going artificial you can lessen some of the attractions.

Anchor the Tree

Anchor the base of the tree with weights, or choose a weighted base for it. Weights, such as a sandbag or two, can be hidden under the tree skirt.

You can also try stringing a line from the tree to a wall to help steady it should a curious cat try to climb it. If you can place the tree in a corner of the room, you can anchor to the walls on each side to secure it.

Make the Tree Inaccessible

Exercise pens (also called xpens) are great for protecting your tree. If you aren’t familiar with xpens, they are portable folding fences often used for keeping puppies safe. The xpen can be placed around the base of the tree from wall to wall.

Since the xpen isn’t particularly attractive by itself, decorate it with unbreakable holiday decorations or use some holiday themed material and drape across the top so that it’s a visual deterrent to your cat.

If your cat is determined to get to the tree, you may need to simply close off the room entirely to keep your cat away from it.

Choose Decorations Wisely

Consider using only non-breakable decorations on the tree when kittens are in the house and saving your favorite and fragile ones for those years when they’re adults. Even barricaded, kittens are slippery little creatures and excellent escape artists.

Fasten unbreakable ornaments to the tree with pieces of red or green craft pipe cleaners since ornament hooks are like fishing hooks if swallowed. Pipe cleaners can be found in any craft stores (50 pieces for about $4). By cutting them in half, I up with more than I need. Don’t cut the pipe cleaners any smaller than in half because cats are sneaky – anything can be a toy.

Using the pipe cleaner, fasten the ornament to the tree with a couple of twists. Ornaments that are secure are less attractive toys than ornaments that can fall off.

Make sure all wires for lights are tucked into the tree, and the wire to the plug should be lightly fastened somewhere so it isn’t dangling and inviting your cat to play.

Tinsel seems to be falling out of favor as decorations and I’m happy to see that. Not only is the stuff messy but it can kill your cat if it’s swallowed. It devastates the intestinal tract.

From Your Cat’s Viewpoint

As you decorate for this holiday season, look at things from your cat’s point of view. Does that dangling cord look fun? Does that tree or potted plant smell wonderful? Keeping your cat in mind will help you decorate safely so you, your cat, and the decorations make it through the holiday unscathed.

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