Pet parents worldwide know all too well the stress of having a curious cat and a Christmas tree under the same roof. For us humans, decorating and hiding presents under a Christmas tree is the most memorable part of the holiday season. However, for our feline companions, a Christmas tree is more like their very own jungle gym.
Sparkly objects, branches to climb on, decorations to swipe at—some cats cannot resist the urge to get onto, up, or on that tree the minute it enters the home. While it can be cute to watch your cat bat around some tinsel, if your tree is not properly cat-proofed, you may be putting them in harm’s way. A falling Christmas tree, sharp objects, and accidentally ingesting small pieces of decorations are all real threats for your cat.
To help keep your feline family members safe this Christmas, here are our top tips for cat safety around the Christmas tree.
Cat Safety Around Your Christmas Tree
Artificial vs. Real Trees
Nothing says festive cheer more than having a real Christmas tree in your home. But, unfortunately, that beautiful, sparkling “cat tree” in your pet’s eyes might be more dangerous for your cat than you think.
Cristin Coll, CFTBS (Certified Feline Training and Behavior Specialist) for BeChewy, says, “if your cat has been known to chew or eat things they’re not supposed to, I would highly recommend going with an artificial tree.”
Pine needles are incredibly sharp and very thin—they don’t call them “needles” for nothing! Unfortunately, these pointed needles are a problem for those who have cats that love to chew. If your cat accidentally swallows a sharp pine needle, it can be dangerous.
The oils in pine trees can be harmful to cats, potentially leading to liver damage and even death. Meanwhile, pine needles are sharp and can damage a cat’s internal organs if ingested. They also pose a hazard to paws if stepped on.
Let Your Cat Explore the Tree Before You Decorate It
Every cat owner knows that cats are naturally nosey and love nothing more than inspecting every new item introduced into the home.
This year, rather than decorating your tree immediately, consider letting it sit undecorated in a room for a few days. This way, your cat will have time to inspect the tree and (hopefully) get bored of it. Then, once they lose interest, you can slowly start bringing out the Christmas decorations.
Smaller Trees With Solid Bases
If you have a feline that loves to climb, consider getting a smaller sized tree to avoid any mishaps. This way, if your cat does decide to venture up the tree, a smaller tree will result in minor damage if they manage to pull it all down.
A solid base will help to keep your tree upright. If your cat is determined to jump on it, try tying the tree to a wall. PETA recommends putting your tree in a corner away from furniture that could become a cat’s potential launchpad. They also suggest wrapping the tree’s base in foil or laying pinecones around the floor, both of which cats dislike.
Cover The Water Bowl
Although it’s more familiar with dogs, cats may also be tempted to drink the water from the water bowl at the base of your Christmas tree. Be sure to cover the tree stand so your cat won’t drink the water.
Christmas trees are fertilized to make them grow faster. They also are sprayed to keep pests off and blight off them with insecticides.
Unfortunately, these products can leach into the water, where your cat would end up drinking bacteria, fertilizer, and pesticides, resulting in upset stomachs or emergency vet visits.
If you’ve decided to go for a real Christmas tree this year, cover the water bowl with a cloth, a tree skirt, or even cover it with presents to deter your pets from drinking from it.
Decorating the Tree
If there’s one thing to capture a curious cat’s attention, it’s sparkling Christmas lights and hanging decorations. But unfortunately, cats often see Christmas trees as one big playground, and who could blame them?
Tinsel is one of the most beautiful Christmas decorations, but for your cat, it is an utterly irresistible object. Unfortunately, batting and swiping at tinsel can become a headache, especially when your cat tries to pull it off the tree, but it’s even more dangerous if your cat eats loose tinsel. It can get knotted in their intestines and cause serious health issues, including a painful condition called peritonitis.
That’s why it’s so important to hang your special decorations up high off the floor so they don’t become a potential toy for your kitty-cat.
Additionally, if your cat likes chewing, you’ll need to cover any wires and always unplug any lights when your cat is not supervised.
Country Living suggests investing in a pet-proof cord protector to prevent any injuries. After all, you don’t want your cat getting a nasty electric shock from nibbling on the Christmas lights.
Know The Signs of Distress And Illness
If you notice your cat is in distress, becomes lethargic, or starts showing signs of poisoning or digestive issues, including vomiting and diarrhea, contact your veterinarian right away. Your cat loves nothing more than getting into mischief when your back is turned and may have nibbled on some pine needles or eaten a decoration without you noticing.
Seeking medical advice might be lifesaving for your cat and ensures that they get the immediate medical attention they need.
About The Author: Nicole founded Miami Pet Concierge in May 2007, with a mission to provide Miami, Florida’s pet parents with personalized pet care plans based on their pets’ species, age, breed, health, and lifestyle. All while keeping their pets “happy at home.” In addition, offering pet care education for all pet owners to guide them to become great pet parents.