Cats and Christmas Trees – Get A Cat Proof Christmas Tree This Winter

Reviewed By Kyoko •  Updated: 10/16/20 •  11 min read
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Do you have a cat that loves to climb anything and everything? Does she find heights so fascinating and challenging that she just has to give in and explore? If you answered yes to these questions, then you may have a cat that would also enjoy the challenge of climbing your Christmas tree.

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Cats are climbers and love heights—who can blame them for climbing the Christmas tree? Or at least trying to climb the tree?

Nailing the Tree to the Floor—a True Story

Have you ever had a cat that was determined to climb the Christmas tree? When I was a kid, our cat climbed and knocked over the tree three times in one night, after my whole family had gone to bed. The cat waited until he was sure we were all asleep and then made his attempt to climb the tree. Each time he climbed the tree, we’d hear a loud meow and then the crashing of the tree, ornaments and all. On our cat’s last try, the tree of course fell over again. My dad was pretty mad and decided the only way to keep the tree safe was to nail it to the floor.

Dad took some leftover pieces of wood and put these over the three feet of the Christmas tree stand. Then he nailed each piece of wood to the floor. We had wall-to-wall carpeting with a wood floor underneath, so the nails went through the carpet and into the wood. Dad finally solved our cat and Christmas tree problem; the cat climbed, but the tree stood tall and not once went crashing to the floor.

While this is a funny story and nailing the tree to the floor may seem a little drastic, sometimes you just have to do what you can to keep both your kitty and the Christmas tree safe from her adventurous climbs

Why do Cats Love Christmas Trees?

Is your cat irresistibly drawn to the Christmas tree? There’s a good reason for that. Consider a cat’s natural instincts. Cats love climbing, they try to reach the highest height they can possibly manage, and they’re curious. Whether indoors or out, cats have these natural instincts.

Does your cat try to climb the curtains or the door frame? Does she enjoy a climb to that nice space above your kitchen cabinets? Climbing in a natural instinct, along with getting to the highest point and curiosity.

Think of when you bring your tree home, or when you first put up an artificial Christmas tree. This becomes an automatic draw for your cat. She’s curious to see what’s new, especially if the tree is real and is coming from outside. It’s filled with all kinds of scents your fur baby wants to check out. Once the tree is up, she then considers it a challenge of her climbing prowess. After all, for your cat, it’s like climbing Mt. Everest and getting to the highest spot in your home.

After the tree’s decorated, then it becomes an object of fascination with all the lights, bells, shiny things and dangling balls. At this point, your cat’s probably thinking the tree is your gift to her—a giant cat jungle gym, complete with all kinds of cat toys!

Unfortunately (in her eyes) this isn’t the case, which she understands when you’re unhappy with her tree antics. Still, the tree is like a huge challenge filled with toys—it’s hard for her to stay away. Then it becomes your job, as a pet parent, to make the tree safer for your kitty or safe for your kitty. Let’s take a look at some ideas that might keep you both happy.

Cat Proof Christmas Tree

You’ll need to decide on the type of tree you want. If past experience has shown that your kitty will be drawn to the tree, then you might consider using an artificial Christmas tree. However, you can still opt for a real tree. Here are some things you can do to make

1. Artificial tree needs no water

A “live” tree needs water, which can pose a danger to your cat. For some reason, cats (and dogs) just love to drink tree water and play with pine cones. However, if the water has been treated with any type of additive, these could poison your pet. Even if the water’s not treated, it can still harbor bacteria that could make your fur baby quite sick. You can avoid this problem with an artificial tree that doesn’t need to be watered.

2. Real tree and water

If you choose a real Christmas tree, then be sure to keep the tree stand and the bowl covered with a tree skirt. This will (hopefully) keep your cat from drinking the tree’s water. Also avoid additives in the water, as these can be poisonous to your kitty.

3. Tabletop Christmas tree

If you have a determined climber on your hands, you might consider opting for a tabletop Christmas tree, rather than a floor-to-ceiling tree. A tabletop tree won’t pose as much of a climbing challenge. If your cat is still intrigued by the tree, it and your kitty won’t have far to fall if she accidentally knocks the tree over.

4. Plastic, satin, or cloth ornaments

You might also choose to use plastic ornaments on the bottom half of the tree. Most cats will love to bat the balls on the tree and you can be sure glass ornaments will be broken. Protect your cat and your cherished decorations by using plastic ornaments on the bottom half of the tree. These days, it’s hard to tell plastic from glass, unless you really get up close. Another option is to use satin balls and/or cloth ornaments mixed in with the plastic decorations.

Your tree will still be pretty, but will be safer for your fur baby when she plays with the balls

5. Flocked trees

They are beautiful, but they present a hazard to pets. Cat eating fake snow on Christmas tree can become sick. Fake snow is made of chemicals that can poison your furry companion. Avoid flocked trees or using canned fake snow for holiday decorating.

6. Set up & leave it

Another way to help ease kitty’s curiosity is to set the Christmas tree up and then leave it undecorated for a few days. This gives your cat the chance to look over the new home décor. She may become used to it being in the house and then choose to leave it alone; however, once the decorations are on, all bets are off!

7. Avoid launching pads

Be sure to set your tree up away from anything your cat could use as a launching pad to get into the tree. Here, you’ll need to consider everything from bookshelves, tables, pianos, chairs and even drapes and curtains. Try to think like your cat—what could she use as a launching pad to get into the tree? If the tree needs to be in a certain spot, you might consider temporarily moving furniture kitty could use as a launch pad.

8. Set the tree in a corner

Another option is to make the tree harder to access from the sides and back. You could choose to put the Christmas tree in a corner, where the walls will provide more protection from curious climbers.

9. Attach the tree to the wall, floor or ceiling

Another option to make things safer for kitty and the tree is to attach the tree to the wall, floor or ceiling. For attaching the tree to the floor, you could use the same method used in my story—just nail the stand to the floor. That’s quite effective. Another option is to attach the tree to the wall or ceiling with wires or fishing line. This will keep the tree from being knocked over and can be especially helpful if you have a determined climber.

10. Cat repellent for Christmas trees

Some cat pet parents have shared the idea of using a cat repellent on the Christmas tree. Some of these repellents may also repel the humans in your home. However, you might try spraying bitter apple on the tree’s bottom half and the trunk. Another option is using citrus fruit spray, such as lemon or orange. Cats don’t like these scents. You could even hang real fruit on the tree or put it near the tree’s base. There’s no guarantee that a repellent will work. Some cats don’t care and will continue to make advances on the Christmas tree.

11. Christmas tree lights

These are another thing cats love to play with on the tree. It’s a good idea to place the lights near the center of the tree, where it’s harder for a kitty to chew on them. Be sure to hide the electric cord coming from the tree, too. Cats love to chew on these, for some strange reason. You might opt for a cord protector, which will be kitty-proof and keep your tree looking nice and neat.

12. Avoid tinsel

Tinsel is pretty, but cats love to play with it and many will even eat it. Tinsel may seem harmless, but if swallowed, it could create an intestinal blockage. This is a serious medical emergency. To avoid this, just leave off the tinsel. Your tree will be pretty without it.

13. Put the tree in a cage

This may seem drastic (like nailing it to the floor), but putting the Christmas tree in a cage may work. Or you could put the tree behind a puppy gate that’s tall enough to keep your kitty out. Another option is to put the tree in a room where you can close the door and keep your fur baby from having free access.

Safe Christmas Trees for Cats

So, what’s the best Christmas tree for cats? We have some creative suggestions for you!

Hang the tree from the ceiling

This is a popular option, even for those who don’t have cats. It’s modern and will keep the tree safe from being knocked over by kitty! One option is to hang the tree upside down, while others choose to hand the tree upright with a wire from the ceiling. Once you have the tree hanging, decorate as usual!

Create a wire tree

Some creative pet parents have chosen to completely forgo a traditional Christmas tree, instead opting for a wire tree. They use fishing line to hang ornaments from the ceiling, with the ornaments hanging at different heights. You can easily create the outline of a tree with the hanging ornaments. It’s both pretty and safe from kitty.

A ladder tree

Another creative choice is to use a ladder as a Christmas tree. You just take a ladder, open it up, and then decorate it with lights and ornaments. That’s it! Safe from kitty and unique, too!

Book tree

Do you have a lot of books around the house? Then use these to create a Christmas tree on a small table. Use more books for the base, and then fewer and fewer books for each level, until you have one book on the top. You can decorate your book tree with lights and pretty garland—use your imagination. This tree is safe from your cat’s climbing urges and pretty, too.

Half a tree

This may seem like a strange suggestion, but you could use a half of a Christmas tree, rather than the whole tree. If you have an artificial tree, consider only using the top half of the tree’s branches. This makes it harder for your cat to climb. Another option is to cut all the bottom branches from a real tree. You might also consider this tree from Amazon: the Home Heritage 5 Foot Clear Pre Lit Slim Artificial Corner Christmas Tree. This tree has short branches, no hanging wires from the lights, and is very hard for your cat to climb. Not only that, it doesn’t take up much room.

While the YouTube videos of cats mangling Christmas trees can be entertaining, it’s not funny when your cat chooses to climb and play with your Christmas tree and decorations. We hope you’ve found some ideas here to keep your cat and tree safe for the holidays.

We wish you and your fur baby all the best for Christmas and New Year’s!

Related Sources: NYTimes Cornell UnivMelb

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Kyoko is from a family of 3 and moved to New York with her parents and siblings when she was 13. Kyoko is fond of spending a great amount of time with pets, specifically her beagle Luna and cat Missy. Her boyfriend often complains that she spends too much time giving attention to their animals. Kyoko has written dozens of articles concerning pets and is aiming at owning a pet shop one day!

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