PET CARE

Cat-Proofing a Christmas Tree: What To Know

Four Minutes Nov 21, 2022

Curious kitties love your annual Christmas tree. It doesn’t matter if it’s a real tree or an artificial tree: it’s tall, climbable, and shiny! Unfortunately, your festive addition is a big source of harm for your cat — from the water at the base to the items hanging off the branches, there are poisonous and choking hazards everywhere.

Let’s dive into six ways to cat-proof your Christmas tree and what potential dangers you should worry about.

Six Ways to Cat Proof Christmas Trees

#1. Place the tree away from climbable surfaces

Choose an open corner a reasonable distance away from flat surfaces. This includes bookshelves, sofa arms, and coffee or end tables. These types of surfaces create a sort of “kitty highway” that even the most aloof cats may not be able to resist traveling along to get to your tree.

#2. Place ornaments and lights higher on the tree

Yes, we want a full Christmas tree to celebrate, but low-hanging ornaments are toys for your cat. Leave the bottom foot of the tree undecorated, or use items with unshiny decorations, like bows. When the cat goes by in passing, there’s less to draw them to it. Be sure to hang the ornaments far back on the branches to prevent them from falling. You’ll protect your precious heirloom ornaments from being broken and protect your cat from sharp objects.

Secure the wires for the lights by covering them with plastic wire covers from the home improvement store. Some cats like to chew the wires and bulbs, which can seriously hurt them, leading to dangerous cuts or even electrocution. Avoid this holiday nightmare by covering the wires and keeping the bulbs off the lowest branches.

#3. Use citrus or strong odors to keep fluffy friends away

Cats abhor the scent of oranges and musk, so try organza bags full of fragrant herbs or a plug-in air freshener near the tree. Your cat may be more likely to steer clear of the tree.

Apple cider vinegar is another option. Try putting the vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz the tree skirt to keep your pet from napping there.

#4. Offer festive alternatives

Christmas presents aren’t just for humans! This is the perfect time to purchase a new scratching post to keep your cats away from the tree. Try giving them extra playtime with a new toy or even an old favorite. Cats are naturally curious, but most are easily distracted. Trust that they’ll be happy as long as they get to spend time with you.

#5. Reinforce good behavior

Reward your pet with love or their favorite treat when they do something good. Did they climb the cat tree instead of your beautiful Christmas tree? Consider giving them extra tuna along with a gentle chin scratch to thank them for being so good.

At the same time, steer them away from the tree without punishing them. Gently scoop them up and place them where you’d like them to stay. Cats are intelligent creatures — they’ll pick up the behavior reinforcement over time.

#6. Prevent the tree from falling

Sometimes, our cats will outsmart us and find their way into the tree no matter what we do. Do your best to secure the tree so it doesn’t fall over.³ If you opt for a real tree, use a heavy tree base that’s at least one gallon to ensure that it’ll remain stable.

Another option is to use a fishing line and wall anchors to secure the tree to the wall; this is a great option if your cat likes to launch themselves to and from places in your home. The impact of their bodies can cause even the best tree bases to fall over, causing a mess and potential injuries.

Cats and Christmas Trees: Why All the Fuss?

New cat parents may be caught off guard to find their furry friend inside their Christmas tree. It’s important to steer your cat away from their newfound toy to keep them safe — and save yourself a massive vet bill. Here are some other potential things to watch out for.

Potential bowel obstructions

Your cat may decide to make a snack of your tree. The pine needles (real or plastic) can cause an upset stomach — or worse, tear their intestines. Pay attention to what they put in their mouths. On rare occasions, the needles can get into their eyes and noses, all the more reason to be cautious.

Another common holiday decoration swallowed by cats is tinsel.⁴ This shiny, ribbon-like decoration shouldn’t become a toy for your cat. Otherwise, you may have to take them to the vet to remove the strings surgically. Without cat insurance, the surgery can cost you thousands you would rather be spending on presents.

Poisonous plants and trees

Other decorations we use can be deadly to the tiny lions in our living room. Live holly and lily plants are toxic to cats so opt for fake ones if you can. If you get these as gifts, keep them somewhere your cat can’t get to them.

Artificial trees are the best option for cat owners because a real tree’s sap and oils may irritate their mouths, skin, and stomach.⁵ Also, the water in the base can entice cats to drink which can lead to a nasty stomach ache. If you opt for a real tree, take extra care to keep the kitty away from it.

Want to Kitty-Proof Their Health? Consider Pet Insurance

Remember, cats have personalities all their own. What works for one cat, may not work for another. You may have to use a few of these tips together to protect them from their curious mind. See what works best, and relax — it’s the holidays!

Should your cat be prone to injuring themselves, you might be able to salvage some peace of mind with a cat insurance policy. At MetLife Pet Insurance, winner of the “Pet Insurance of the Year” Award, we’re committed to helping you keep your pets happy and healthy, whether that means learning all there is to know about your pets or protecting them with an insurance policy. Get started with a quote.

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¹ Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

² Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

³ “How to Stabilize a Christmas Tree,” eHow

“Cats and Christmas Trees,” Pet Poison Healthline

“Keeping Your Cat Safe At Christmas,”  Blue Cross

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