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Tips For Keeping Your Cat Out Of The Tree

December 15, 2023

Happy Holidays! One of the joys of this special season is seeing all of the lovely decorations everyone puts up. We also love receiving cards and pictures from our clients. As you can imagine, we get some pretty cute photos of our furry patients posing in front of Christmas trees. Speaking of pets and Christmas trees, those of you who are owned by cats may find yourselves dealing with a bit of extra mischief over the next few weeks. Quite a few of our feline patients make it onto Santa’s naughty list each year, often by toppling Christmas trees. If you have a frisky feline on your hands, read on! A local Brookville, PA veterinarian offers some helpful tips for keeping Fluffy out of the tree in this article.

Can I Teach My Cat To Leave My Christmas Tree Alone?

As any long-time kitty owner knows, it’s usually the cat that trains its human, rather than the other way around. Fluffy is a master of meowpulation, and often cajoles, charms, and sometimes even bullies her humans into immediately obliging her adorable demands for food, cuddles, and playtime. However, your feline ruler isn’t quite the dictator she thinks she is. You really do have the power to teach her what is and isn’t appropriate behavior!

The key is to make your furry overlord believe that good behavior was her idea. You can do that by creating a negative association with the tree. You want to make Fluffy just wary enough of it to approach it with caution and suspicion.

Should I Punish Fluffy For Climbing The Christmas Tree?

We mentioned negative associations in the prior section. That isn’t the same as negative reinforcement, or punishment, which we would strongly advise against. We know, it can be incredibly frustrating to discover that your beloved feline companion has toppled your Christmas tree. However, don’t forget why she did it. Fluffy’s only following her natural instincts. Trees are very important to kitties’ survival in the wild. Cats use them for napping, lookouts, and nail care stations. It’s no wonder those urges are so deeply ingrained! Therefore, your furry pal probably won’t understand that she has done something wrong. Reprimanding her may confuse her and cause her to feel threatened or uneasy, which can lead to other issues, like anxiety and aggression. We’d recommend employing gentler methods. Focus on rewarding good petiquette, and redirect that frisky kitty energy to more suitable outlets, like that new smart mouse toy you got her.

Are Christmas Trees Dangerous To Kitties?

We probably wouldn’t list the Christmas tree as the most dangerous thing in your home. Toxins would be a larger concern. The average household contains over 400 chemicals, most of which are poisonous to cats. Small and sharp items, unsafe plants, wires and cords, and candles are also very unsafe.

That said, the tree isn’t exactly cat-friendly. Many ornaments pose choking and/or strangulation risks. Anything small or sharp should in general be avoided. Stringy or ropy items, such as tinsel, strings, and lights, also pose choking and strangulation hazards. With real trees, the water can be unsafe, as it can contain leached chemicals, such as pesticides or fertilizer. Fluffy could also injure herself bringing it down, especially if it falls on her.

How Do I Keep My Kitty Out Of The Tree?

You may or may not have much luck with just telling Fluffy to stay out of the tree. Your best bet is to make her want to avoid it. That can be tricky. The key is to make your furry companion cautious of the tree without triggering a potential existential kitty crisis or making her fear you. 

In a nutshell, you want to startle or irritate your pet, without actually scaring or harming her. Afterward, your feline friend will probably retreat to her favorite corner to think things over.

When Fluffy approaches the tree, experiment with making a loud noise such as banging pots together, rattling change in a jar, using an alarm app on your phone, stomping your foot, activating an air horn, or even turning on that singing snowman. While squirting your furry friend with water may also be effective, it could potentially harm the tree and gifts or cause damage to any outlets being used for lights. (And while the Christmas Vacation scenario of a housefire is probably not very likely, it’s also not outside of the realm of possibility. After all, we are talking about kitty mischief here.)

What Can I Do To Make My Cat Lose Interest In The Christmas Tree?

Fluffy does exactly what she wants, when she wants. However, while you can’t ‘make’ her lose interest in the tree, you can make it less interesting for her.

We have a few suggestions for this:

Be Careful When Decorating: Keep the lower third of the tree as simple as possible. You should only place a few ornaments within paws’ reach. These ornaments should all be dull, unbreakable ones, like that fabric Gingerbread Man. Place most of the sharp, shiny, or fragile ornaments on the top half of the tree.

Block It Off: You can also block access to the tree by putting it in a corner or away from things your cat might use as a launchpad, such as sofas, desks, and chairs.

Use Scent Deterrents: Citrus is often recommended as a scent deterrent, as cats don’t like its smell. Keep in mind that you may need to reapply it.

Fake It: Real trees are beautiful, but they are also expensive, cumbersome, and, well, a bit wasteful. Consider switching to an artificial tree. Your feline pal won’t have much luck climbing wire trunks and branches. Plus, you don’t have to worry about her drinking the water. (Bonus: you can reuse it, which will also save you money in the long run.)

Why Is Fluffy So Obsessed with Christmas Trees?

This is one form of kitty mischief that is pretty much built-in. As mentioned above, in the wild, our furry pals use trees for lookouts, napping, and nail care. They also often run up trees for safety from weather, flooding, and sometimes even other animals. Plus, many kitties are attracted to shiny things. Mix all these things together, and you have a pet who thinks you just offered her her very own private tree … hung with shiny new cat toys to boot.

Is There Any Way To Prevent My Cat From Knocking Down My Tree?

Do you have a super frisky pet? You may want to reinforce your tree. The top of the tree can be attached to the wall or ceiling with clear fishing line. It won’t show, but may just provide enough extra support to prevent a crash. We also advise that people with kitties get trees with sturdy bases.

You may also find that bribery is a good way to get your cat to behave. Give your furry little friend some of her gifts early, and take time to play with her daily. The key is to tire her out by getting her to work off those kitty zoomies chasing a catnip mouse or that elusive red dot. We all know what happens to kitties when they become tired! This is also a purrfect time to point out that there’s an alternative to actual trees for cats: cat towers. If Fluffy doesn’t have one, consider making or buying her one as a present this year.

In conclusion: Fluffy’s holiday shenanigans are cute, frustrating, and a bit dangerous. Fortunately, decorating your tree with a little forethought may help you prevent your cat from knocking it over. (A bit of bribery won’t hurt, either.)

Season’s greetings from all of us here at Brookville Veterinary Hospital, your Brookville, PA animal clinic. Our whole staff wishes you a wonderful holiday season. Please feel free to contact us at any time!