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How to keep cats out of your Christmas tree

Love Christmas, but also love your cats? Here are some tips to keep your cats from messing with your Christmas tree – and ideas for a cat proof tree!

I’ve had a lot of cats in my life. Some of them have messed with Christmas trees and some have not cared whatsoever.

I have also found that one year a cat could be obsessed with a tree and the next year they could not care about it whatsoever.

So, whether you were caught off guard or expected your cat to have a reaction, let’s talk about Christmas trees for cat owners!

Why keep your cat off of the tree?

There are several reasons for wanting to keep your cat off of your Christmas tree.

First and foremost is the health and safety of your cat.

Pine needles and even the water in the Christmas tree stand can be poisonous to cats. They could make them very sick, or worse.

Beyond the cat’s health, it is extremely frustrating for cats to knock down ornaments or even whole trees. If you have a fake tree, climbing cats can bend and break the branches.

Basically, no one wins when a cat messes with a Christmas tree. So, what can you do about it?

cat proof christmas tree

Cat proof Christmas tree options

If you have cats and they want to mess with the trees, you have two options:

  1. Take measures to protect the Christmas tree from the cats
  2. Make a cat-proof Christmas tree

Each option has pros and cons. Let’s discuss!

How to keep cats out of your Christmas tree

If you want to keep your cat away from your Christmas tree, there are a few ways to deter them from messing with it.

Spray bottle

You can always spray your cat every time they get near the tree. This can be entertaining, but is not super practical if you ever leave your living room.

Alluminum foil

Cats hate the feeling of aluminum foil under foot. So, you can roll foil along your tree skirt or the base of your tree. It’s not pretty (unless you go with a silver theme to match!) but it will work.

Spray your tree

There are certain scents that cats hate. Citrus is one of them.

You can use citrus essential oils (like lemon or orange) to try to keep your cat away.

You can also place the peel of fresh lemons or oranges along the base of your tree, or even as ornaments hanging on your tree!

Apple cider vinegar is another scent that cats dislike. Dilute some with water and use a spray bottle to regularly spritz your tree.

Finally, you can try a product like Keep off! cat repellent.

You can spray these scents directly on the tree, on the tree skirt, or on a decorative item like pine cones and set them around the base or inside the tree!

Put up a baby gate

Some people put a baby gate or pen around their tree to keep their cat out.

Personally, our cat jumps the baby gate, but this could be an option for you if your cat somehow does not.

Hang bells

If you want to be alerted when your cat climbs the tree, hang jingle bells!

Hang them on small strings or loops of ribbon on the lower, outermost parts of the tree.

When you hear the bells, come running with your spray bottle!

Give them somewhere else to go

Give your cat an alternative to the Christmas tree. May I suggest this gorgeous DIY cat tree by our friend Brittany?

If they already have a bed or perch, start putting a lot of cat nip or treats there to entice them over.

Tell your cat “no”

If they mess with the tree, just tell them no! Your cat listens, right? 😉

cat proof christmas tree ideas

How to make a cat friendly Christmas tree

If you decide that your cats are going to have run of the tree this holiday season, there are a few steps that you can take to make it run as smoothly as possible.

Get an artificial tree

If you are worried about your cat chewing on the branches or drinking the tree water, an artificial tree eliminates all of those worries.

Stick to smaller trees

Shorter trees have lower centers of gravity and are less likely to be knocked over by climbing kitties.

Carefully consider the location of the tree in your home

Is there a spot where your cat likes to lounge, jump, or play? Kepp the tree away from there!

If your cat often sleeps on the back of your sofa, don’t put the tree within jumping distance.

If they want to jump on the tree, they will, but don’t make it too easy for them!

Make it secure

Be sure that your tree is very securely attached to a stand. We like to screw our plastic stand into a wooden box, like this DIY tree box or this even simpler plywood raised box.

This makes it harder for the tree to tip over. Plus, a raised box makes it harder for a cat to reach the base of the tree, even if it’s a live tree.

Tie up your tree

If you are most worried about your tree toppling over, you can tie it up.

The easiest way is to attach an eye hook to the wall level with the top 1/4 of your tree. Tie fishing line to the trunk of your tree and tie it tightly to the eye hook.

You will want 2-3 eye hooks on opposite sides of the tree, to help make it as secure as possible.

Cover the water

While faux trees are safest for cats, I get why you would want a real tree!

Since drinking the tree water is one of the big risks to cats, cover the water portion of the tree stand. The easiest way to do this is with the tree skirt!

It will make it more annoying to water, but it will help to protect your kitty!

Decorate strategically

One of the big risks of Christmas trees around cats is that they are mesmerized by shiny ornaments and want to knock them down.

This can be annoying but also extra sad if they break something special or sentimental, and dangerous if you end up with shards of broken glass everywhere.

Focus ornaments, or at least fragile or particularly “tempting” ornaments on the upper half of your tree, out of an easy leap’s reach.

Keep wires out of reach

Cats are smart, but they can also do dumb things like chew on electrical wires.

This is another bonus point to artificial trees – they are usually pre-lit and don’t have any exposed tree light wires.

If you go for a real tree, wrap the Christmas lights tightly and keep them close to the trunk of the tree to make the wires harder for a cat to access.

Avoid ornament hooks

Many ornaments come with those little metal hooks to hang them on a branch. Convenient, but dangerous.

Silly cats can bat them around, turning them into foot-stabbing hazards. Even sillier cats can eat them and puncture their digestive tract.

Instead of metal hooks, tie small loops from ribbon or string and use those as hangers.

Don’t use tinsel

Tinsel is not a great idea for many reasons – talk about things that sit in the landfill for ever and ever – but it also can be dangerous to cats.

The one time I used tinsel, my cat ate a bunch of it and vomited a lot. Don’t make my mistake – just say no to tinsel.

What are your tips for a cat proof Christmas tree?

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