Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Keeping Your Christmas Tree Safe from Cats

Christmas! How I love Christmas...and so do my cats. The cats, however, love it for different reasons. Here's how to keep your Christmas tree safe from cats, or at least as safe as you can keep it, and more importantly, how to keep your cats safe from the tree.

Why Do Cats Love Christmas Trees?

Think about your Christmas tree from the feline perspective. Suddenly, in the middle of "their" landscape, a new tree appears! It's big, it's fluffy, it smells like the outdoors (if you have a live tree) and...it's covered in bright, shiny cat toys!

It's like you just opened Disneyland in the living room.

And then...then...you put crinkly wrapped things of different heights under it. Oh, the joy, the ecstasy of cats!

Seriously, we put out all of this and expect our cats to behave like the ladies and gentlemen we know and love.

And then we get this:

Pierre at nine months.

What we call cat "badness" at Christmas is actually quite a natural reaction from our playful mini tigers. They see this lovely tree covered in shiny round balls that look like superb cat toys and they want to have FUN!

Keeping Your Christmas Tree Safe from Cats...

Nothing is foolproof, so take the suggestions below for what they are: suggestions. Use them at your own risk.I've learned a few tricks over the years for safeguarding my ornament collection from the six marauders I share my life with. Here are my tips for keeping your Christmas tree safe from cats:
  • If this is your cat's first Christmas, or his first Christmas in your home if you adopted an adult rescue, watch your cat's reaction to the Christmas tree very carefully. Some just shrug and like sleeping under it while others view the tree as their new scratching post and playpen. You know your cat. The more athletic types tend to get into more trouble than the fat sleepy ones.
  • Get a nice, sturdy Christmas tree stand that's hard to tip over. Then assume at some point, the cats will tip it over. My sister used fishing line extended from a hook on the ceiling of her den to hold her tree upright when the kids were toddlers. This prevented many a Christmas tree catastrophe. It may be a good idea to keep your tree vertical if you have cats who climb.
  • DO NOT USE TINSEL. I can't stress this enough. Tinsel is very dangerous around cats. They eat it like grass but it can get tangled in the intestines and cause dangerous blockages that require emergency surgery.
  • Watch out for shiny garland, too. I had one cat who ate garland from the tree, chomping along until she had removed some of it. This also passed through her system, thank God, but with unfortunate consequences to the woodwork in my home as the now passed garland bounced along after her when she exited the litter box, still attached to her person. You get the picture.
  • So what can you use? I use an old-fashioned Victorian beaded garland. None of the eight cats who have seen this garland have ever reacted to it. They ignore it. They don't eat it.
  • Hang only shatterproof ornaments on the first few feet of branches. There are shiny ornaments available that look like glass but won't smash when they fall off the tree. I also have some lovely hand-made cloth and other ornaments that won't break on the lower branches.
  • If you have any precious ornaments that are expensive, easily broken or sentimental, wire them to the tree. Take the ornament hanger and wrap it around a branch to secure the ornament to the tree. There's nothing you can do if the tree falls over, but it's harder for your cats to get it off the branches.

Christmas Tree Water and Tree Skirts

Many live Christmas trees come with packets of nutrients to keep trees fresh. In almost all cases, these are marked safe for pets and children. Most of them contain ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and won't harm your pet, but do read the label just in case.

I had one cat who loved to drink water from the tree stand. Nothing we could do prevented him from using the tree stand as his personal watering hole. He didn't have an after effects, but some say that pine sap in the water can make cats sick. To keep cats from drinking from the tree stand, place aluminum foil around the top.

Now about tree skirts...cats love them. I don't know why. My husband bought a gorgeous tree skirt for our first Christmas together as a married couple. It was golden satin and brocade and had beautiful snowflakes on it. My cat peed it up like nobody's business. Her litter box was clean, and the vet said she was fine. She just loved to pee on it.

I had to throw it out. We bought a new tree skirt. Blue velvet. Snowflakes. Gorgeous. Not as nice as the golden one, but okay, it will do.

She peed that one too.

We ended up using an old green towel and bath mat as a tree skirt. At least when she eventually peed that one, we could throw it in the washing machine.

Lesson learned: Sometimes, you can train a cat away from something. Sometimes, your cat's going to do what cats do, with no logical explanation. Go with it. Sometimes the cats make us adapt to them, rather than the other way around.

P.S.:  That cat has since crossed the Rainbow Bridge at the ripe age of 18. Our new cadre of cats doesn't pee the tree skirt. Genghis, however, loves to burrow under it. It's now harmful but it is a little disconcerting to see your tree skirt suddenly...move.


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