Whoever wrote “not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…” probably didn’t live with a cat. Especially not a cat who has taken a particular interest in the Christmas tree, climbed up into it, and knocked it over at three in the morning!
The holiday season is a time of joy, good cheer, and happiness. For cats, it’s also one of interesting (and sometimes dangerous) things to explore, climb, and chew on.
A relaxing holiday season isn’t out of reach, though! (At least, as regards the cats.) With preparation, you can help everyone have an enjoyable and safe holiday.
If you have a cat, should you choose a real tree or an artificial tree?
Both real and artificial trees pose a risk for cats who like to chew. A cat munching on plastic or real needles risks stomach upset, vomiting, or even an obstruction.
If your cat gets tree resin (the thick, clear, sticky substance produced by coniferous trees) on their fur, or ingests it while grooming, they could experience skin irritation or stomach upset.
If you choose a real tree, cover the water basin so your cats can’t get into it. Tree water is stagnant and may harbor bacteria, tree oils, tree resin, or fertilizers. This can lead to mouth irritation, excessive drooling, and vomiting. Cover the basin itself in tin foil, then arrange the tree skirt over the water.
If you don’t mind having your tree up a couple of extra days, try putting it up a little early without decorations. Many cats will explore for a bit, discover it’s not particularly interesting, and leave it alone after that. If your cat is particularly curious, you can also redirect them away from the tree when they show interest. Make sure to offer lots of praise and a treat when kitty chooses their own cat tree over your holiday tree!
A tangle with the tree can result in injuries to your cat. When choosing a location for your tree, stand back and take a look at what’s nearby. A corner location with a nearby anchor point is ideal. Removable hooks, like those manufactured by 3M can be discreetly installed. Wrap fishing line around the trunk and securely tie it on a hook on each side of the tree. Make sure the fishing line doesn’t have any dangling bits to play with or chew on.
Wide, heavy tree stand bases will also help prevent a falling tree, a howling cat, and flying decorations. If your tree stand is not particularly sturdy, a weighted bean bag or two laid across the legs can help provide stability.
Lastly, keep an eye out for “launch pad” situations. Nearby surfaces or platforms, like bookshelves, mantles, or large furniture, are a tempting place to jump from, and even a well-balanced or carefully anchored tree might struggle to stay upright when 10 pounds of flying furball land on its branches.
When it’s time to decorate for the holidays, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Lastly, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Consider shutting your cat out of the Christmas tree room when you’re not at home. Even a quiet, mild-mannered cat can be tempted!
If your cat just can’t resist the lure of the tree, consider these alternatives:
A small tabletop tree
Tree-shaped vinyl wall decals
Many little details make the holiday season magical, but they can also pose a risk of injury or illness to your cat.
With a bit of planning and vigilance, you can ensure that everyone in your family, from felines to your favourite cousin, have a safe, enjoyable holiday season.
This article was reviewed by a Cat Healthy feline specialist veterinarian.