For the first time in almost 20 years, there are cats living under my roof again. Actually, they are kittens. And they're eyeing the Christmas tree we brought home over the weekend with equal parts wide-eyed wonder and mischievous delight. To keep the peace — and maintain my sanity — I looked up a few tips on helping cats and Christmas trees co-exist. Here are some that have worked for us:
1. Choose your tree wisely. If you think your kitty is likely to climb and knock over the tree, pick a smaller tree this year that will cause less damage when toppled. Or the best Christmas tree for cats might be a small tabletop tree that can be closed off in another room when the kitties are out and about. If you're worried that your cat might eat the Christmas tree, then consider an artificial tree. The Pet Poison Helpline gets lots of questions about whether Christmas trees are poisonous to cats and dogs. One big concern is that pets can ingest sap, tree water or pine needles, any of which can trigger nausea, vomiting, skin irritation or stomach injury.
2. Put up road blocks. Depending upon the size of your tree — and your kitten — you may be able to put obstacles in place that will keep your cat out of the Christmas tree. Remove chairs and tables that might serve as a launching pad to help your cat jump higher into the tree. And try wrapping the tree base with aluminum foil because most cats don't like to dig their nails into this.
3. Spray some stink. There are a number of spray repellents you can use to keep cats away from your tree. We have been using Bitter Apple spray with some success. Other choices include citronella or citrus oils sprayed directly on the tree, or a diluted vinegar solution sprayed on the tree's base. These all can work as Christmas tree cat repellents.
4. Decorate judiciously. It won't matter how much stink you spray on your tree, if it is covered with sparkly, dangly baubles, your cat will be hard-pressed to resist. For a more cat-friendly Christmas tree, don't hang any breakable or edible decorations on the lower half of the tree. And if possible, keep the lowest branches of the tree free from all ornaments and potential temptations. Skip the tinsel this year as cats will be far too tempted to eat it when it inevitably hits the ground.
5. Contain cords. Dangling electrical cords are an invitation for a kitty to play and bite. Tape cords to the wall from the outlet to the tree to keep them — and your cat — out of harm's way. And remember, for a cat-safe Christmas tree, don't forget to unplug lights when you are not at home.