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How to Keep Your Cat Out of the Christmas Tree

Each holiday season, you often hear about cats getting into trouble with Christmas trees. Cats are naturally curious, and a real or artificial tree decorated with shiny objects is just the thing they want to investigate… and climb, and chew on, and possibly attack. It's more than an annoyance - traditional Christmas trees can pose a real danger to cats. Try these simple tricks to keep your cat, and your Christmas tree, safe.

Be Aware of the Dangers

Christmas trees and decorations can pose some dangers to your cat. The water reservoir for a live Christmas tree is harmful for cats to drink. Sap, resin and needles of pine or fir trees are also poisonous to pets. Tinsel is particularly hazardous to cats because it can cause bowel obstruction if ingested. And it’s likely the ingredients of edible ornaments aren’t safe for your cat to eat.

Learning how to keep your cat out of the Christmas tree is important not only because of the inconvenience of a tipped over tree and broken ornaments, but also for the safety of your cat. Consider these tips and tricks to help you both have a happier, safer, holiday.

TRY THESE TIPS TO KEEP YOUR CAT OUT OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE

SECURE THE CHRISTMAS TREE

Make sure you have strong and steady support for your tree. A stable base is less likely to tip over if your cat manages to climb it. Also consider using a wire near the top to anchor your tree to the wall.

Delay, Distract & Redirect Attention

After setting up your tree, don’t decorate it right away. Just having a tree in the house is a big event from your cat’s point of view! Let them get used to it (and hopefully a bit bored with it) before adding lights and ornaments.

Distract your cat from a tempting tree by pulling out their favorite toy or getting them a new one. Keep a scratching post in the same room (away from the tree) and sprinkle it with catnip to make it more enticing.

Make sure to give your cat plenty of playtime and enrichment, even if your schedule feels busier than ever. A bored cat with energy to burn is much more likely to cause mischief.When you notice your cat behaving (or about to behave) unsafely around the tree, use a wand or teaser toy to lure them away. Reward them with a treat and some playtime after they move away from the tree. For bonus points, use a clicker and a verbal command to cement the training. You can learn more about clicker training for cats in this article.

COVER THE WATER

Attach a piece of cardboard over the water basin to prevent your cat from drinking the water. The stagnant water can contain harmful bacteria, and any water additives used to extend your tree’s freshness are also harmful to pets.

Prevent Pine Poisoning

Pine oil is toxic to cats, and your cat may accidentally eat pine sap if it gets on their coat while climbing. Pine needles can also puncture internal organs if eaten. Sweep often and keep your cat away from the boughs, or get an artificial tree.

TRY A REPELLENT

Spray repellents made with citrus or citronella are often distasteful to cats. Some people also have success with putting fresh lemon or orange peels around the base of the Christmas tree (they will need to be replaced every few days.) You can also spray pine cones with citrus scent and place them around the base of the tree. While this doesn’t always work with all cats, it may be worth a try. If you use a repellent, make sure it’s focused on the tree (don’t just spray it around). You can also put repellent on a rag before applying to specific surfaces.

WRAP THE BASE

Wrap the base of the tree trunk, and the entire base of the tree, with aluminum foil. Most cats don’t like the sound or feel of foil so it may deter them from trying to climb the Christmas tree from underneath.

WRAP THE LIGHTS

Your cat may try to play with dangling wires or cords. Wrap lights fairly tightly around branches and the trunk so they don’t hang, and use pet-proof cord covers on the cords that run from the tree to the outlet. Battery-operated LED string lights can help control cord chaos. No matter which kind you choose, unplug or turn them off when your cat’s home alone with the tree.

DECORATE THOUGHTFULLY

Don’t hang your breakable, sparkly ornaments on the bottom of the Christmas tree—that’s just too much temptation for most cats! You may even want to consider not putting any ornaments on the lowest branches. Avoid ornaments that are similar to any of your cat’s toys, or animated ornaments that move. Use wire to fasten ornaments securely so they can’t be swatted down, and don’t decorate the tree with anything edible. Tinsel is a serious hazard for cats because it can cause blockages if swallowed –  keep tinsel completely inaccessible or skip it. Finally, put some jingle bells on the ends of branches so you can hear when your cat is prowling around the tree.

CONSIDER LOCATION

Put your Christmas tree in the corner or a location away from furniture that could serve as a launching pad for your cat to jump into the tree.  Sometimes an indoor cat fence or baby gate can also keep your cat away from the tree.

Cat Training Tips for Christmas Tree Safety

Training your cat to steer clear of the Christmas tree works like any other type of cat training: positive reinforcement is the way to go, and consistency is key.

Never punish your cat for bad behavior. Your cat won’t learn what you want it to do, and punishment can teach your cat to fear or avoid you.

Get a clicker, a clicky pen, or an app. When your cat does what you want (in this case, leave the tree alone), make the clicking sound and follow it up with their favorite treat. A treat could also be a small amount of their favorite wet food with Magical Dinner Dust, or a small piece of a cat-safe safe human food your cat loves.

Pay attention and act quickly. Cats are very much “in the moment.” If the click and the reward don’t happen immediately, your cat won’t make the connection.

Withhold treats unless they’re a reward for the desired behavior. And if your clever cat is earning lots of training treats, adjust their daily food intake to account for the extra calories.

Explore natural raw (and raw inspired) cat foods below, or learn more about keeping your pets safe during the holidays.

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