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How to Keep Kitty Out of the Christmas Tree

The arrival of the Christmas tree is a big event for Kitty.  Life was bordering on “ho hum” before you brought this wonderful piece of the great outdoors inside.  From the feline point of view this is definitely one of the most thoughtful gifts you have bestowed on your well-deserving companion.  And if the tree wasn’t enough, you so thoughtfully added all those sparkly and dangly toys from its branches!  Now… how do you break the news to Kitty that the tree is really not for him?

First of all, this is the time to present Kitty with all the gifts that you were planning to save for December 25th.  Of course, if one of those just happens to be a floor-to-ceiling cat tree, your troubles are over.  Let’s face it, part of being a cat includes the drive to be up high.  It gives Kitty a feeling of security and domination that is so essential to the feline psyche.  A few well-made catnip toys and some interactive play with a new fishing pole toy will also help to compensate Kitty for what he is not getting.  Be sure that your cat has a tall, sturdy, sisal scratching post to which he can direct his instinctive scratching behaviors.

For the safety of the cat, the ornaments, and your household, be sure the tree is stable and cannot be tipped.  A heavy tree stand will help but it is also wise to screw a hook into the ceiling and attach a string from the hook to the tree top in case Kitty makes a leap for the tree when you are not looking.  The ornaments on the bottom branches should be tied on, not hung (green twist ties work well) and they should be unbreakable.  Remember that pets love to drink the water out of the tree stand, so don’t so don’t add any preservatives that could be harmful to your furry family members. 

In order to maintain that holiday spirit of peace and goodwill it is important to devise remote corrections to keep Kitty out of trouble.  This means that the environment, not you, tells Kitty to stay away from the tree.  Direct corrections (yelling or squirting with a water bottle) only teach the cat “owner absent” behavior.  These methods can be confusing and frightening to the cat and the added stress may result in other behavioral problems such as housesoiling.

The following is a list of tips that Cats International has collected to keep Kitty from spoiling the season’s atmosphere of peace and good will

  • Spray an indoor cat repellent such as B’Have, KeepAway or Boundary on the tree before decorating it.  This is most effective with artificial trees.
  • Remember that cats can launch an attack on the tree from chairs, tables and other furniture pieces, so keep these potential launching pads far from the tree.
  • Hang lemon or pine scented air fresheners from several of the low branches (most cats find perfumes repelling).
  • Sound deterrents are highly effective with some cats.  A mini-motion detector with an alarm chime sold at Radio Shack works well to keep cats from forbidden areas.
  • SSSCAT is an aerosol can with a motion detector on it.  A blast of air is highly effective at persuading Kitty to look elsewhere for fun.
  • Contech, the maker of the Scat Mat, offers mats that can circle the Christmas tree.  The mats emit safe, electrostatic pulses that are uncomfortable to pets.  The mats can be ordered by calling
  • 800-767-58.

Of course, the obvious solution to keeping Kitty out of the Christmas tree is to put the tree in a room that can be closed off but then that would spoil the fun of trying to outmaneuver Kitty, wouldn’t it?

Keep the Holidays Safe—Be Alert to These Hazards

  • Some holiday plants are toxic to cats including amaryllis, Christmas rose, holly and mistletoe.  Poinsettias can be orally irritating, but are not considered dangerous.  If in doubt about a plant’s toxicity, contact your veterinarian .
  • Tinsel, foil, cellophane strands, string, ribbon and yarn can all be deadly to cats.  Once in their mouths, the backward-pointing barbs on the tongue make it difficult to expel these items.  If you see the end of a swallowed string, do not try to pull it out.  Pulling the string may cause the swallowed portion of the string to cut the cat’s internal organs.  Rush the cat immediately to the veterinarian.
  • Cat toys containing glued-on decorations, bells, strings or eyes made from tacks (commonly found on the popular real-fur mice) should be stripped from these hazards before giving them to your cat.
  • Dangling electrical cords can be an invitation to play—especially for a kitten.  Tape the cords to the wall from the socket to the tree or purchase cord covers from Radio Shack.  Unplug the lights when you plan to be away from home.
  • Candle flames are fascinating to many cats.  While they are investigating the flame, they may be singeing their fur or knocking over the candle..  Put candles on unreachable shelves and just to be safe, anchor them well.
  • Don’t give the left-over turkey carcass to your pets.  The meat is a nice treat but cooked bones are brittle and can cut your cat’s insides.  When you throw away the bones, take them directly outside and place them in a covered trash can.

The holidays can be fun for your cat but they can be stressful too.  Provide a quiet place for Kitty with all his necessities for times when the household is too hectic.  Plan to take a few minutes every so often to cuddle and stroke your cat.  You both will be happier and more relaxed this holiday season.


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