Keeping Your Cat Out Of The Tree

Happy Holidays! This season brings so much joy, from the festive decorations to the heartwarming cards and photos we receive from our clients. Our furry patients, Fido and Fluffy, look absolutely adorable posing in front of a beautifully adorned tree. However, cats and Christmas trees can be a dangerous combination! Remember that Fluffy is by nature a predator, and an opportunistic one at that. Add that to the fact that most of our feline pals can’t resist shiny things, and you can pretty much count on your kitty getting excited—and very often, over excited— about the tree. In this article, a Marin County, CA vet shares some helpful tips on keeping your feline companion away from your tree.

What Is The Best Way To Get My Cat To Leave My Christmas Tree Alone?

Fluffy usually trains her humans, rather than it being the other way around. Your feline companion may already have you wrapped around her paw! However, you can–and should–teach your furry friend what is and is not acceptable behavior. A multi-pronged approach is best. In addition to training your pet to behave, you’ll also want to take steps to make the tree less interesting and distract her with other amusements.

Why Is My Cat Obsessed With My Christmas Tree?

At this time of year, quite a few of our patients make Santa’s naughty list for their shenanigans. But to be fair, we really can’t fault Fluffy for her obsession with trees. After all, kitties are more or less hardwired to climb trees. In the wild, cats use trees as lookouts, napping spots, and nail care stations. They also run up trees to escape weather, floods, or, in some cases, animals. There’s also the fact that our feline buddies clearly enjoy looking down at their kingdoms with that cute, smug look they do so well. Add shiny ornaments, which your pet probably sees as toys, and kitty mischief is a given.

What Are The Dangers Of Christmas Trees For Cats?

Christmas trees probably aren’t the most dangerous thing in your house.  However, there are some safety risks. The ornaments can present both choking and strangulation hazards. Anything small or sharp is in general a safety concern. Stringy or ropy items are also dangerous. Your kitty could also be seriously injured if she brings the tree down. With real trees, the needles and water can also be unsafe. The water may contain traces of chemicals, while the needles can cause gastrointestinal upset and even blockages if ingested. Tinsel, ropes, strings, and lights also pose strangulation and choking risks. For more information on household and holiday hazards, speak to your Marin County, CA veterinarian.

Is It Okay To Punish My Cat For Climbing The Christmas Tree?

We understand the frustration of coming home to find your feline buddy has toppled the Christmas tree, and maybe even broken a few precious ornaments. However, punishing your pet is not a solution. Scratching and climbing are natural instincts for kitties, so Fluffy won’t comprehend why she’s being scolded. In fact, this may cause confusion and feelings of insecurity, which can in turn lead to other behavioral issues, such as anxiety or aggression. It’s best to use gentle methods instead. Focus on rewarding your furry friend for behaving properly, and redirect her play behavior to more appropriate targets, like that new catnip mouse you just got her. Consult your Marin County, CA veterinarian for additional advice on caring for your cat and managing their behavior.

How Can I Keep My Cat Out Of The Tree?

The key is to make your furry companion cautious around the tree, without scaring her. The goal is to startle or irritate your pet, not frighten or harm them. When Fluffy approaches the tree, try making a loud noise. You can try banging two pots together, rattling change in a jar, or using an alarm app on your phone. Alternatively, you could stomp your foot, set off an air horn, or activate that singing snowman figurine your aunt bought you. Normally, we’d also suggest using a squirt bottle to spray your pet with water. That’s bound to annoy her, but won’t actually hurt her. However, you probably don’t want to squirt the tree: it may damage your Christmas tree and presents, and may also pose a fire risk, due to the electrical outlets used for lights.

How Do I Make The Tree Less Appealing To My Cat?

Ideally, you should only have a few ornaments within paws’ reach, which is usually about the lower third of the tree. These ornaments should all be dull, and unbreakable. A fabric reindeer or plastic snowman will probably survive being knocked down. All ornaments, including anything sharp, shiny, or fragile, should be placed near the top of the tree.

Alternatively, you can position the tree in a way that makes it difficult for your cat to reach. Corners are good spots. Avoid placing the tree too close to sofas, desks, or chairs: it’s very easy for cats to use these things as kitty springboards.

Cats don’t like the smell of citrus, so lemon or orange flavored scent deterrents may also help here. You may need to reapply them regularly, though.

Real trees are beautiful and smell great, but there are a few downsides here, too: they’re expensive, cumbersome, and, well, a bit wasteful. Consider getting an artificial tree. Your feline friend won’t have much luck climbing wire trunks and branches! You also won’t have to worry about Fluffy drinking the water. Tree water is often tainted with chemicals, including pesticides and fire retardants. This poses a danger to pets, as some may drink that water.

What Can I Do To Make My Cat Lose Interest In The Tree?

It is hard to make our feline overlords do anything: Fluffy is known for doing what she wants, when she wants. Bribery is usually a better tactic. Play with your pet a few times a day. Don’t forget to put a few things in Fluffy’s stocking! You may even want to give her some toys early. The point is to tire your cat out by burning off those zoomies. Everybody knows what happens when a kitty gets tired: naptime!

Tip: Cat towers are a great kitty alternative to actual trees. If Fluffy doesn’t already have one, consider buying or making her one for her gift this year.

What Can I Do To Prevent My Cat From Knocking Down My Tree?

The tree may need to be reinforced a bit. You can attach the tree top to a wall or ceiling with clear fishing line, which won’t show at all, but may be just enough to prevent a crash. Getting a tree with a sturdy base is also recommended.

Fluffy’s natural frisky streak will be on full display this month. Using the tips in this article may help you keep your kitty from knocking over your tree during the holidays. Keep this in mind when decorating.

As your Marin County, CA veterinary clinic, we wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season. Please contact us for all of your pet’s veterinary care needs!

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