The holiday season is full of fun, joy, and love, and it's only natural to want to share the experience with our furry family too. However, if you're the pet parent of a cat or two, the season might bring some worries and frustration with it too. After all, cats seem to love Christmas trees and other festive decorations. Not only is it a pain to be redecorating the tree multiple times a day, but seasonal decorations can also be dangerous for our feline friends. Let’s find out more from the BetterVet team about how to keep your kitty safe this Christmas.
What Risks do Christmas Trees Pose to Cats?
Christmas trees might look nice, but they can be a serious risk to your cat’s health. Tinsel and other strings or garlands look like good fun to your cat, but if they swallow them they can cause a blockage in their guts. This type of blockage can cause your cat’s intestines to collapse as the peristalsis tries to move the foreign material. If immediate veterinary help isn’t sought, the intestines could rupture and cause a life-threatening infection.
It's not just tinsel that's a problem, though. Baubles and other hanging decorations can seem like shiny balls to a cat, but they can break and cause injuries. Electrical lights are another hazard because chewed cables might cause burns or even electrocution.
Even if your Christmas tree was just a bare tree, it would still be a risk to your cat. If your cat climbs the tree, they could fall and injure themselves, and if it’s a real tree, the stagnant water could make them sick if they drink it.
How to Cat-Proof the Christmas Tree
It’s impossible to make your Christmas tree completely safe, but if you want to enjoy the holiday season with your pet, here are some tips that might help:
Keep Decorations High
Although it’s unlikely to stop your cat if they’re persistent, keeping baubles, lights and other decorations as high on the tree as possible might dissuade more cautious or elderly cats from interfering!
Avoid Tinsel and Garlands
Tinsel and string can cause life-threatening issues within your cat’s gut. They often require surgery to remove the material, and if their gut is damaged, a section of it might have to be removed. Therefore, avoiding this type of Christmas decoration might be a more sensible option.
Use Pet-Safe Decorations
On the subject of safe decorations, it’s a good idea to avoid anything that closely resembles a cat toy, as well as decorations that might break or shatter.
Keep Your Tree Secure
To avoid your tree falling over and injuring your cat, try to secure it as much as possible. You may be able to attach it to the wall or ceiling or use as wide a base as possible.
Avoid Lights if Possible
Lights seem like a crucial part of a Christmas tree, but if you can leave them off the tree, your cat will be safer. If not, make sure you get the lights checked annually to make sure they’re not a fire risk, and unplug them overnight and when you leave the house.
You should never use a cat deterrent unless you are certain it is safe. Scat mats, sticky tape, and aluminum foil are some examples of safe options.
Provide Scratch Posts
Cats love scratching on bark, so why would a Christmas tree be any different? If your cat loves scratching on and climbing the tree, an extra scratch post or cat tree might offer them a safer alternative.
Have Plenty of Playtime
If your cat is bored, they’re far more likely to go venturing around the tree in search of fun. Make sure you spend lots of time interacting with them to take their attention away from the Christmas tree.
Get Expert Help
If nothing is working, why not speak to one of our veterinary professionals for advice? You can book a behavioral appointment if you follow this link.
What Can You Use Instead of a Christmas Tree?
If you feel able, there are many creative alternatives to a Christmas tree. Some people use a poster or picture of a Christmas tree on the wall and place their presents below it. Others use reclaimed wood planks on the wall forming shelves in the shape of a Christmas tree. If you look for ideas, you might feel inspired by a small paper Christmas tree or a minimalist tree sculpture. Whatever style you want for your home, you should be able to find something suitable.
Although it’s a shame to cut back on the festive decorations, an emergency vet visit for a sick or injured kitty could really ruin Christmas. Instead, try incorporating some of the tips above to cat-proof your Christmas tree and keep your cat safe so you can both enjoy the festive season.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you decorate for Christmas with cats?
If you’re a Christmas fanatic, you might be tempted to go all out with the decorations. However, if you have cats, it's best to avoid tinsel and fragile decorations and keep string lights to a minimum.
How do you keep the cat out of the Christmas tree?
It’s not easy to stop your cat from climbing the Christmas tree, and if they're really determined they'll do it anyway, so it's best to cat-proof the Christmas tree as much as possible. However, if you want to try to keep them away, try using orange peel (although the strong smell may be too much for your cat in a smaller space), aluminum foil, scat mats, sticky tape, or aluminum foil.
Can orange peels keep cats away from Christmas trees?
Orange peels are a safe way to discourage your cat from approaching the Christmas tree. Many cats don’t like the smell of citrus, but if the Christmas tree is enticing enough, the citrus might not be sufficient!