Pet Talk: Cats and Christmas Tree Safety

Q: We have two cats. One is older and pretty mellow. The other one is less than a year and into everything. With Christmas right around the corner I am worried about putting up a tree with the younger kitty and wondering if we even should. Do you have any suggestions to keep him away from it? I would hate not to have a tree. Thanks.

A: I can certainly understand your concern having a kitten and putting up a Christmas tree, but there are some things you can do to deter him from exploring the tree and if curiosity gets the best of him, things you can do to make it safer for him to be around the tree.

After bringing in the tree, spray the needles with a commercial anti-chew repellent, which sometimes stops cats from exploring or chewing on a tree. The repellent scent will eventually fade and will need to be reapplied regularly, but be sure to have the lights unplugged when spraying. You may need to try several types before you find one that is effective.

Cats hate the scent of oranges, so you could try keeping orange peels under the tree skirt to repel him, changing them every few days.

There are different products on the market to deter cats. You may wish to use a Tattle Tale, which emits a loud noise when a pet gets near a forbidden area. Another product is called Ssscat, which is motion activated and emits a startling harmless spray as a deterrent. There is a product called the Christmas Tree Defender, which prevents a cat from climbing up the tree from the bottom.

When choosing a location for the tree, a corner is a safer choice, just make sure there isn’t a table or piece of furniture too close that your kitty can use as a launch pad to get himself onto the tree.

Get a heavy-duty tree stand that can easily manage the weight and height of the tree even if your kitten attempts to scale it. You can also increase the tree’s stability by tethering it to the wall or ceiling.

Spray kitty repellent on the entire length of the Christmas tree light wires. Run the light chords leading from the tree to the outlet through plastic conduits. Wrap the lights tightly around the branches to limit any dangling wires to entice your feline.

Routinely check any exposed electrical chord for signs of teeth marks or breaks in the rubber covering.

Additionally examine your kitten, especially if he has shown interest in the tree. Check his mouth for signs of burns. Look for singed hair or whiskers. If you suspect your cat has been chewing on the Christmas tree lights, get him to the veterinarian because some internal damage may have occurred which isn’t visually obvious.

Turn the lights on only when at least one responsible adult is home to supervise the cat and always unplug them when you’re not at home or when going to bed.

Keep the bottom of the tree fairly empty. Low-hanging ornaments are likely to end up on the ground. Try to stick with shatterproof ornaments, or at least restrict breakable items to the top of the tree.

Avoid using tinsel which can be ingested and cause intestinal problems.

If you decide to put up a tree I hope some of my suggestions help with keeping your kitty safe and away from the tree.


Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].

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