Cat safe Christmas tree? Is there any other kind? I post this blog every year and — with Shadow-Pup now in the house, I’ve decided to try the Christmas tree this year for the first time in a couple of years.
If you plan to have a new pet under the tree, read this post on how to give pets as gifts. And if you have a shy kitty–well any cat for that matter–refer to this post about keeping cats calm during the holidays.
In the past, our old girl, Seren-Kitty, ignored the decorations and so did Magic. We were lucky that way—until Karma-Kat came along. Bravo-Dawg eggs him on, and the last time we put up a tree was quite an experience.
Karma turned the tree into a kitty jungle gym! And Bravo-Boy loved playing “tug” with branches. We’ll see how Shadow-Pup reacts. Meanwhile, here are my annual tips to help with YOUR tree, and you can read more about pet-safe holiday tips here.
CREATE A CAT SAFE CHRISTMAS TREE
Karma considers the Christmas tree to be an early holiday gift. Many pets can’t resist the urge to sniff, claw, water—and Karma thinks it’s great fun to scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. I don’t blame him. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society, and dogs may want to “mark” the convenient indoor doggy signpost. He’s so heavy, though, that high treetop shenanigans aren’t in the cards.
Our tree has bunches of red and white silk rosebuds, a string of “pearls” and some cat-safe sparkly but prickly décor that doesn’t appeal to Karma. We also offer him treat-filled puzzle toys placed well away from the tree so other spots in the house are more appealing.
WHY CATS LOVE THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Kitty can’t resist the urge to sniff, cheek rub, claw—and scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. Don’t blame your cat. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society.
Youngsters won’t care about social standing, but high energy kitten play turns the holiday tree into a jungle gym. Tree encounters of the kitty kind not only risk breaking your heirloom ornaments, your furred family members can be injured by chewing or swallow dangerous items. Read about pet proofing your holidays here. Rather than fight a losing battle to keep cats at bay, create a second cat-safe tree with these 12 tips, so the fur-kids can enjoy the holidays as much as you do.
12 TIPS FOR A CAT SAFE CHRISTMAS TREE
- Put yourself in your cat’s “paws.” Satisfy her desire to claw, lounge on branches, and trust that it won’t tip over under her assault. Match the tree size, sturdiness, base (perhaps add guy-wires for steadiness) to the activity level and number of cats.
- Ditch the lights, and any “fake-snow” flocking that can be chewed or swallowed. Instead, decorate with cotton balls or pillow-stuffing fleece for that snowy look on branches or around the base. If you’ve chosen a real tree, water with plain water and no additives in case kitty decides to drink.
- Strings and garland look great on the tree, but prove deadly inside a cat when swallowed. Dried flowers like baby’s breath look lovely and are nontoxic even if clueless kittens nibble.
If you don’t mind your cats turning the tree into a jungle gym, insert a few sprigs of dried catnip—but be prepared for the cats to dismantle the tree!
- Catnip toys make great kitty tree decorations and won’t be destroyed during the feline assaults. Use “orphan” socks (singletons without a mate), fill with the ‘nip, and knot the open end.
- Jingle bells (quarter size or larger) can’t be swallowed and offer movement and sound when hung from ribbon on a branch. Put one inside the sealed catnip sock for more jingly fun.
- Furry toy mice come in bright colors—or go with a standard white theme—and can be placed in the branches for your mouse-aholic feline.
- Craft stores offer inexpensive bags filled with soft pompoms in a variety of colors and sizes—even sparkly ones. Cats love to play with these. Pompoms are so cheap you can fill the branches with one color theme, or a rainbow approach.
- Many cats adore feathers but remember they can chew and swallow these. As long as supervised, a few feathers placed in the tree can be a fun accent as well. How about a bright feather boa instead of garland?
- Small stuffed toys—kitty theme or otherwise—appeal to many cats. Place around the base of the tree. Feline puzzle toys filled with special treats also are fun.
- Don’t forget the “cheap thrills.” Empty boxes, wads of holiday paper, and even paper shopping bags thrill cats. Remove bag handles so the cat won’t get hung around her neck.
Toss a few special kitty treats in the boxes or bags. The smellier the treat, the better cats like them.
Be prepared to re-decorate the tree after the cats have fun. But a “Cat-mas” tree not only answers your kitty’s Santa Paws prayers, it means she’ll be more likely to leave your formal tree and decorations alone. That promotes a merry Christmas for the whole family, furry and otherwise.
Here’s Karma-Kat’s first tree experience…hoo boy!
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!