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The Ugly Truth About Cats and Christmas Trees Plus More Holiday Tips

The Ugly Truth About Cats and Christmas Trees Plus More Holiday Tips

Deck the Paws: Cat-Proofing Your Christmas Tree for a Safe Celebration

Yes, there are inherent difficulties between holiday wants from a human perspective and the natural needs of cats. But all is not Scrooged as long as you think creatively and...wait for it...COMPROMISE! Happy (and safe) holidays, #teamcatmojo!

For those who celebrate Christmas, the Christmas tree is an important part of the season: many people can’t imagine the holidays without the scent of pine, twinkling lights, and the festive ambiance that a decorated tree brings to your home! But for cat guardians, Christmas trees can be a dangerous liability. From toxic sappy tree water and sharp pine needles that can seriously injure your cat if ingested, the challenges are real! 

Why does my cat go into the Christmas tree?

Before we get started, let’s get a few things out of the way:

  1. Cats are designed to jump, climb, and hunt. These instincts are part of what I call the Raw Cat - the wild ancestral cat that lives inside your cat’s brain, informing everything they do.
  2. Don’t put a tree in the middle of your home and expect your cat to ignore it. It’s just not how they’re wired! 
  3. Every “No!” needs a “Yes!” If you want to deter your cat from doing something, provide an appealing alternative.

Now that we’re all on the same page, read on for my best tips to ensure a safe and festive holiday season for you and your feline family! 

Are Christmas trees safe for cats?

Christmas trees can pose various dangers to cats due to their innate curiosity and climbing instincts. One major risk is presented by the pine needles, which are sharp and can easily cause injury if ingested. The water in the tree stand is toxic if ingested by cats, resulting in digestive issues or even more severe health complications.

Cats may also be enticed to play with and bat at delicate ornaments, leading to breakage and potential harm from sharp edges or swallowed pieces. Additionally, the electrical wires powering festive lights are attractive to cats, posing a risk of electrocution or injury if chewed on. 

The act of climbing the tree itself introduces the possibility of toppling, creating a hazardous situation for both the cat and your festivities! To mitigate these risks, it's crucial for cat guardians to implement preventive measures and closely supervise their animal family during the holiday season.

What Christmas tree ornaments are suitable for cats?

To safeguard your fragile and potentially hazardous decorations, especially those that shatter into pieces, keep lights and ornaments tied up tightly to the Christmas tree branches, avoiding loose dangling temptations. Remember, to a cat, a "dangling shiny thing" is synonymous with a "cat toy” - so choose your ornaments wisely! Avoid highly reflective ornaments and opt for wooden or plastic alternatives to minimize breakage. For an extra deterrent, tie plastic baggies filled with orange or lemon peels around the tree's base (cats hate the smell of citrus!). You should also use a tree skirt or cover over the base to prevent your cat from drinking the toxic sappy water.

Use anchors and deterrents to stop your cat from pulling down the tree

Prevent tree-related disasters by anchoring it securely to the wall or ceiling. Use double-sided tape to create a cat-friendly barrier around the tree perimeter and presents. Motion-activated air blasters strategically placed can gently deter your cat from getting too close.

Say yes to the Catmas tree

Embrace my No/Yes philosophy by creating a designated cat-friendly zone. Set up a new cat condo (a “Catmas Tree”, if you will!) with fresh beds, treats, and cat toy “ornaments” near the Christmas tree. This allows your cat to be part of the festive action without disrupting the main tree. Just make sure to place the Catmas tree far enough away so your cat isn’t tempted to jump onto your Christmas tree! 

Consider a fake tree: a cat-safe alternative

A fake tree can significantly reduce potential dangers associated with real ones. Capture the holiday vibes by using candles or incense with pine scents. This alternative eliminates the risks associated with real trees, ensuring a safe and enjoyable holiday for both you and your furry friends!

Other Holiday Hazards

Holiday Plants

Beware that many holiday plants (including holly, mistletoe, poinsettia) are toxic to cats.


Remember to always monitor open flames like candles or fireplaces. I've known cats to either swat a candle over, or accidentally light their tails on fire when they walked by!


Holiday candy is human candy.  For example, chocolate can be lethal to cats so be sure to keep a close eye on your treats to make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands (or paws!).


Cats get into Christmas trees and will sometimes chew the wires for the lights. You can treat the wires with substances like "Bitter Apple." Also. use any of my suggestions for keeping them away from the tree in general OR don't use electric lights.

Also, there are products like LUME where you can feed electric cords through them from the tree to the outlet and your cats won't be able to chew through it.

Don't forget: always turn off your tree, put out your candles, and incense when you can't supervise.

How to have a happy holiday with your cat

In the spirit of holiday diplomacy between humans and cats, understanding your feline companion's instincts is key. Millions of years of evolution have ingrained cats with certain behaviors that, while destructive to you, are integral to their mojo. Instead of fighting a losing battle against those instincts, embrace cats for who they are and tweak your holiday traditions accordingly! With a little planning, you CAN have a festive and safe holiday season filled with light, love, and Cat Mojo!

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