Please note: Be aware that anything that alters your cat’s environment, including your Christmas tree and decorations, may frighten or stress your cat. It may not be a good idea to further stress your cat by adding an aversive scent to the tree as the following article suggests. Cats are very sensitive to smells, so if your living scape is small, do not use an aversive scent. Cats who are stressed may exhibit problematic behaviors such as urine spaying and clawing furniture, so it is best to protect your cat from stress. Please be careful to keep ribbon, string and tinsel away from all pets because they damage the intestinal tract if swallowed and the damage can be deadly.
If you have a cat, you don’t need us to tell you how challenging it can be to keep your cat out of restricted areas of the house. Cats are curious little animals. So, even though you have set up a nice little perimeter around the Christmas tree to keep small creatures out, cats have a way of squeezing their bodies through anyway -- or leaping over the obstacles. What can be done, short of hanging the tree from the ceiling?
We have compiled a list of suggestions based on the experiences of other cat owners for preventing injury to cat and tree, so that you don’t have to give up on the idea of having a twinkling piece of nature in your living room this holiday season.
There has been some anecdotal evidence that citrus oils are repellant to cats and that orange peels or cotton balls soaked in citronella and placed under the tree will keep them away (Ed. Note: It's best to keep all of these items out of your cat's reach). Other solutions you can try include a diluted vinegar solution sprayed onto the base of the tree, hot sauce, or camphor -- all of which are distasteful to cats.
There are also some commercial products that are made especially for the purpose of repelling cats. Keep in mind, however, that the problem with using sprays and solutions is that the repellent scent will eventually fade and will need to be reapplied regularly, or the cat will become accustomed to the scent and overcome its aversion to the product. You may need to try several types of repellents before you find one that is effective.
You can surround the tree with a barricade or objects that will prevent the cat from going under the tree and climbing into it, but unfortunately, this will not stop aerial attacks. Try tin foil or double-sided tape, materials cats cannot dig their claws into, around the bottom of the tree. This will work with some cats. You might also try making loud noises when you see your cat getting too close to the tree and this may deter the cat.
When choosing the type of tree stand you will use, try to find one that has a covered water reservoir, or use something -- like aluminum foil or plastic wrap, to cover the reservoir so your cat cannot get into the water. Before you begin decorating the tree with shiny baubles and fragile ornaments, allow your cat to become accustomed to the curious new greenery in the room.
There are ways to increase the tree’s stability. You can try tethering the tree to the wall or ceiling using fishing line and hooks. First, place the tree in a location that is separate from other furniture. Place the sturdier ornaments -- the ones most likely to be swatted by little paws -- on the lowest branches, and on the higher branches, place your more fragile ornaments. Using wire hangers (the type made for hanging ornaments), make sure to close the end of the hook so that the ornament cannot slip off, and on the other end of the hook, where it hangs on the branch, close the hook tightly around the branch so that it cannot fall off if the tree moves or if the ornament is somehow swatted at.
Lights placed on the tree should be unplugged at night, and when they are plugged in, check them periodically to make sure they do not have any frayed or otherwise damaged areas, which occurs when cats chew on the wiring. Electric shock is a common holiday mishap for just this reason, so if your cat begins to drool or shows any signs of mental or physical impairment, check the wires immediately and get medical care for your cat if you believe it may be suffering from electric shock.
Another major hazard is tinsel and angel hair. For a lot of people, these little strings of silver are a traditional holiday decoration and difficult to give up, but if you are a cat owner, giving tinsel up is will be required if you want to stay out of the veterinary emergency room. Another common and preventable holiday danger is ingested tinsel, which, when ingested, will lead to fatal intestinal obstructions and/or choking. You will need to avoid the edible ornamentation as well. This includes popcorn strings, cookies, and candy canes.
Don't Worry, Be Happy
But don’t let any of these precautions bring you down. Remember, this is a happy time of year. There are plenty of decorations you can use to cheer up the home that won’t break, and won’t choke, poison, or electrocute your cat. What’s most important is being with the ones you love most, and if you count your cat amongst those that you love, you’ll see that you won’t miss the other stuff at all.