7 ways to cat-proof Christmas trees

cat-proof Christmas trees
(Image credit: Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash)

It's nearing the time of year where learning how to cat-proof Christmas trees is a crucial bit of knowledge that all cat-people should share amongst each other - for the sake of the cat, the owner, and Christmas itself. 

Most cats have a love/hate relationship with the seasonal decorations, and we all know that cats can be somewhat destructive when they put their mind to it. This means that a lot of cat owners may spend their yuletide period listening out for that tell-tale sound of smashing ornaments, tinsel being ripped off trees, or even worse, the creak and crash as your tree succumbs to the weight of a cat trying to climb it. Don't worry, we're here to help. 

We’ve scoured the internet to find solutions that have worked for others, and collected them all together in a quick guide to help you keep your Christmas tree and cat apart once and for all. Maybe if your cat can keep out of the tree and off the naughty list, they might find some of the top ten tech gifts for cats and dogs or the best Christmas cat toys waiting for them on Christmas morning!

Why do I need to cat-proof Christmas trees?

You may not have considered it, but you may need to cat-proof your Christmas trees. Sure, it's adorable to see your cat interested in a Christmas tree, peeking in through the branches, or batting around ornaments (just look at them all over Instagram (opens in new tab)!), but it could be dangerous. 

Your cat can get seriously injured by pulling a Christmas tree down on top of them, and they can get sick from eating pine and fir needles, fake snow, tinsel, or drinking the water that keeps live trees looking fresh. Cats may  also have an unhealthy fascination for tree lights, and can electrocute or burn themselves if they chew through them.

To avoid all these potential cat calamities, here are our seven top tips to keep your cat and Christmas tree apart this holiday season:

1. Location, location, location!

We know the Christmas tree is usually the centerpiece of your home at Christmas. However, if it it possible, keep your tree in a room which you can close off to your cat when you aren’t there to stop it attacking or climbing it. This will stop your cat investigating it without supervision and prevent midnight marauding. 

If your tree is small enough, and you have a way of securing it, putting it out of reach of your cat may make them lose interest. At the least, keep it away from shelves or surfaces your cat can jump from so they can’t leap on to it from above.

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Wherever you put it, ensure it isn’t easily pulled or pushed over by your pets by using a heavy solid base, and securing it to a wall with some wire to help keep it from being toppled over.

2. Use discouraging smells

Although lion dung is a highly recommended way to keep cats out of your garden, you probably don’t want that in your living room. Fortunately, there are some more pleasant smells that felines tend to dislike that you can use to keep cats away from your Christmas tree. 

First of all, there are shop-bought cat-deterrent sprays, which you can spray over your tree so your furry friend will turn its nose up at it. They are scented with smells designed to be unpleasant to cats, but not to people. There are also automatic sprays that only spray when they detect motion in a place you don’t want your pet to be, which can be a more effective deterrent.

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PetSafe SSSCAT Motion-Activated Dog & Cat Spray
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The PetSafe SSSCAT Deterrent Cat Spray easily protects indoor areas and objects from your pets. This unique spray uses motion-activated infrared to monitor movement up to 3 feet away. When the SSSCAT detects your pet entering an off-limit area, it emits a harmless, odorless, and stainless spray to deter your pet.

For a more home-made approach you could place a few treated pinecones at the base of the tree. Spray them with something like apple-cider vinegar – which most cats don’t like the smell of – and it should keep your cats at bay. Other smells to consider are orange and apple, which cats also avoid. Some dried orange peel placed around the base of the tree could help keep cats off it.

3. Use foil and other Christmas tree defenders

Cats tend to climb Christmas trees using the trunk rather than the flimsier branches, so if you can put them off at the base, they may give up. An easy way to do this is to wrap the base of your tree and trunk in foil. Most cats don’t like the feel of foil on their paws, and aren’t keen on the noise it makes when they walk on it. You can decorate the foil too, so it isn’t too much of an eyesore.

You can also buy barriers such as Christmas tree defenders (opens in new tab) which fit around the trunk to prevent them from climbing it. This won’t stop them leaping on to it from a handy shelf, but if the only way up is from the bottom then it’s very effective.

Christmas tree defender

(Image credit: christmastreedefender.com)

Other people have reported some success with putting cats off investigating their Christmas trees by adding other objects with textures cats don’t like under the tree. For examples, pine cones or double-sided sticky tape – both are known to deter fussy felines.

4. Keep the decorations up high

Don’t hang ornaments, tinsel, or Christmas lights low down on the tree where cats can easily see and get to them – if they are out of their line of sight, they may not notice the dangling treats above them. If you are worried about the tree looking bare, use less shiny objects lower down which will be less of an attraction to your cat.

It’s also a good idea to securely attach your decorations to the tree. That way, if they do get to them  your cat can’t damage themselves by pulling them down and smashing them on the floor. Using tightly wrapped wire ties can ensure the tree ornaments stay where they belong.

It may also be worth delaying decorating your tree until your cat has got used to this new addition to the house. Once it’s got to used to the bare tree, you can add the tempting decorations later.

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5. Avoid tinsel and other shiny objects

Tinsel and cats simply should not mix. You couldn’t design a more perfect shiny, dangling temptation for your furry friends. It’s also the ideal tool for your inquisitive feline to pull the tree down on top of them. What’s more, it can  make your cat ill if, as well as attacking it, it decides to eat it.

Although most tinsels are not toxic to cats, it is a choking hazard, and if ingested it can get stuck in their intestines causing blockages. Paper alternatives, chains, or thick ribbons won’t catch your cat’s eye anywhere near as much, particularly if not placed at your cat’s level.

Similarly, shiny, light-reflecting baubles are like catnip to curious cats. Consider toning down your tree ornaments, and your cat may not consider them worth bothering investigating.

6. Choose a slimmer Christmas tree

You can discourage cats from wanting to climb your tree if there are less places to nose through and hide in. Pencil trees – slimline versions of Xmas trees – may put your cat off wanting to explore. They have the added bonus that you need less room to display and store them, and they cost a lot less to decorate!

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7. Fence off your Christmas tree

This may seem like an extreme option, but if all else has failed it may be worth using a free-standing pet safety gate or small pet exercise pen to help fend them off. Some cat owners have taken this to extremes, of course:

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Wooden varieties of pet gates and fences aren’t as harsh looking as metal ones, and can be used to keep them out of other areas when the holiday season is over.

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Design your pet’s roaming space in countless ways with the Primetime Petz 360° Configurable Gate with Door. This elegant, freestanding pet gate features a walk-through door that opens inwards and outwards for easy pass-through. The signature 360° hinges allow for endless paw-sibilities, and make moving and storing simple. 

Jamie Middleton is a freelance editor and writer who has been editing and creating content for magazines and websites for over 20 years. As well as writing about the pets he loves, he has helped create websites about tech and innovation like TechRadar.com, Innovate UK and TechSPARK, written programmes for music festivals, books on inventions and architecture, TV listings magazines, and edited publications about cars such as Lexus, Toyota and Jaguar. In his spare time he writes fiction books and poetry - or at least he does when he is permitted to by his cat Pirate, who enjoys the warmth of laptops too much to allow being creative to get in the way.