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How To Catproof Your Tree

December 15, 2023

Season’s Greetings! One of the many things we love about this time of year is seeing all of the beautiful decorations around town. We also love getting cards and photos from our clients. We never get tired of seeing adorable pictures of our furry patients! Fido and Fluffy always look super cute in front of the tree. Of course, we also get our fair share of photos of cats looking adorably proud of themselves after clearly demolishing their humans’ trees. We have definitely had more of our fair share of feline patients make Santa’s naughty list for their holiday shenanigans! Turns out, knocking trees over is one of Fluffy’s favorite holiday traditions. A local Troutville, VA vet offers a few helpful tips on how to keep your feline companion out of your tree in this article.

Why Is My Kitty So Obsessed With My Christmas Tree?

You can’t really blame Fluffy for her tree obsession. In the wild, cats use trees as lookout points, napping spots, and kitty manicure stations. They also run up trees to reach safety from weather, floods, or, in some cases, other animals. Larger cats use trees to stalk their prey, and also for sleeping, eating, and, of course, more sleeping. Many of our feline pals also can’t resist shiny things. Therefore, you can pretty much expect your kitty to get excited about the tree. In her opinion, it’s a giant piece of kitty furniture, decorated with shiny new toys.

Are Christmas Trees Dangerous For Cats?

We probably wouldn’t say that the Christmas tree is the most dangerous thing in your home. That said, there are some risks. Many of those delicate ornaments are choking and/or strangulation hazards. As a general rule of thumb, anything small or sharp should be considered unsafe for all pets. Stringy or ropy items are dangerous as well: these can choke or entangle playful pets, and are extremely dangerous if ingested. There’s also the risk of Fluffy injuring herself by bringing the tree down. For those with real trees, the water also poses a risk, as it could contain traces of leached chemicals, such as pesticides or fire retardants. 

Should I Punish My Kitty For Climbing The Christmas Tree?

We know, it can be pretty frustrating to find that your feline pal has knocked over your tree, and possibly ruined a few heirloom ornaments in the process. However, you should never actually punish your pet for making a mess. Because the urge to scratch and climb trees is so deeply ingrained in Fluffy, she won’t understand that she did something wrong. She also may get quite confused as to why you are angry. This could make her feel threatened or unsafe, which can then snowball into other behavioral problems, such as anxiety and aggression. It’s better to use gentler tactics. Ask your Troutville, VA vet for more information. 

Can I Train My Kitty To Leave My Christmas Tree Alone?

As many of you know, it’s usually the cat that trains the human, rather than it being the other way around. Fluffy may already have you trained to feed, pet, and play with her on demand. However, your feline overlord isn’t quite as all-powerful as she thinks. You certainly can teach your furball what is and isn’t acceptable. You just have to make her think that it was her idea. In this case, you’d do that by helping your pet form a negative association with the tree, by making her just wary enough to be suspicious of it.

When Fluffy goes near it, try making a loud noise. You can bang two pots together, rattle a jar of change, sound an alarm app on your phone, stomp your foot, set off an air horn, or even activate that singing snowman. (You could also try squirting your pet with water. However, while that may help keep her off your counter, it may not be a good idea for this specific issue. You don’t want to get water all over your tree or gifts, or into the outlets you’re using for lights.)

The key is to startle or annoy your kitty without hurting her. After a few of these incidents, your feline pal will probably retreat to her favorite corner to glare at you and think things over. Be sure to ask your Troutville, VA veterinarian for more care tips.

How Do I Make The Tree Less Appealing To My Kitty?

Now for the important stuff. The key is to remember that your cute pet is a predator, and an opportunistic one at that. However, you may be able to convince her that napping under the tree with the rest of the gifts is a better option than destroying it.

Here are a few steps you can take to make the tree less appealing to your frisky little pet.

Go Artificial: Real trees look and smell great, but they are costly, cumbersome, and, well, a bit wasteful. Consider switching to an artificial tree. Your feline pal won’t have much luck climbing wire trunks and branches! Plus, you won’t have to worry about her drinking the water. Tree water bowls are often contaminated by chemicals such as pesticides or fire retardants. This is a danger to pets, as some will drink out of the bowl.

Decorate Carefully: Minimize the amount of decorations you have on the lower third of the tree. You really only want a few things within paws’ reach. These should all be dull, unbreakable ornaments, such as that fabric Gingerbread Man your grandma made. Put most of the lights, tinsel, and ornaments, including anything sharp, shiny, or fragile, on the top part of the tree.

Scent Deterrents: Scent deterrents may also help here. Citrus is often recommended, as cats just don’t like its smell. Just keep in mind that you may need to reapply it.

Block Access: Another thing you can do is position the tree in a way that makes it hard for your cat to reach. A corner is often a good choice. Try not to put the tree too close to sofas, desks, chairs, or anything else your kitty could use as a launchpad.

How Can I Make My Kitty Lose Interest In The Tree?

It’s hard to make cats do anything: Fluffy is known for doing exactly what she wants, when she wants. That said, you may find that bribery can be quite helpful here. Give your feline pal some of her toys early, and take a few minutes a day to play with her. The point is to let your pet work off some of her kitty zoomies and hopefully tire her out a bit. We all know what happens when kitties get tired: naptime!

This is also a good time to point out that there’s a great kitty alternative for actual trees: cat towers. If Fluffy doesn’t have one, consider buying or making her one for her gift this year. This may just distract her enough so that she leaves the tree alone.

How Do I Keep My Kitty From Knocking My Tree Down?

If all else fails, you may want to reinforce your tree a bit. One option is to use clear fishing line to attach the top of the tree to the wall or ceiling. It won’t show at all, but may offer just enough extra support to prevent a wipeout. We also would recommend getting a tree with a sturdy base.

All of us here at Old Dominion Veterinary Clinic, your Troutville, VA animal clinic, wish you a wonderful holiday season. Please contact us anytime!

Posted in Cat Care

47 Boone Dr,
Troutville VA 24175
t: (540) 966-1992
Also serving Roanoke, VA and surrounding areas.

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