Why To Cat-Proof Your Christmas Tree?
A beautiful Christmas tree lit up with decorations and surrounded by presents is one of the most iconic images of the holiday. However, a tree in the home can present an irresistible temptation to cats who only see a new post to climb, scratch, and taste.
Cat owners don’t necessarily have to forego their Christmas decorations, but they do have to be careful. A proper cat Christmas must keep feline safety in mind – as a sick cat and a mangled tree would not a jolly holiday make.
Christmas Trees Are Toxic to Cats
Christmas can be a stressful time of the year, so it doesn’t help that Christmas trees are dangerous to cats. The oils in fir trees can irritate the mouth and stomach and cause excessive drooling or vomiting if eaten.
Potentially more dangerous is that pine needles can’t be digested, causing further irritation, vomiting, and possibly gastrointestinal obstructions or punctures. Artificial trees can also cause intestinal blockage if the plastic needles are eaten.
Another concern is the Christmas tree water, which can be filled with pesticides, fertilizers, even aspirin to keep the tree fresh. Do not let your cat drink Christmas tree water, and cover the tree water dish.
Choose the Right Christmas Tree
The first decision Christmas tree buyers often make is whether to go natural or artificial. Live Christmas trees are toxic to cats and eating the spines of either can pose severe gastrointestinal problems.
Many cat owners lean towards artificial trees which are often less tempting to eat, but this choice will really depend on you and your cat.
If you do go with a live tree, make sure to cover the water which often contains toxic fertilizers and pesticides. Another consideration is size – small trees can be less tempting to climb and can pose less of a problem if they come crashing down.
Finally, be sure to purchase a secure base with your tree. Ask your retailer for suggestions – the tree base should be solid and keep the tree firmly in place if it gets knocked about.
Choose the Right Spot for Your Tree
Once you have a tree and a solid base, you’ll need to find a spot in your home that is cat-friendly. Keep the tree far from other furniture items and bookshelves, or you might find your cat launching herself from tree to shelf.
If you can, put the tree in a room with a door so you can shut the cats out and away from the tree.
This is especially useful at night and when you are not home. A final tip is to secure the tree to the wall or ceiling to prevent it from toppling over if your cat should pull on it. You may also consider putting short trees on a sturdy table where cats will be less interested in checking it out.
Consider Tree Deterrents
Some cat owners will spray their trees with a product called Bitter Apple, or a citrus spray which spells pleasant enough to humans but not so great to cats. Plastic trees can be sprayed with a small amount of Citronella oil diluted in water.
Another idea is to spray some pine cones with citronella and place them around the base of the tree. The pine cones will make a lovely decoration and discourage your cat from walking up to the tree!
Decorating for a Cat Christmas
The greatest hazard to cats during Christmas time is, perhaps, the Christmas decorations. These dangling ornaments are often too tempting to just leave alone. So please do consider the following:
- Delay decorating until your cat is used to the tree (and knows to leave it well alone).
- Keep your cat away while decorating, and do NOT tease her with the ornaments (or she’ll learn to think of them as toys).
- Avoid glitter and shiny ornaments and try to choose ornaments that will be less attractive to your cat.
- Do NOT use tinsel – it has sharp edges that can slice up the intestinal wall and cause blockage if eaten.
- Avoid using food as decorations (popcorn strands, etc).
- Be careful of ornament hangers – these sharp pieces of metal can require expensive surgery if eaten.
- Take your cat to the vet immediately if he has eaten an ornament.
What To Do If Your Cat Eats the Christmas Tree
If you suspect that your cat ate a few pine needles off the tree, your best move really would be to get him to the vet as soon as possible. This is especially true if you notice that your cat has stopped eating or drinking, is vomiting, or has had any changes in behavior such as excessive licking or drooling.
Monitor your cats closely during the Christmas season and do what you can to cat proof your Christmas tree.
Are Other Holiday Plants Toxic to Cats?
Poinsettias are considered to be only mildly toxic to cats and medical treatment is rarely necessary because of poinsettias. However, holly berries, mistletoe, and rosemary can all be dangerous to inquisitive casts.
Again, these holiday plants have spiny leaves and potentially toxic oils that can be harmful to felines. Keep plants out of reach and check for any changes in your cat’s behavior. Get him to a vet if you suspect anything is wrong.
Curious cats cannot keep themselves away from a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Unfortunately this can be a huge headache for cat owners who have to deal with toppled trees, broken decorations, and the worst nightmare – sick cats.
The best route to a jolly Christmas is to keep cats away from the tree as much as possible. However, as stopping cats from doing anything they want to do is often difficult, keep these cat safety tips in mind.