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FAQs About Catproofing Your Tree

December 15, 2023

Happy Holidays! One of the joys of this season is admiring the festive decorations. We’re also always delighted to receive seasonal cards and photos from our clients. We never tire of seeing our adorable furry patients! Fido and Fluffy always look absolutely charming in front of the Christmas tree. Of course, we’ve also gotten our fair share of pictures of our feline patients among the wreckage of their humans’ Christmas trees, looking extremely cute and extremely proud of themselves. If you need assistance with your feline companion’s curiosity towards your tree, read on as a local Newburgh, NY vet shares some helpful tips in this article.

Why Are Cats So Obsessed With Christmas Trees?

You can’t blame Fluffy for her tree obsession. It’s pretty much built in. In the wild, cats use trees as lookout points, napping spots, and nail care stations. They also run up them to get away from the weather, floods, or, sometimes, other animals. Of course, kitties also like to survey their kingdoms with that cute, smug look they are so good at. It’s important to remember that your cat is an opportunistic predator. Trees may contain birds, which of course would be a huge bonus to a hungry feline. Cats can also spot smaller animals from that high lookout. On top of that, there’s also the fact that many cats like shiny objects. Put these things together and, well, you can pretty much count on kitties getting excited about the trees.

How Do I Train My Cat To Leave My Christmas Tree Alone?

As any seasoned kitty owner knows, the cat often ends up training their human, rather than it being the other way around. Fluffy likely already has you under her spell, and may be perfectly adept at meowpulating you into providing food, affection, lap space, and playtime on demand.

However, do not underestimate your ability to guide your feline ruler’s behavior. You absolutely can teach Fluffy what is and isn’t acceptable. The trick? You have to do this by cleverly manipulating her, and ideally making her think the desired behavior was her own idea. In this case, you would do that by creating a negative association with the tree.

The key is to make your furry companion cautious of the tree, without triggering an existential kitty crisis or instilling fear. The goal is to startle or irritate your pet, not frighten or harm her. When Fluffy approaches the tree, make a loud noise. You can bang pots together, shake a jar of change, activate an alarm on your phone, stomp your foot, blast an air horn, or even activate that singing snowman doll. (We usually also suggest using squirt bottles filled with water. However, that might not be the wisest choice for this one, as it could damage the tree or presents, and may even pose a hazard if water gets into the outlets that are being used for lights.)

Cats And Christmas Trees: Are Trees Dangerous To Kitties?

We probably wouldn’t list the Christmas tree as the most dangerous item in your home. However, they aren’t the safest, either. There are some serious risks associated with those ornaments! Many of those pretty decorations pose choking or strangulation hazards. (Note: in general, anything small or sharp should be considered unsafe.) Stringy or ropy items, such as tinsel, string, and lights, are also dangerous. There’s also a chance that Fluffy could injure herself if she brings the tree down.

If you have a real tree, the water is another concern. Tree water can be contaminated by pesticides or fire retardants, which pose a health risk to pets. For more information, as well as tips on kitty proofing, contact your Newburgh, NY vet.

Do I Punish My Cat For Climbing The Christmas Tree?

We understand how frustrating it can be to discover that your cat has toppled your tree. Despite this, punishing your furry companion for her mishaps is never a good idea. Fluffy’s natural instincts to scratch and climb are pretty deeply ingrained, so climbing trees is just normal behavior for her. That’s very important, because it means that she won’t know what she did wrong, or why you’re angry. Punishing her could make her feel insecure and scared of you. This could trigger other behavioral issues, such as anxiety and aggression. It’s best to tackle the situation with a gentler approach. Ask your Newburgh, NY veterinarians for tips.

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

Fluffy is known for doing exactly what she wants, whenever she wants. There are no foolproof ways to get her to do or stop doing, well, anything. However, you can nudge your cute pet towards displaying better petiquette.

First, limit the amount of decorations on the lower third of the tree. You only want to hang a few things within paws’ reach. These should all be dull, unbreakable ornaments. Anything sharp, shiny, or fragile should go on the top half of the tree. Another option is to place the tree in a corner so your cat will have difficulty reaching it. Don’t put it too close to sofas, desks, chairs, or anything else your cat could use to get to the tree. Citrus-scented taste deterrents are often recommended. Many kitties hate the smell of citrus! Just be aware that you may have to reapply these. You may also want to consider getting a fake tree. Your kitty won’t have much luck climbing wire trunks and branches! Plus, you won’t have to worry about her drinking the water.

Bribery may also work. Take a few minutes a day to play with your cat, and give her some toys early. Chasing after that elusive red dot is a good way to tire Fluffy out and let her work off some of her kitty zoomies. We all know what happens when our feline buddies get tired. (Spoiler: naps. Lots and lots of naps.) Then there’s the cat tower: the modern version of a tree. If Fluffy doesn’t already have one, consider buying or making one for her gift this holiday season. This may distract her just enough to make her leave the tree alone.

Help! I’ve Tried Everything And Still Can’t Keep My Cat From Knocking Down My Tree!

It might be a good idea to reinforce your tree a bit. This might not keep your playful pet from smacking at ornaments, but it may at least prevent a wipeout. Attach the top of the tree to the wall or ceiling with clear fishing line. It won’t show, but will provide extra support. It’s also important to get a tree with a sturdy base.

You may have seen memes and photos online from people who went to extremes. One poor soul hung the tree upside down from the ceiling. Another surrounded theirs with a protective ring of vacuum cleaners. We wouldn’t suggest going this far, but you could try a puppy gate.

In summary, while we don’t see Fluffy giving up her beloved holiday tree-climbing tradition anytime soon, we can minimize the risk. Teaching your furry buddy better petiquette will take forethought, trickery, bribery, and a little luck, but it’s not impossible!

Our team here at Stone Cottage Veterinary Hospital, your Newburgh, NY animal clinic wishes you a very happy holiday season. Please do not hesitate to contact us at any time!