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How to keep cats out of the Christmas tree — and put a stop to Santa Claws

A grey cat eyeing up a bauble decoration
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

How to keep cats out of the Christmas tree is something all cat owners ponder at this time of year. After all, the twinkling lights, shiny baubles and stacked branches are a serious temptation for any feline. 

Even if your cats aren’t tempted to climb, the pine needles from a home-grown Christmas tree and trailing cables can easily be chewed, so a Christmas tree could be a safety hazard for any curious pets. 

With this in mind, we’ve pulled together this guide of tips and tricks to help keep your cat and the tree safe over the holidays. From choosing the right tree, to setting up and decoration dos and don’ts, we'll break down the best practices to keep your kitty safe and sound, away from the Christmas tree.

Choosing the right tree 

First of all, real Christmas trees are actually bad news for cats. The sap and resin are poisonous, plus any pine needles that drop, or get chewed off, can be easily ingested and can cause nausea and vomiting. On top of this, your cat may be tempted to drink any sitting water in the base, but as this can contain harmful bacteria it's best that they steer clear.

For all these reasons, an artificial tree is a better option. We also recommend purchasing a smaller-sized tree — that way, the cat is less likely to hurt itself if it manages to topple it, and there’s less mess for you to clean up.  

Setting up the tree

A grey cat hidden amongst the branches in a Christmas tree

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

You’re going to want to secure your tree as best you can. First, make sure the base feels sturdy; add some weight to it if it feels light and unstable. It’s also good practice to place the tree next to a wall, or corner, away from any shelves or cabinets (potential pouncing grounds). For full security, you can even tie a wire from the top of the tree to the wall. This will keep it upright.  

If you do decide to use a real tree, be sure to cover up the water bowl with a tree skirt, and then weigh or fasten it down, so your cat can’t get to the sitting water. 

There are various objects you can place around the base of your tree to put your cat off. Aluminium foil is a common method — cats hate the feel and sound of foil on their paws. You can wrap the trunk in foil and lay it on the surrounding ground. You can also place fresh orange and lemon rinds around the base of your tree, as cats dislike the citrus fragrance. If you have an artificial tree, you can even spray it with repellant.   

It’s not a well-known tip, but it’s a good idea to leave your tree bare for a few days before you start to decorate it. That way, you give your cat a chance to get used to it, and they may lose interest by the time you decorate. 

Decorating the tree

When it comes to decorating, the lighting is one of the biggest safety concerns. Cats love to chew, and chewing a live wire can result in electrocution and burning. Protect any excess cable with a cord protector, and secure it to the wall if possible, so it’s not dangling for your cat to see. Remember to switch off your lights when not in use, or if you leave your cat unsupervised. 

A grey kitten reaching for a bauble in a Christmas tree

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A good tree-decorating tip for cat owners is to take advantage of bells. If you tie bells on the ends of the branches, you will hear when your cat attempts the climb. You should also avoid tinsel — tinsel is attractive to cats, but also a choking hazard. Paper garlands and chains are a safe option if you want an alternative.   

In general, try to decorate more towards the top of your tree than the bottom — that way there’s less obvious temptation for your feline friend. Avoid using glass baubles as well, in case your cat should still reach them and knock them off. If any baubles feel like they may fall off easily, you can tie each on with wire to better secure them. 

Remember, don’t hang chocolates on your tree, as this is harmful to cats. Don’t decorate with fake snow, either, as this too contains toxic chemicals. 

Decorating your Christmas tree is by no means easy if you’ve got an adventurous cat running around. But while the final result may not look as glamorous, it will keep your cat safe through the holidays, which is the most important thing. 

Katie Mortram

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed kitchen appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be stand mixers as she loves to bake in her spare time.