Cats and Christmas Trees Just Don’t Mix Well

When Christmas rolls around, it’s obviously a joyous time of year. However, what can immediately interrupt your yuletide cheer is hearing a crash in the night, coming home to find Christmas ornaments strewn about your living room, or—even worse—a sick pet. As any cat owner knows, our furry friends aren’t always compatible with Christmas trees.

Figuring out how to keep cats away from your Christmas tree isn’t always rocket-science; there are some common-sense methods you can employ to protect your tree and your favorite feline. Of course, our hope is that we’ll provide a few new tips and tricks to keep your cat safe, and your tree upright. We’ve learned a few things over the years from experience, and we also researched other resources across the Internet so you’ll know how to cat-proof your Christmas tree.

Cat Ornament in a Tree

Location, Location, Location

When it comes to your Christmas tree, the laws of real estate certainly apply. Where you strategically choose to place your tree will go a long way towards protecting it. The best-case scenario is having your tree in a room that your cat doesn’t have access to, or that can be closed off while you’re away—but if you have a free-roaming cat, this can prove difficult, if not impossible. Ideally, your Christmas tree should be as far away as possible from staircases, furniture, or any other perch where a cat can launch itself into your tree. Never forget: cats love trees, so all they’re doing is acting on a natural impulse.

Bonus Tip: Use an eyebolt in your wall or ceiling for extra reinforcement. For a wall, choose a spot where you’ve hung a picture to place the tree, then fasten your tree to the wall using fishing line. You can use the same approach by tying the top of the tree to an eyebolt you’ve placed in the ceiling.


Build the Best Possible Foundation 

The base of your tree is another smart spot to fortify. Buying the widest base possible will help avert a tip-over, but if you’re a DIYer, then you can always duct-tape your base to a wide piece of plywood to give it more stability (and then hide it with a festive covering or blanket). There’s also a nifty product called the Christmas Tree Defender that some people have found success with; it helps to deter cats from climbing up the tree from the bottom. Again, if you’re a DIYer, many people find success by covering the base of the tree with aluminum foil. Cats don’t like the noise it makes when they step on it, or the way it feels on their paws.

Bonus Tip: Some online resources suggest using shock mats or prickly pads at the base of their trees. We’re not big fans of any options that have the potential to cause a pet pain or distress—plus, these deterrents can backfire if any pain or distress leads to other destructive acts.


Use Common Scents to Your Advantage 

While it’s important to know how to keep a cat off your Christmas tree to protect the tree, it’s also crucial for the sake of your beloved pet’s health. Tree needles are toxic, making Christmas trees poisonous to cats. That means you need to take decisive action to ensure your cat doesn’t ingest them. Many people spray anti-chew spray products on their live trees; citrus is also a cat deterrent, so others go as far as incorporating orange peels into their ornaments or at the base of the Christmas tree. If you have a plastic tree, you can spray it with a mix of Citronella oil and water, which also gives it a pleasant smell. Keep in mind all of these methods help to keep cats away from light cords as well (which should be covered or hidden as best as possible).

Bonus Tip: Though using scents and sprays (or both) can be effective, if your cat is asthmatic or has respiratory issues, citrus sprays can cause irritation so always monitor their reactions—and NEVER spray the cat directly. And while we’re on cat safety, don’t forget about the water. Many people add aspirin or fertilizers to maintain the health of their tree, but both can be extremely harmful to cats. Either avoid use or ensure the water is covered.


Try Not to Catch Your Cat’s Eye 

When we’re talking about how to cat-proof your tree, shininess is a factor in how much interest your cat will ultimately have in it. First off, tinsel is a big no-no; while it will certainly be attractive to your cat, it’s also dangerous if ingested. From there, you’ll have to consider making other concessions. For example, if you use a plastic tree, don’t get one that’s too sparkly. You’ll need to take this into account for your glass ornaments, too. The brighter they are, the more likely your cat will be to get their paws on them.

Bonus Tip: Where and how you hang ornaments is also important. Don’t hang them too low, where they’re easily within the grasp of your pet. Even for the ones you hang higher, avoid using standard hooks since they’re not secure enough. Plastic hooks or twist-ties are a better bet. (But for twist-ties, make sure they’re twisted tightly so your cat doesn’t ingest them, either.)


 A Stimulated Cat Is a Well-Behaved Cat

Hopefully these tips will help you protect your Christmas tree, all while keeping your cat safe. It’s always important to remember that cats, like us, can easily get bored. So the more opportunities you have to offer stimulation, the better your chances are of avoiding a Christmas tree catastrophe. In fact, it probably makes sense to offer your feline friend an early Christmas present: having a new (or additional) tower or perch around the house will ensure they get their fill of climbing, scratching, and playing—instead of using your Christmas tree for that instead.

Do you have other ideas for keeping cats away from Christmas trees? If so, feel free to share your tips and tricks here. If you're interested in cats that do belong in trees check out our cat Christmas tree ornaments collection. 

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Written by

Rachael Mitchell

Rachael Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, and has over 15 years of writing experience. She’d never be able to pick just one favorite ornament, but narrowed it down to the S’more and Tennis Ball. She always looks forward to s’mores in the summer with friends and family adding gourmet ingredients, and played 4 years of college tennis in the mid-west.


We have several sets of the Old world Christmas light covers, but find that they won’t fit over newer led lights, which have a knob sticking out just below the base of the bulb. Any suggestions on how to find non led lights?

Catherine Taylor

We have several cat children who share or rather RUN our home. Sadly, I can attest to the problem of tree climbing and broken ornaments in the past. So we now have an enclosed room that once was a front porch. We just close the inner door, and that becomes our Christmas tree and manger room! I am still searching for just ONE special ornament Abby the Cat accidentally broke. It was a large light blue ornament with a sun painted on it. I did keep the section that was not broken, but have yet to find one just like it. The cats have looked at the sad, broken ornament with great sorrow at the mishap. ;-)


I had my first Christmas with a very tree curious 1 year old kitten last year. I had very good luck using a combination of three things, two of which are mentioned in this blog post: citrus spray and anchoring tree to the wall with an eye-hook. What really saved my tree was the discovery of motion detecting air spray cans called SssCat! by Pet Safe. Once I placed two in front of my tree, my kitten never bothered it again. Two cans lasted a full 2 months while my tree was up. The air puffs did not stress him out, just deterred him from wanting to climb my pretty tree. I hope this helps someone else!

Lauren E Pace

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