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Cat in the Christmas Tree: Prevention Tips for a Safe and Happy Holiday

by Jazmin Murphy   December 20, 2020

Table of Contents

The cat in the Christmas tree: it’s what every cat-owner dreads (or ironically looks forward to) toward the end of the year. Although it may seem to be just a silly, unwanted pet behavior, having a Christmas tree with a cat can lead to harmful consequences. Thus, you should take every possible precaution to keep your little buddy safe. 

How to keep cats away from a Christmas tree? There are many different ways you can avoid ending up with a cat in the Christmas tree. Putting up pet barriers around the tree's base is a good way to prevent your pet from drinking the preservatives in the water. Additionally, wise placement of the tree in your house and plenty of Purrty Presents toys can help you achieve a peaceful Christmas with a cat. 


Living with cats a Christmas leaves you with quite a lot to juggle. You’ve got to be mindful of your cat’s behavior, as well as the details of decorating your tree. To learn more about how you can care for cats at Christmas (and not end up with a sneaky cat in the Christmas tree), see the guide below. 

How to Keep Cats Away from a Christmas Tree

As you can see, there is a lot at stake when you choose to have a Christmas tree with a cat. Your first option for mitigating these issues is to select an artificial tree over a real one. This way, you can forego the potentially contaminated or toxic water reservoir entirely. Plus, there are no sap-filled branches or pointy needles for your cat to get sick or injured with. 


Of course, your kitty will still be attracted to the shiny ornaments, lights, tinsel, and ribbon. With this in mind, you'll even need to take some precautions to ensure your fur-baby's safety. The guidelines below will help you cat-proof a Christmas tree:

  • Be careful about where you place your tree. Keep it away from furniture that your kitty can launch from to land on the tree or inside the pet barrier. This includes couches, shelves, and similar furnishings. 
  • Tape lights and their cables to walls and use cable protectors. This will prevent the cat from chewing through to the wire. Make sure to unplug the electronics if you’re leaving the kitty alone for a while. 
  • Get your cat plenty of toys to distract from the shiny tree decorations. The best possible toys you can get for your cat to keep busy during the holidays are listed below. 

Toys for Keeping Kitties Entertained During the Holiday

Your cat will need to have access to several toys that can keep their attention for long enough that they forget about how exciting the brand-new tree is. 


The most reliable way to keep your cat's attention for a long while is to incorporate elements of physical intrigue, visual satisfaction, and a touch of predator instinct as well. 


Luckily, Purrty Presents has exactly what you need:

Purrty Presents Automatic Electric Rotating Cat Toy Colorful Butterfly Bird Animal Shape Plastic Funny Pet Dog Kitten Interactive Training Toys birdPurrty Presents Automatic Electric Rotating Cat Toy Colorful Butterfly Bird Animal Shape Plastic Funny Pet Dog Kitten Interactive Training Toys butterfly
$16.00$13.99

Electric Rotating Cat Toy

This motorized toy will keep your kitty entertained for quite a while, thanks to its spinning movement and butterfly or bird attachment. It encourages the kitty to chase, awakening its inner predatory behavior, fully and simultaneously engaging many different behaviors – perfect for drawing their attention away from the sparkling tree. 


Cat Scratch Board Toy

If your cat is desperate for something to climb and scratch, turn its attention to this adorable, multicolor scratchboard. There are several variations, ranging from cute school bus designs to a banana milk carton that your kitty can climb inside of. This is the perfect climbing alternative that will help you maintain your peace when having a Christmas tree with a cat. 


Gold Bellerophon Cat Toy Cat Scratch Board Toy Banana milkGold Bellerophon Cat Toy Cat Scratch Board Toy Strawberry milk
$40.99$26.99
Turquoise Daedalus Cat Toy Farm to Tabby Plush Cat Toy SetTurquoise Daedalus Cat Toy Farm to Tabby Plush Cat Toy Set
$38.99$25.99

Farm to Tabby Plush Cat Toy Set

Have you noticed your kitty chewing and gnawing on the Christmas tree branches? Well, if you’re still scrambling for a solution on how to keep a cat out of a Christmas tree, opt for this yummy Feline Frenzy snack and play combo! These plushies have a refillable catnip pouch that is guaranteed to keep your kitty’s attention (and keep them out of the tree!). 

Pet Plush Squeaky Toy

If you need a bit of extra enticement to prevent problems with the cat and the Christmas tree, look no further than these squeaky plushies! The noise adds another level of engagement for your little one, so they’re sure to come back for more with every chomp on their squealing “prey!” 

Purrty Presents Cat Dog Plush Toys Cartoon Cute Fruit Food Shape Bite Resistant Squeaky Toy Pet Chew Toy Pet Interactive Supplies Dropshipping Purple / SPurrty Presents Cat Dog Plush Toys Cartoon Cute Fruit Food Shape Bite Resistant Squeaky Toy Pet Chew Toy Pet Interactive Supplies Dropshipping Gold / S
$4.00$3.99

Cat-Proofing the Christmas Tree Base

Even if your kitty somehow manages to dodge or overcome the complications imposed by the preservatives’ ingredients, they’re still at risk of bacterial exposure. Stagnant water provides the ideal breeding conditions for various types of harmful bacteria that can lead to:


  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

To ensure your cat’s safety during the Christmas festivities, you may want to invest in a pet playpen to keep around the tree’s base and strategically cover the water pan with foil (lots of cats hate foil). 


Placing scent stations around the tree can help encourage the cat to keep its distance as well. Common smells that cats don't particularly appreciate include citrus, lavender, and peppermint. 


Of course, it would still be possible for your cat to leap into the gate and bypass the barrier entirely. This is easily avoided, as long as you’re mindful about where in the house you place your tree. (See more on this in the “How to Keep Cats Away from a Christmas Tree” section.)

Why are Cats Attracted to Christmas Trees?

It’s not so much that the Christmas tree itself is attractive to your cat, but the shiny decorations that cover nearly every inch of its branches and foliage. Knowing how your cat responds to flashy things such as LED lasers, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see them leap at the chance to swipe at the lights and ribbons hanging from your Christmas tree. 


The main things you’ll need to keep an eye on in terms of what may catch your cat’s attention include:

  • Tinsel (while this decorative element may seem risk-free, pet health experts warn that this material can cause choking and digestive problems) 


  • Christmas lights

To ensure your cat’s safety during the Christmas festivities, you may want to invest in a pet playpen to keep around the tree’s base and strategically cover the water pan with foil (lots of cats hate foil). 


Placing scent stations around the tree can help encourage the cat to keep its distance as well. Common smells that cats don't particularly appreciate include citrus, lavender, and peppermint. 


Of course, it would still be possible for your cat to leap into the gate and bypass the barrier entirely. This is easily avoided, as long as you’re mindful about where in the house you place your tree. (See more on this in the “How to Keep Cats Away from a Christmas Tree” section.)

Are christmas Trees Toxic to Cats?

Unfortunately, there are quite a few toxins that should be on your radar when it comes to potential threats to your feline friend during the holiday season. For one, the sap produced by the Christmas tree is poisonous, even when consumed in small amounts through chewing on the branches and needles. 


Other hazardous chemicals that can be found in the tree are hidden away in the water reservoir that sustains the plant. Not many people suspect this, which results in too few precautions taken to prevent cats from slurping up the liquid. 


According to the National Capital Poison Center, commercial Christmas tree preservatives often include the following ingredients:


  • Fertilizer: Cats that ingest a large amount of fertilizer are susceptible to bloat, which can have lethal consequences. Luckily, pets rarely drink enough preservatives to cause this condition. However, it is still important to recognize this as a possibility. 


  • Sugar: Your kitty does not have the physiological capabilities to digest food in the same way humans do. Although they can consume sugar without immediate repercussions, this substance can have negative, long-term impacts on their health. 

  • Fungicides: Fertilizers often come along with many different additives to keep pests away and prevent microbial growth, and fungicide is just one of the many. This is bad news for the kitty. Research has shown that fungicide consumption can lead to acute or chronic poisoning in household pets. 

Fortunately, most of your cat's attempts to drink this solution are unlikely to end in any significant health problems. Still, your cat will be at risk of vomiting and other gastrointestinal complications. For this reason, most experts recommended that you opt for plain old tap water to maintain your Christmas tree. This way, you can keep both the tree and your number one fur-baby happy and healthy. 

Other Holiday Plants to Keep Away from the Cat

Christmas trees aren’t the only holiday plants that can ruin cats’ Christmas. Other popular holiday plants that can harm your kitty’s health include:

  • Amaryllis: You’ll most often see these with gorgeous red flowers. Despite their beauty, the plants’ bulb and leaves contain compounds that are toxic to domestic animals. If your cat eats this, they may suffer from the same issues that dogs have been recorded to show, including gastrointestinal challenges, restlessness, seizures, low blood pressure, and more. 

  • Christmas cactus: Cats can succumb to toxicosis after eating parts of this plant as well. They're more likely to suffer from the following conditions, all of which usually go away after a few hours:

    • Digestive problems: vomiting, partial or total loss of appetite, diarrhea (You may find blood in the vomit or diarrhea)

    • Lethargy

    • Excessive salivation

    • Ataxia: This is a severe impediment to the nervous system, especially in movement. If your cat develops ataxia, there may be long-lasting consequences to their nervous system health. If you see your cat dragging its toes on the ground or appearing dizzy and unstable as they walk, take them to the vet immediately. 

  • Holly: Not only can this plants’ sharp, pointy leaves cause physical damage to your cat’s mouth, but the chemical composition can inflict significant harm as well. Many toxic substances are in holly, many of which can cause alarming behaviors like lip-smacking and head-shaking. 

For more on potentially harmful holiday plants like mistletoe, poinsettias, and rosemary, see this overview by Today’s Veterinary Practice. 


Living with cats at Christmas can be a challenging ordeal. They want to climb all over the new tree thanks to the shiny and attractive lights, ornaments, and tinsels. However, the pine or fur (along with other holiday plants) can be toxic to your kitty, so you need to take precautions to keep them safe during the holidays. 


Being mindful about where you place the tree in your house (away from furniture like couches and shelves), putting up a pet barrier around the tree’s base, and investing in fun toys are all reliable methods to distract your kitty from holiday hazards. 


Purrty Presents has just what you need to keep your kitty healthy during your festivities, ensuring the best experience for both humans’ and cats’ Christmas. 


About the Author

Jazmin “Sunny” Murphy began writing informal scientific content on nature and animals in 2015. Four years later, she launched her freelance career as a digital content and copywriter. This work merges her academic perspective, rooted in her B.S. Zoology, and professional experience as a veterinary tech, university research assistant, and more with relevant marketing, SEO, and engagement techniques across various industries. Jazmin now covers pet care, pest control, cannabis, outdoor recreation, STEM research and news, and product reviews across several niches.


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