One of the greatest joys in life is sharing experiences with your animal companions. Of course, it can be challenging at times to adapt to all their quirky habits. If you share your home with cats, you probably know exactly what that means. Cats are curious investigators—if you bring something new into your home, you can be sure they’ll inspect it. So decorating a tree during the holiday season might be a bit more difficult with a feline in your home. Cats may be enticed by a tall tree decorated with shiny objects and may even jump on them, knock them down, or make off with the decorations. Luckily, you can use a few simple tricks to help keep cats safe.

Buying the Tree

  • Consider a fake one. Real trees can be great, but pine needles can be dangerous for cats who love to chew on foreign objects. If ingested, they can pose a serious health risk. You can easily find a fake tree that still looks realistic, and you can use it year after year.
  • Go for smaller. A smaller tree is safer for your feline friends, especially if they try to make sneak attacks on it. If the tree falls over, it’s less likely to hurt them—and it’ll be easier for you to decorate and clean up, too.

Setting Up the Tree

  • Wait a minute. You might be used to busting out the ornaments as soon as you get the tree home, but it helps to give your cat a chance to get bored with the tree first. Set up the tree a few days before decorating it so that your companions can investigate it (and hopefully, soon lose interest in it).
  • Make sure that the tree has a solid base. As mentioned above, cats love jumping on trees, so be sure to set the tree up so that it won’t easily topple over. Securing it to a wall with some wire near the top can help keep it upright.

  • If you do opt for a real tree, cover the water bowl with a tree skirt and place presents on top of the skirt so that your cat isn’t tempted to drink the water, which could sicken them.
  • Keep the tree away from launching zones (e.g., furniture) that your cat uses, in order to reduce the temptation to pounce on your tree.
  • Steer your cat away. Most cats hate foil and citrus scents, so wrap your tree trunk in foil, and place a few lemon or orange peels around the base. You can also place pine cones around the base.

Decorating the Tree

  • Focus on the top half of the tree. Place ornaments where it’s harder for your cat to reach them—at the top and toward the center of the tree (instead of on the ends of the branches).
  • Take care with lights. Place lights toward the center of the tree so that your cat is less tempted to chew on the wires and cover the end of the wire that plugs into the wall with a cord protector. Always unplug the lights when you’re not able to supervise your cat. If your cat tries to chew the wires, it’s better to take the lights off the tree than risk your friend being burned or electrocuted.
  • Tie ornaments. Your cat can be injured by the little metal hooks typically used to hang ornaments, so instead, try tying the ornaments to the tree. Make sure the ornaments are secure enough that your cat can’t just run off with them.
  • Skip the tinsel. Tinsel may be cheap and flashy, but it’s a serious hazard to cats, who often can’t resist eating it and therefore risk choking on it or getting it stuck in their intestines if they swallow it. Go for other types of pretty decor instead, such as paper, wood, or vegan felt decorations, which are less tempting than the super-shiny stuff.
  • Avoid other holiday hazards. Don’t risk using decorations such as real candles, small ornaments that your cat could choke on, or fake snow (which may contain harmful chemicals). And be sure to keep foods and plants that could be poisonous out of reach—or better yet, out of your house. These include chocolate, mistletoe, lilies, cyclamen, poinsettias, and amaryllises, among others.

Don’t Stress Too Much

Much like knowing that your cat will inevitably scratch your sofa at some point, it’s good to accept that some cats might climb on trees no matter what you do. So do the best you can to set up a beautiful (and safe) tree, but don’t fret too much if your cat decides to “redecorate.” Life is unpredictable with feline companions—that’s half the fun of it!

Now that you’ve got the tree decorating squared away, it’s time to get your holiday shopping started.

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