Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 1, 2023 by Crystal Uys
Putting up my Christmas tree is a tradition I look forward to every year. For the past couple of years, I’ve approached this annual event with some trepidation: after almost two decades of sharing my life with older cats, I now have three-year-old Allegra and barely adult, two-year-old Ruby. Surprisingly, neither of them has shown all that much interest in the tree.
Christmas tree hazards
I’m aware of all the hazards. Christmas trees can be deadly to cats (they could ingest pine needles, and the water cut trees are placed into usually contains pine resin, preservatives and fire retardants, all of which are toxic). Artificial trees are safer than live ones, but ingesting the needles can still cause intestinal blockages. We’ve all heard the warnings about tinsel, but does anyone really still use tinsel? My first cat, Feebee, put an end to having popcorn garlands on the tree: He discovered to his great delight that Christmas tree decorations were edible, and of course, I was much too worried about him ingesting the string to leave them on the tree after that. Ornaments present additional hazards: glass ornaments can break, and small pieces and hooks from ornaments can be ingested. Cats might chew on twinkling lights and light cords, not to mention that they could climb the tree and topple it over.
It’s enough to make a cat owner question her sanity for even wanting to have a Christmas tree, isn’t it?
But without a tree, it just wouldn’t be Christmas for me, so, using common sense and some additional precautions, I once again took a deep breath, and put up my tree over the weekend.
Common sense precautions
I have a relatively small artificial tree that sits on a side table covered by a tablecloth that reaches all the way to the floor, creating a perfect little cat tent underneath. None of my cats have ever bothered the tree, and all have always loved this arrangement. Hiding underneath the tree and stalking toys or each other provides endless entertainment. The table is just large enough to hold the tree, and there’s not really a good angle or enough room to jump up on it, so that’s never been a problem.
When I brought out the tree for Allegra’s first Christmas with me, Allegra was a little scared of all the commotion. She puffed herself up and mounted several fierce attacks on the tree branches spread all over the living room floor. By the time I had put the tree together and set it on top of the table, she couldn’t have cared less about the tree. It was all about the tent underneath. It became a favorite hiding and napping spot.
I was really worried the following year: it was Ruby’s first Christmas with us, and at barely a year old at the time, I had visions of this high-energy kitten trying to scale the tree. Thankfully, she wasn’t all that interested in the tree, either. The tent underneath was so much more fascinating.
Every year, I make sure the tree is seated solidly in its sturdy base. I contemplated anchoring it to the wall or ceiling, but decided to wait and see what would happen once I added lights and decorations. Since neither of the girls has ever made any attempts to even go near the tree itself, I didn’t bother. I make sure to hang breakable ornaments toward the top of the tree, and I don’t leave anything dangling from the lower branches to reduce temptation.
How has your holiday decorating changed in order to keep things safe for your cats?
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.