Cats and Christmas Trees: What is the Fascination?
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.
Curious cats love the holidays because there are so many new items to investigate and many cats gravitate to the Christmas tree as they are attracted to anything that resembles a toy. Holiday decorations and ornaments that are shiny, stringy, or round have a good chance of becoming a new plaything for your kitty, but if she chews on the ornaments, decorations, or the tree, it can be dangerous.
If your cat thinks the Christmas tree is her own personal playground, continue reading this blog for tips on how to safeguard the Christmas tree from your cat, and how to protect your cat from the Christmas tree.
Are Christmas Trees Poisonous to Cats?
Both live and artificial Christmas trees can be poisonous to cats. Artificial trees are generally safer, but cats who chew on these trees run the risk of mild GI upset from ingesting fire retardants that are sprayed on the trees. They may also chew off pieces of the artificial tree which can cause intestinal blockage.
Live Christmas trees, on the other hand, pose entirely different dangers for cats. When shopping for a tree, keep in mind that Douglas fir and blue spruce trees are not toxic to cats, but Norfolk pine and Australian pine trees are toxic, as cats are sensitive to the pine oils. The pine needles on live Christmas trees are dangerous as well because if ingested, they can puncture a cat’s intestines. The sap from a live tree is also a concern since it may get on a cat’s fur if they climb the tree and will be ingested later when she grooms herself. Finally, make sure to keep the tree stand water covered as many cats are enticed to take a drink of it. The Christmas tree water additives can cause GI upset if ingested and may include bacteria, mold, fertilizers and pesticides. Read more about this and other holiday plants that are poisonous to pets here.
Cats vs Christmas Trees
It is possible to enjoy the holidays without having your Christmas tree toppled over or destroyed by your cat. All it takes is a little planning and some common sense to prevent damage to the tree, your decorations, and possibly to your cat. Remove these threats by:
- Keeping electrical cords for the lights covered.
- Putting both live and artificial trees in a sturdy base.
- Securing trees to the walls or ceiling with eye bolts and fishing line.
- Move furniture away from the tree so cats cannot jump off of it and into the tree.
- Spritzing the tree with bitter apple spray to stop your cat from chewing on it.
- Tying the ornaments to the branches so they are secure.
If these attempts to keep the tree safe fail and your cat can’t resist attacking the ornaments or climbing the tree, keep her away from it when you are not in the room or not at home. In fact, displaying the tree in a room with a door that can be closed is always a smart choice and can relieve a ton of stress for you and temptation for your cat.
Christmas trees do not have to be a yearly challenge for cat owners. By following the suggestions above to make your tree safe, both you and your cat can enjoy the tree this holiday season and avoid holiday hazards. So go ahead and allow your cat to proceed with using the tree as her new favorite hiding spot or napping spot, no hard hat required!
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