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A photo of a cat peeking out of a Christmas tree


10 tips for keeping your cat and tree safe this Christmas

Cat proofing your Christmas tree is easy.

With the holiday season in full swing, you've probably seen several social media posts showing curious cats climbing up and knocking over their family's Christmas trees. Or the videos of playful felines pulling on the string lights, causing decorations to fly. 

Not only do these situations mean potential redecorating for pet parents, but they also pose a risk to cats’ health. Keep reading to learn our on-staff vet’s tips for preventing these Christmas conundrums from happening this season. 

Why do cats climb, jump on and investigate Christmas trees?

Cats' curious nature encourages them to investigate changes in their environment, Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, says. And Christmas trees offer a high perch to sit and a place to hide under or in.

You’re not the only one who appreciates your ornaments or tree toppers. Cats likely see them as toys, Dr. Singler adds. And even though the tree doesn’t resemble a treat, your feline might be interested in nibbling on the branches or drinking the water under live trees. 

What hazards do Christmas trees pose to a cat’s health? 

Even though Christmas trees look merry and bright, they can negatively impact our cats. Felines can injure themselves while jumping on or off the tree or scratch themselves on needles or decorations.

If your cat eats your decorations or lights, it can cause gastroenteritis, foreign body obstruction and electrocution.

“Some cats will try to eat parts of a live tree such as the needles,” Dr. Singler explains. “These can be mildly toxic to cats, and small quantities may upset their stomachs, and become seriously toxic if large quantities are ingested, apart from the risk of internal damage and obstruction.”

If a live tree is treated with pesticides or chemicals, or if the water isn’t changed regularly, it can make cats who drink the water feel sick. Purchasing an artificial tree or buying a type that doesn’t drop needles as often, such as Fraser fir, Nordmann’s fir, white spruce or noble fir can help eliminate toxic elements from your pet’s space.

RELATED: What you should consider before gifting a pet this holiday season

How can pet parents cat-proof their Christmas tree?

Even though your Christmas tree might be your cat’s latest obsession, it doesn’t mean you have to get rid of it. Dr. Singler shares some tips for making this a safe holiday season: 

  • Secure the tree so it won’t tip over if your cat jumps on it. 
  • Don’t add preservatives or chemicals to the live tree’s water. Cover the basin and provide fresh water daily. 
  • Vacuum or sweep up needles so that your cat doesn’t eat them. 
  • Hide electrical cords or use battery-operated lights to avoid them getting electrocuted. 
  • Consider using a fence or gate around the tree to dissuade your cat from going near it. 
  • Spray diluted vinegar or a non-toxic deterrent solution to discourage them from investigating the tree (or ask your veterinarian about motion-activated sprays). 
  • Ditch tinsel or other string-based decorations if your cat keeps eating them.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about giving your feline cat grass if they eat the tree.
  • Keep them occupied with their toys and a cat tree, and don’t put those items near the Christmas tree.
  • Ensure you provide enough mental stimulation to keep your pet out of trouble. 

Not all cats are interested in Christmas trees — but if your curious pet is at risk of injuring themselves or getting sick because of the tree, it might be best to keep it in a separate room with a closed door. 

Are there any other decorations or Christmas-themed plants that are unsafe for cats?

“Anything that a cat can access and try to eat can cause problems,” Dr. Singler shares. “This can include items on tables and other surfaces felines can access. They’re particularly drawn to long, string-like objects.”

It’s not just the tree that could lead to a risky situation. If your cat likes to chew things apart and eat them, you might want to hold on putting your Christmas gifts out until the last minute — especially if they have food in them. 

Pet parents should avoid decorating the home with holiday-themed flowers, like poinsettias, amaryllis, holly, lilies, mistletoe and azaleas, as they’re toxic to cats if eaten. 

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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