How To Keep Cats and Christmas Trees Safe From Each Other

Written by: Kelli Brinegar
For more than five years, Kelli Brinegar has been using her ability to write and her passion for research to tell the tale of what cats are thinking and why. She has provided care to more than 30 cats in her lifetime.Read more
| Published on December 10, 2020

Does your cat love to rock around the Christmas tree no matter how many times you say no? Do they wreck the halls as soon as you deck them with boughs of festivity? And do you often find your silent night destroyed by the smash and crash of ornaments hitting the ground?

Keeping kitties and trees safe from each other can be a little bit of a trick because cats love Christmas trees. They can’t help thinking this majesty of branches, lights, and sparkly baubles is meant just for them. After all, in the wild, cats climb trees as well as scratch their trunks to keep their claws in shape. Plus, they love to chase the critters that call trees home. So, when one comes into the house, natural instincts take hold. Much to human chagrin.

keep cats out of christmas tree

Cats Can’t Resist The Temptation of The Christmas Tree

From the tree water to the ornaments, Christmas trees can be dangerous to cats. Just the tree itself can prove hazardous. Pine, Fir, and Spruce trees are often the favorite choices for holiday cheer, but the sap from these Christmas trees can be toxic to cats, causing stomach issues like “vomiting, cramping, drooling, and diarrhea,” according to Falls Village Veterinary Hospital.

Eating sharp needles can also be painful and even puncture sensitive tissues. An artificial tree can help avoid the issue of sap toxicity, but keep in mind, faux trees offer risk too. Made from chemicals, eating fake needles can cause stomach upset too. The best thing to do when it comes to curious cats and Christmas trees is to keep an eye on things and take steps to make this holiday tradition safe for your kitty!

From Base to Star, Hidden Dangers

Base Water

Keep the base of your Christmas tree under wraps from your cats. The water in the base has the potential to make cats sick as tree sap oozes into the water. And, as it’s not a bowl that gets cleaned daily, the water can grow other contaminants that could be potentially harmful to felines. To keep cats out of the Christmas tree water, cover the base with metal grating, or tape, or try an artificial tree.

Dr. Jamie Richardson, Medical Chief of Staff at Small Door Veterinary, also warns, “Do not use any chemical Christmas tree ‘extender’ products in the water, as these can also be toxic to cats.”



Twinkling lights draw everyone in for tree-gazing, including the cat! But the lights are an electrocution hazard for cats. Biting or clawing at the light cords or the bulbs can result in shocks or burns. When decorating, string lights tightly into the tree, so an enticing drape of lights doesn’t attract your cat’s attention. Keep cords trailing from the tree tucked out of kitty’s reach. Covering them with cord covers is another option.

Shiny ornaments might as well be cat toys if you ask the felines. Whether they paw them off the tree or find them fallen, broken ornaments might slice open batting paws. If ingested, those shattered bits can cause internal lacerations. Stick to shatter-proof and non-breakable ornaments for your tree. Also, try to avoid hanging ornaments on the lower branches.

Dr. Richardson suggests skipping tinsel altogether as those slivers of foil secured on a wire can cause internal blockages if ingested. These blockages are painful and could lead to infection. Try ribbon instead of tempting tinsel garlands.



Some cats will ignore a Christmas tree altogether, but there are plenty of felines who feel the tree provides the purrfect opportunity to practice climbing skills. But this often leads to falling disasters that can hurt your cat.

“Cats are often tempted to climb Christmas trees, as they love high perches. However, an untethered tree could easily fall over, hurting them,” Dr. Richardson explains. “The same applies if the cat is tempted to use the tree as a scratching post.”


So how do you stop a cat from climbing a Christmas tree? Or even just messing with it all?

Patience and trickery!

Tips to Keep Cats Out of the Christmas Tree

Secure the Tree

Cat behavior expert Pam Johnson-Bennett suggests putting your tree in a room where your cat can’t access it, but if that’s not possible, “Place the tree near something to which you can anchor it. For example, if there’s a large picture on the wall, remove it and put the tree in that spot. Secure the tree to the wall with fishing line and an eyebolt.”

If the tree still feels wobbly, secure it down low as well. Johnson-Bennett also recommends, “Invest in a heavy-duty tree stand. Pick one that can easily manage the weight and height of the tree even if a determined feline attempts to scale it.”

keep cats out christmas tree

Create a Perimeter

Setting up a barrier to keep cats out of the Christmas tree can help in this holiday battle of the wills. Baby gates and pet barriers offer great solutions. Or, you can find cute holiday-themed fencing to protect your tree from the cat. For a double layer, lay out a booby trap of double-stick tape. Be sure it’s not sticky enough to harm tender cat paws, but has enough adhesive to insult their sensibilities.

Or maybe try a barrier of oranges or orange peels, as cats are repelled by citrus odors. A tangerine barrier sure thwarted Lord Victor Fluffypaw.

christmas tree cat safety

Get Creative

Try putting your tree on a platform or a table that will keep kitties from reaching it. If you feel like mixing up tradition, hit craft and decoration websites for inspiration on unique Christmas tree displays that can also be cat-friendly. Bored Panda also offers a gallery of hilarious solutions to Christmas tree tampering.

Divert Feline Attention

Distraction always works well with cats, as they do better with positive reinforcement. Try fun toys, catnip, and treats as a way to divert naughty feline attention from the Christmas tree. Hugs and kisses might work too!


To you and the cats, have a safe and joyful holiday season!

Feature Image: @withallofherheart/Instagram & @spooksieboo/Instagram

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