Tips & Advice: Cats versus Christmas Trees

Hi everyone,

Please find below some useful tips in form of a Guest Post by the team from Pets at Home:

Cats versus Christmas Trees

Christmas trees and cats enjoy a special relationship when the festive period rolls around – the thrill of clambering up a tree in the warmth and comfort of their own homes is almost too much for any cat to resist. And with the added bonus of colourful balls and tassels to bat down and play with, who could blame them for wreaking havoc on the decorations?


Unfortunately, a cat’s trademark loveable curiosity means that those seeking the fresh, piney smell of a real Christmas tree should probably think again – pine needles can be harmful to cats in a number of ways, from their physical sharpness to the toxicity of some types. An artificial tree will be much more compatible with your festive feline’s health, but they still won’t be able to resist clambering up!

There’s loads of advice out there on keeping a kitty away from the tree – spraying your tree with citronella may keep a cat away, for example, but it won’t make them particularly happy either! So we’ve got some simple tips for keeping them out of the artificial branches and away from the ornaments without having to be a Grinch about the whole thing.

First of all, position your tree carefully, and ensure it’s secure. Preferably as far away from sofas, shelves, curtains – anything your cat can use as a stepping stone or launch pad to getting tangled up in tinsel – as possible.

cat and christmas tree

Next, protect your tree from ground assaults. You can buy fancy Christmas tree defenders that will block the lowest branches from reach, halting climbing missions in their tracks, but for a simple home solution, wrapping tinfoil around the bottom should keep cats away – they won’t be able to climb up, and they shouldn’t even try if they’ve ever encountered foil before – many cats don’t like the way it feels on their claws and paws. Also, it’s shiny! So not totally out of character for Christmas.

When it comes to decorating the tree, do so with your cat out of the room – if they have a chance to get familiar with decorations while they’re spread over the floor, then they’ll be more inclined to go after them when they’re up on the tree. Anything delicate or valuable should be placed higher up, where it’s harder to reach – as should tinsel, which is easily grabbed and pulled, resulting in a mess at best, and a felled tree at worst!

When it comes to lights, cover wires to stop them turning into toys – whether you tape them down, or run them through cardboard tubes, it’s best to keep them out of claws’ (or mouths’) reach.

Be wary of other items that can be harmful to cats. Hanging chocolate treats will be toxic to cats, as will spray-on snow. Tinsel can be rough, so pick something soft or avoid it altogether – but don’t go for ribbons as a replacement, as they can be choking hazards if they’re too small.

Finally, the easiest way to keep your cat away from the tree is to provide ample distractions – an alternative Christmassy cat playground on the other side of the room, with safe festive treats just waiting to be played with by an excitable festive feline, will see your tree quickly forgotten. Merry Christmas, to you and your cats!


For more advice about caring for your cat, visit Pets at Home’s cat nutrition website here.

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47 thoughts on “Tips & Advice: Cats versus Christmas Trees

  1. lydiaa1614 says:

    Our little Monkey gave us problems during her first two christmases (she was less than 6 months the first year). So far this year she has only tried to climb once and that was when we were setting it up. She seems content to lay underneath it and go to sleep, not even bothering with any of the decorations. We have little within her reach anyway.

    Thank you for posting this because it is a very serious topic and we are so fortunate that our sweet girl seems to accept the fact the tree is not there for her benefit.

  2. crystaleagle24 says:

    We’ve always had an artificial tree with our cats and have had no problems, but a neighbour had a large vets bill after a pine needle ended up working its way through the roof of their cat’s mouth.

  3. toutparmoi says:

    Good advice! But many years ago I decided (for my own peace of mind) that cats are members of the household too and if their idea of enjoying a Christmas tree was radically different from mine, then so be it. Of course, the fragile glass balls got smashed, but there was no damage to the cats. (Nowadays ornaments aren’t so fragile.)

    So we used to decorate the tree, admire it, and then say, “Let’s see how long it takes the cats to trash it.” Of course, once the cats knew they were allowed to play with the tree the attacks became less frenzied.

    I have a delightful 1970s photo of a cat in sphinx position, wearing a paper Christmas crown round his middle and contemplating a bauble between his paws. It brings back happier memories than ever a photo of an untroubled tree could do.

    • Marc-André says:

      Oh you’ll love the Friday post. Oli had a run in with a Christmas paper crown. 😀 and yea most of my friends decorate their tree with cat toys and snacks. Good idea as well I guess 😉

  4. franhunne4u says:

    I simply tell my two NO. Never have to say it more than twice. And I have a real tree. The cats adjust to it, even love to hide UNDER the branches, but not IN them. Gives them something new to sniff.

  5. truejoy1986 says:

    Yes, my kitties always do like climbing my tree. I see them mostly making toys of various ornaments and falling asleep on the limbs. I have opted for the fake trees since I have gotten cats, but did not realize that some real ones could be toxic for them. Great to know!

  6. Melanie Noell Bernard says:

    Boy am I happy that my cat was never interested in the tree. (Granted he was too fat to hoist himself up anyway…) But he was only ever interested in drinking the treated water (bad for stomachs), and he enjoyed laying on the tree skirt to look out at the world like it was his cave or something. :p Harmless cat that one!

  7. sidilbradipo1 says:

    Useful advices! But my three male masters of mischief “still won’t be able to resist clambering up”or eating pine needles, so I don’t have any Christmas tree, or hanging decorations/lights, inside my house. Only outside the door, in my tiny garden 😛
    Merry, happy Christmas to all <3

  8. hopenotgone says:

    I had a cat who insisted on chewing the glass bulbs of the lights! We found a fuber optic tree that still gives us the lit up look without the deliciously dangerous glass bulvs.

  9. The gang at Sometimes, Cats Herd You says:

    Our humans are so lucky because we are actually very good with the tree, only removing a few ornaments near the bottom. The pre-lit artificial trees with wires wrapped close to each branch cause the humans a lot less worry, though, just in case we get any ideas about things that dangle.

  10. Carole says:

    We just bought a cheap artificial one as we thought the cats might enjoy it. It has some new toys for them as ornaments plus some shatterproof baubles. So far, they’ve helped themselves to a couple of the ornaments/toys but the tree itself is intact. I think us not telling them off took the fun out of trashing it for them 😛

    • Marc-André says:

      LOL. Most likely. My sister tried the telling off and the tree got trashed. My best friend just put cat treats and toys instead of ornaments and it’s working like a charm to get her cat to ignore it. Reverse psychology always works. 😉

  11. morningmojoblog says:

    Our Christmas tree is decorated from the middle to the top. All the ornaments on the lower half have been played with by our two kittens. The older cats could care less about the tree. Even though it is a pain, they do look pretty cute sleeping underneath the tree. Merry Christmas.

  12. cat9984 says:

    We still laugh about the time our cat Rascal was a kitten and decided to explore the tree my husband had just brought in the house. We had cut it and the farm baled it for us to get it home. We heard frantic meowing and discovered that Rascal and been trapped in the tree by the baling. She wasn’t too interested in the tree after that.

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