*This article was also published on My Pet Savings in 2011.
With Thanksgiving marching us into the holiday season, many people are getting ready by putting up their Christmas trees. Anyone with a cat knows that decorating for the holidays can be an adventure, especially those with young cats that love playing with decorations, especially ornaments that might be dangling from the tree, or they might be enticed to play with the branches! Here are some tips that will make decorating go smoothly and keep your decor festive.
Let them explore- When I go to the store and come home with a new bag, my cats are always eager to see what’s inside. This is because cats are naturally curious (hence the saying “curiosity killed the cat”) and like to smell, touch, and see anything new that enters the home. While dragging the decorations out, let the cats explore the boxes and climb on them before opening them up. They will still be naturally curious of what is inside and should be supervised at all times, but letting cats practice their natural instincts will make it less stressful for you and them.
Use plastic ornaments- Most people have many sentimental ornaments that they adorn the Christmas tree with, and these are likely made of glass, or sometimes paper if they were made by children. Put these ornaments at the top of the tree and out of reach, and purchase a tub of plastic ornaments for the bottom of the tree. This works especially well if you have a mish-mash of ornament styles and don’t have a preference for the theme. Even if you prefer a coordinated Christmas tree theme, there are many beautiful plastic ornaments on the market that will match your theme. Using plastic ornaments on the bottom where cats are most likely to play is safer for the cat for when they bat at them.
Make sure the tree is sturdy- Check the base of the tree and make sure that it is sturdy. This is important for the safety of the cat, any children in the home, and the decorations! Trees need to be sturdy just in case your cat tries to climb the base, whether it is an artificial tree or a real one.
Consider location- Where is the Christmas tree located? If it’s near a windowsill, table, or chair, it’s possible that the cat might try to use these perches to jump onto the tree. That isn’t to say the tree can’t be anywhere near these items, but if they are too close, it might give cats the go ahead to jump.
Think like a cat- What other parts of the Christmas tree will a cat be enticed by? Anything that dangles, smells good, or crinkles will entice cats. Tinsel should be kept at the top of the tree, as many cats will be interested in chewing on it. If using a real tree, take caution and supervise the cat when possible, or move the cat to a different room when leaving the house. Pine needles can puncture organs and are toxic to cats (many holiday plants are, including poinsettias and mistletoe). By knowing what cats are enticed by, you can help them stay safe when it comes to putting up the Christmas tree.