The first year we celebrated Christmas with our cat, Jordan, we purchased a small tree, placed it in our small living room and adorned it with ornaments and garland. About two hours later, Jordan climbed the trunk of the tree, grabbed the garland in his mouth and leapt off the tree. The tree crashed to the floor, shattering ornaments and scaring the daylights out of everyone Jordan included.
After cleaning up the mess and calming our cat, we approached the tree with cat safety in mind. We learned several valuable tips to help us enjoy our Christmas tree while keeping Jordan and my favorite ornaments safe from harm.
1. Anchor the tree. To help stabilize the tree and prevent tipping, place it on a wide, flat base. We nailed our tree to two wide pieces of wood placed in an X shape. You can also use a large piece of plywood. To further anchor the tree, attach it to the ceiling or walls with hooks and fishing line or wire. Consider leaving the tree bare for a few days, allowing your cat to become used to it before the decorations go on.
2. Cover the tree’s water. While Jordan wasn’t interested in the water that collects in the tree stand, many cats find it convenient and irresistible. Unfortunately, the water can cause illness or even prove fatal to your cat, as it can contain tree sap, bacteria or fertilizer. Any plant treated with chemicals can harm cats, says Elaine Wexler-Mitchell, DVM, in her book Ask the Vet About Cats. If possible, cover the water with a plastic or metal lid. Also, wrap a tree skirt, blanket or other fabric over the stand, and secure it with clips. This fabric will also help to cover any wood used to stabilize the tree.
3. Choose ornaments with care. Shiny glass ornaments will tempt your cats playful nature, but shards of glass from broken decorations can cut your pets paw pads and cause severe internal damage if ingested. If you must use breakable ornaments, place them near the top of the tree, saving less delicate decorations, such as those made of fabric, for the bottom branches. Consider tying ornaments to the tree with festive ribbon instead of wire ornament hooks. Such wire hooks can also cut paw pads and damage internal organs if swallowed.
4. Avoid tinsel and other foil garlands. Like sparkly ornaments, tinsel and icicles can entice your cat with its glittery shine. Jordan particularly liked to pull on tinsel draped over the lower branches of the tree. If ingested, tinsel and other garlands can cause a very serious condition an intestinal blockage. When a cat swallows a piece of string or other string-like item, it becomes what veterinarians call a linear foreign body.
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