A Veterinarian Explains Why Cats Hate Christmas Trees

Veterinarian Liz Bales explains why felines are so enticed and what you can do to keep them safe.

Cat Pawing at a Christmas Ornament on Christmas Tree
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You spend all day putting up the perfect Christmas tree, only to wake up the next morning and find those once carefully-placed ornaments scattered in pieces all over the living room floor. Once again, your cat has snuck its way into your spruce—and none of your decorations have made it out alive. Unfortunately, this is the reality of the holidays for countless cat owners. But while it's generally known that felines and firs do not get along, there's still confusion about exactly why cats hate Christmas trees—so we consulted Liz Bales, veterinarian and founder of Doc & Phoebe's Cat Co., for answers.

The problem, it turns out, is both the Christmas tree and the ornaments. With so many hanging objects, your Christmas tree likely looks like a giant toy begging to be played with. Cats' claws are also designed to help them climb trees—something they frequently do in the wild to escape predators—and your Christmas tree is essentially a would-be playground for your feline friend. "You just installed the most amazing, real-life climbing tree in your home, then covered it with enticing, dangling toys and you expect to be able to keep your cat away from it?" Bales writes on her website. "I'm going to make this really easy for you: You can't."

And since you can't, it's important that you make sure to keep your kitty far away from your Christmas tree. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, when cats consume tinsel or ribbons, they experience everything from vomiting to intestinal tract damage. Not only that, but should your cat accidentally ingest pine needles, they risk puncturing their intestines, damaging their liver, and suffering side effects from the tree water, pine oil, and sap. And if a cat chews any Christmas light cords, they can get electrocuted, which results in mouth burns and difficulty breathing.

At this point, you're probably asking yourself whether it's possible to even keep a tree in the house without putting your cat's health on the line. Fortunately, you can! Firstly, you can spray the tree with cat deterrent or place orange peels (a natural repellent due to the intense citrus smell) at the base of the tree. Bales also suggests refraining from putting any additives into the tree water and covering the water basin to prevent cats from lapping it up.

But the safest bet is to buy an artificial Christmas tree and avoid wrapping presents in long, wire-edged ribbons. And faux fir or not, Bales recommends securing the bottom of your tree with a sturdy stand and the top by attaching it to your ceiling with fishing wire. This way, it won't fall over if your cat does decide to climb it.

Another option? You could invest in the "half" Christmas tree—a fake fir with branches that start a few feet off the ground—that went viral in 2018 for the very reason that felines can't reach it, and therefore can't destroy it!

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