Is there a more heartwarming activity than decorating the Christmas tree? We start with a blank “canvas,” then add shiny balls, glittery garland and precious ornaments. When the transformation is complete, there’s that satisfying “ahhhh” moment.
A beautifully bedecked tree is, for many, a Christmas must. For others – cat owners for instance – the urge to have a tree is tempered by memories of Christmases past, when they spent the holiday season trying to keep the cat out of the Christmas tree. The first time you see your kitty’s cute face peering out at you from inside the tree makes you laugh. But mirth quickly fades as you try in vain to make your feline friend understand that the tree was not, in fact, placed there for their climbing pleasure.
There is no denying that cats are the biggest Christmas tree ornament you will ever have. Nearly all cat owners have a story to tell about waking up to find the Christmas tree in shambles. One friend even joked about starting a 12-step support group for people whose cats wreck the Christmas tree.
I can relate. I’ve had my share of knocked over trees and shattered ornaments. But here’s the thing: expecting a cat not to be infatuated with your Christmas tree just isn’t realistic. You can’t change any creature’s instincts, let alone one whose middle name is “mischief.” Simply put, cats love to climb trees. All of those shiny things dangling from the branches of your Noble Fir or Blue Spruce just make it all the more enticing to a tree-loving feline.
You basically have two options: you can forego the tree, or you can try one of the various methods other people have used for keeping cats out of the Christmas tree. However, keep in mind that what works for someone else’s cat might not work for yours. I will offer some suggestions below, but I can’t say for certain that any of them will be the answer to your trashed-tree prayers. Try one, and if it doesn’t work, try another. Above all, please don’t get angry at your cat for doing what comes natural!
1. Eliminate temptation as much as possible. Ornaments hanging on the bottom branches and cords dangling in mid-air are a cat’s invitation to play. If you have breakable ornaments with sentimental value, leave them off the tree. If you must display them, use them on a small tree you can put someplace where your cat can’t get to it.
2. Various sprays have been met with success by some cat owners. Try Bitter Apple, vinegar, pink grapefruit body spray, natural citrus or cranberry room sprays or an animal-deterrent spray. Thoroughly spray your tree before you put on the decorations, and spray the tree skirt too. If one of these sprays works to deter your cat, you may need to reapply it a few times a week (be sure to unplug the tree first). The exception is the vinegar; your cat will smell this long after it can be detected by human noses.
3. Other scented things some cats find objectionable are dryer sheets, orange peels, strong-smelling bars of soap and red pepper flakes. Place them around the bottom of the tree, underneath the tree skirt or on the tree trunk.
4. Double sided sticky tape is a well known cat deterrent, but it’s not exactly practical for keeping cats out of the Christmas tree. However, you could try putting it on the tree stand and wrapping it around the bottom of the tree trunk.
5. Train your cat with the “loud noise” method. Put some coins in an empty soda can and keep it nearby. When you see your cat start to approach the tree, shake that can with all your might. The noise startles them and may deter them from investigating the tree when you’re not in the room. All bets are off though, once you leave for work or retire for the night.
If none of these methods work to keep your cat out of the Christmas tree, there’s really only one thing left to do. Laugh. While you’re laughing, you might as well redecorate the tree, and be thankful for the joy your kitty adds to your life – not only at Christmas time, but every day of the year!
Read more articles by Julia Williams