How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Safe From Your Cat… And Your Cat Safe From Your Tree

The lights, the sparkly ornaments, the beautiful tree, the nutcrackers… there’s a lot to enjoy about Christmas decor. There’s also a lot to destroy, if you’re a cat. Some cat owners may decide not to have a tree or decorate at all because they don’t want Fluffy to come in like a wrecking ball. Others decide to decorate, pick ornaments up several times a day, and wish reminding their cat about the naughty list actually worked. Or, like many of these people, they could find that a cat has replaced the star at the top of the tree. If you find yourself dealing with these issues, worry not! There are some steps you can take to make your decor a little less enticing to your 10-pound furball of mass destruction.

The Tree

The center piece for most holiday decorations is the tree. Whether you head out to a national forest with a tree permit, buy something perfect at a tree farm, or settle on an artificial model, there are plenty of options to choose from. To make sure your tree stays put and isn’t sprawled across the room after a close encounter of the feline kind, there are some things you can do.

Tips for a Standard Tree

If you set up a tree, come what may, the best option is actually an artificial one. Pine needles, sap, and tree water can all be toxic for cats. You’ll still want to make sure your furry friend isn’t chewing on the fake branches, of course, but there are fewer dangers involved than with a traditional tree.

Red tabby cat playing underneath Christmas tree

When you set your tree up, make sure it’s secure. This can be accomplished by adding a wide, stable base with a quality tree stand. For extra sturdiness, you can also secure the top of the tree to the wall with a rope or fishing line. It’s important to place the tree far from places from which your cat likes to jump, too. Putting it right next to the cat tree, for example, could lead to you staring at the cute, mischievous little cat face ornament you don’t remember adding to the tree.

If these steps haven’t had much success, you can also try some cat deterrents. Placing foil on the trunk and throughout the branches may be helpful, as cats tend to dislike touching foil. Pine cones around the base are also an option, and cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy recommends that your base include citrus fruit peels in Ziploc bags with small holes poked in them. Cats are not fond of the smell of citrus.


If this sounds like a lot of work, or you have a very purr-sistent kitty, you could always opt for a smaller tree. Obviously, the smaller the tree, the less apt it is to hurt a cat if it falls, too. There are a few benefits here! After choosing a little tree, you can place it on the top of a bookshelf or a table that your cats don’t typically worry about. Once it’s further away from those feline murder mittens known as paws, it may survive to see another Yuletide.

Kitten sitting under Christmas tree with bells and ornaments

Tree Alternatives

So your tabletop tree has fallen into the wrong paws, too, huh? You’re not completely out of options! In our crafty world filled with Etsy makers, there are plenty of tree alternatives. Those can include wall decals, wooden Christmas trees, or large felt cut-outs. If you can dream an alternative tree up, it’s probably out there somewhere. Another option is a half-tree, one that is essentially bare for a few feet, with the decorations higher up. That may deter prying kitty paws.


Once you’ve got your tree settled, it’s time to add some light. That can be a bit dicey, too, with cats who may like to take little nibbles out of everything. Many a phone charger have been lost in this way. Biting the string lights’ wires can be very dangerous, leading to burns or even electrocution for your cat. It’s not just the wires, though. They could also hurt themselves chewing on broken bulbs.

There are a few ways to tackle these issues. One, invest in some cord protectors. You can often find these at your local hardware store. If they aren’t available there, they can also be found online. Placing the lights at the middle of the tree, rather than further out may help, as well. It’s a bit tougher for your cat to get to them. Another big rule to remember is to always unplug the lights when you’re not in the room enjoying them.

Cat staring at Christmas string lights

Candles are also a fun and festive way to decorate for the season. An open flame and rambunctious pets are kind of a bad combination, though. From the risk of starting a house fire to burning your cat’s whiskers, regular candles may not be the best idea when you’re a cat parent. Fortunately, there are plenty of flame-free candles to choose from. Some even have timers to make things easier for you. Just stock up on whichever batteries are needed, and you’re set!


Now that you have your tree and lights settled, it’s time to think about ornaments and other decorations. One thing that may be helpful is to wait a few days to put up your ornaments. That will allow your cat to get a little more disinterested in the new thing that has popped up in their kingdom. If you put it all up at once, overloaded kitty senses may be too much for your poor, innocent ornaments to handle.

Sphinx cat taking ornament off the Christmas tree
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK/Людмила Французова

When you do add on those ornaments, steer clear of glass or other highly breakable materials. Opt for something slightly more sturdy, perhaps even cat-themed! (Well, you’re a cat person, of course there are cat-themed Christmas decorations in your house!) There are plenty of ornaments made from materials that can withstand the dreaded cat bunny kicks, and they’re just as festive as the glass ones. When choosing the type of material to secure your ornaments to the tree, consider twist ties, wire ties, or plastic hooks. Metal hooks can also be dangerous.

Avoiding Possibly Harmful Decor

There are certain holiday standbys that are toxic to your cat, so keep that in mind as you decorate. Holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias are among those toxic items, so you may want to choose artificial ones. As a reminder, pine needles and tree water are also among the things you’ll want to keep your kitty away from. Additionally, it’s wise to avoid popcorn and cranberry garland, tinsel, and fuzzy garland, as they can all cause serious digestive problems if your cat eats them.

Cat after knocking down Christmas poinsettia

Enjoying the Holidays with Your Cat

Now that you’ve found a good balance of festivities for you and safety for your cat, enjoy! And don’t forget to put a present in Mr. Whiskers’ stocking, too. Perhaps something festive with a bit of catnip?

To feel like you’re not alone with these struggles and to see pictures of cats getting crazy around the Christmas tree, click here!

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