How to Keep Your Cat Away From The Christmas Tree

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Christmas trees, lovingly decorated with delicate ornaments by humans, are a perfect storm of cat disaster potential. Cats famously love to get into Christmas trees and either knock ornaments off of them or, in some cases, destroy them completely.

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For this reason, many people opt to keep their cat away from their Christmas tree, or at least attempt to. Keeping a cat away from a Christmas tree will require a mix of ingenuity, patience, and training. In the end, though, keep in mind that your cat might not be so agreeable to the idea of a do-not-touch Christmas tree, and consider Christmas tree alternatives that might work better for households with cats.

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Give your cat some time to adjust to the tree

Put the tree up a couple of days before you start decorating. Cats are curious animals by nature, so they naturally will want to smell, explore and climb on anything new that shows up where they live. Some cats may might lose interest after a few days, so don't hang up any tinsel or ornaments right away, to see if the novelty wears off.

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Minimize tree temptations

Make the tree as unattractive as possible to your cat by making sure there are no hanging cords or tinsel. Instead, wrap tinsel around the branches of the tree (or consider forgoing the tinsel altogether) and secure any cords with tape. Avoid decorations that rattle or make noise when touched, as this can remind your cat of a toy and entice him to play even more. Also, make sure there are few decorations on the lower branches, so your cat won't be tempted to bat them around.

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Minimize tree accessibility (if possible)

To the extent possible, you'll also want to put the Christmas tree in a place where it is not easy for your cat to access it. Put the tree in a place where your cat does not frequently hang out, and make sure it's not close to the cat's food area or litter box. Remove any chairs or tables that your cat could use as a ladder to reach higher parts of the tree.

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Consider training an alternative behavior

Though popular, the idea that cats are not trainable, or do not want to be trained, is a myth! Cats are very much trainable, and many cats enjoy training.

Training your cat to go to a "station," like a bed or a mat, is a great option for keeping them away from the Christmas tree (or any object you want them to stay away from). Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Julie Poslun's Youtube channel, Cat School, has an instructive video on how to teach your cat this extremely helpful skill. This skill is a great tool to use any time your cat is actively messing with the tree. (Of course, this is a skill to be employed when you are home, so you will need other plans for the tree when you are away from home.)

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Stay away from essential oils and "repellents"

Many essential oils are actually toxic to cats. It's best to avoid using any oils in your efforts to keep the cat away from the Christmas tree.

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Though commercial "cat repellents" are also available, these should be carefully checked for any potentially toxic oils. In addition, these are unlikely to be effective to a cat who finds the tree very intriguing. Overall, repellents and oils are not worth the risk.

Consider alternatives to a traditional Christmas tree

If you know your cat won't leave the tree alone, or you simply don't want to stress about it, there are many creative cat-safe alternatives to a traditional Christmas tree. Almost anything that is flat against the wall is a great alternative: you can build a "tree" out of shelves, use wall decals, or craft one in pretty much any way you can think of.

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Never punish your cat

Above all, never punish your cat for engaging with the Christmas tree (or for any behavior). It won't work, and will only serve to make your cat feel anxious and fearful. Instead, set yourself up for success by making the tree as unappealing and inaccessible as possible. When training, remember to use positive reinforcement training only, and remember that your cat is just being a cat.

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