Thanks to the feline capers of Bob and Harry, my Christmas tree has listed south since the day after I put it up. Twice I have been jolted awake by a nocturnal crash – yes, Bob and Harry are nocturnal cats-and when I investigated I discovered the tree sprawled across the floor in a prone, submissive position.
The tree ornaments have been scattered, stashed under furniture for later, baptized in the bathtub and buried under the rug. They have been placed and replaced and taped back together. The wooden manger underneath the tree has a row of teeth marks that look like a beaver chewed it for lunch. Threats of permanent exile and temporary deportation in the snow hover in the air above the sounds of Christmas carols.
Bob and Harry sleep on the couch, after stashing a few stray ornaments underneath for later in the day, blissfully unaware of Christmas tree transgressions and the peril to their collective eighteen lives.
The Yearly Battle of the Christmas Cats
Each year when I put up my Christmas tree, I repeat the mantra of their Christmas tree transgressions and my cat safety commandments for cat and Christmas Tree survival. Veterinarians and pet experts do have some suggestions to keep your cat and your Christmas trees safe.
Avoid using tinsel. Veterinarians warn that Tinsel lures cats with its glitter, but if cats swallow tinsel, it can do much damage to their digestive systems. There isn’t a strand of tinsel in the house. Sigh of relief.
Spray light cords with bitter apple spray to discourage cats from chewing on them. Aerosol deodorant or antiperspirant sprays work too.
Bob thinks bitter apple is catnip and acts accordingly. He isn’t as enthusiastic about tape. Sigh of frustration.
Protect Tree Water. The tree water keeps a Christmas tree from drying out, but thirsty pets want to drink it too. Drinking tree water isn’t good for pets. It can make them sick. Protect your tree water with screen or mesh fabric duct taped over the pan. I have an artificial tree, so I don’t worry about water. Sigh of weariness.
Clean up pine needles if you have a live tree. Eating pine needles can disrupt and seriously harm a cat’s digestive system. My tree is fabric green branch artificial, so I just have to restrain Harry from nipping off branches and eating them like a chicken leg. Sigh of relief.
Avoid edible ornaments like candy canes. Cats know they are there and relentlessly hunt them down. One year when I was still becoming cat savvy, I put candy canes on the tree and over two nights acquired a new brand of candy cane, the teeth marks clearly visible among the stripes. Sigh of amusement.
Use a strong and steady tree stand. Put a small hook on the ceiling and attach a fishing string from the top of the tree to the hook. My tree stand has the strength of ten, but Bob and Harry combined are an eleven. Sigh of Resignation.
Avoid fresh mistletoe with its tempting red berries. Mistletoe and its red berries means a sweet treat instead of a kiss to cats and eating the leaves and berries can cause drops in blood pressure.
Avoid live holly and ivy. Ivy can give cats diarrhea, convulsions and occasionally even kill them if they eat large amounts of it.
Avoid Poinsettias as they can cause digestive harm to your cat. Poinsettias have large, red, white, pink or mottled leaves and they contain a thick milky, irritating sap. Veterinarians say that a cat would have to eat a large amount of poinsettia leaves or stems to harm your cat. Signs of poinsettia reaction include vomiting, anorexia, and depression. Other authorities say that they are not toxic to most cats. I wouldn’t take a chance on Bob and Harry’s Poinsettia self discipline or speculative the effects of ingested poinsettias on their digestive systems.
Christmas Tree Survival
Some cats don’t like the way aluminum foil feels. To protect your Christmas tree, wrap the lower trunk of the tree in foil and extend the foil to make a tree skirt. Foil comes in a variety of colors and sparkles in the light, so it looks like part of the holiday décor.
Generally speaking, cats don’t like the feel of pine cones. Pile pine cones around the base of your Christmas tree to keep cats away.
Some cats don’t like the scent or oranges. Placing orange peels under and around the base of your Christmas tree might keep the cats away.
Use unbreakable ornaments. If you do put glass ornaments on your Christmas tree, place them closer to the top so it will be more difficult for your cats to reach them.
Unplug Christmas lights when you are not using them. Inspect them periodically for chew marks.
Use a baby gate to fence off your Christmas tree or keep it in a closed off room.
Bob and Harry’s Feedback
Bob and Harry find the tree survival tip about using a baby gate to protect your Christmas tree particularly hilarious. They can zip to the top of the Christmas tree quicker than a ho ho ho, and bury themselves securely under the bed at a change in voice from indulgent to irate.
The Christmas Tree Will Survive, Bedraggled, but Recognizable and so Will Bob and Harry
I sit in the rocking chair by the Christmas tree after a long, hard day of snatching pieces of it back from the paws and jaws of Bob and Harry. I touch the tree with one glance and Bob and Harry with the other, and I think about the meaning of Christmas. The cats, the Christmas tree, and I are bathed in the light and meaning of Christmas. We all survive another year.
Davis, Ann. The Wonderful World of Christmas Trees. Mid-Prairie Books,
Hill, Lewis. Christmas Trees: Growing and Selling Trees, Wreaths, and Greens. Storey Publishing, LL, 1989
Rey, H.A. Curious George Christmas Countdown. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2009