Keeping cats off the Christmas tree–and keeping toddlers off the Christmas tree, for that matter–doesn’t mean sacrificing its appearance for your Christmas pictures. You won’t have to construct a cage around the tannenbaum. Using a few clever strategies can make the tree both unappealing and less accessible to cats and kids while still visually appealing for your family’s Christmas photo sessions and snapshots.
Choose a tree that’s really scratchy. Spruce and Scotch pine provide two examples of pokey pines that can keep curious kitties and energetic toddlers away.
Erect the Christmas tree out of the way, such as in a corner in a secure base. A corner location allows you to anchor it to the wall. If possible, place the tree in a room where you can block its access while you’re gone or asleep so kitty won’t investigate it. For example, if your family room has a door, you can close it off from the rest of the house.
Don’t forget about “steps” near the tree. A chair nearby makes it easier for cats to climb up to higher areas of the tree. If moving furniture away from the tree isn’t possible, use the pet deterrent measures higher on the tree.
Block access to lower branches of the tree for babies and smaller toddlers. Wrap large boxes and place a cinder block inside each to create a buffer zone. Or consider temporarily installing wooden safety gates around the tree if nothing else helps keep grabbing hands off the ornaments. Decorate the gates with small stuffed toys in festive colors.
Use non-breakable ornaments on the lower branches. Bend the wires of the ornament hooks so they close over the branches for better security. Remember that toy-like ornaments will tempt children to explore them, as will dangly ornaments will lure kitties. Tinsel and icicles flutter like bird feathers.
Offer a “child’s tree” (a small artificial tree) that your small ones can decorate with their own age-appropriate items and play with it under supervision. As for the cats, a cat tree (multi-level kitty playground) or a new cat toy such as a treat dispensing ball can provide good early Christmas presents and diversions from your Christmas tree.
You can make Christmas tree ornaments especially unappealing–even repulsive–to felines by making them with dried citrus fruit peels or mint leaves, which most cats detest. Gather a handful of peels or mint leaves into a square of lace and tie off with a ribbon to form a pretty cat repellent. Hang several of these along the lower branches. Conceal dried peels or mint leaves under the tree skirt, too.
Try commercial cat repellent. No-mark sprays, for example, work well around the tree or on a few designated cloth ornaments. (Don’t spray the tree if you use lights.) You will need to refresh the spray every evening and morning to maintain its repulsing power.
Wrap the trunk of the tree with foil or use foil as your tree skirt; cats hate how it feels.
Give kitty plenty of exercise in the early evening with a favorite toy. He won’t feel so inclined to go tree climbing and you can enjoy a Silent Night.
After all the work you’ve put into decorating, don’t forget to take plenty of photos of your Christmas tree. It makes the perfect backdrop for sweet holiday photos of your family, too.