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The Christmas Tree: Your Cat’s Holiday Nemesis

The Christmas Tree: Your Cat’s Holiday Nemesis

Posted by Armarkat on 30th Nov 2023

Of all my friends who own cats, only the ones with children in their household are putting up Christmas trees this holiday season. I’m not surprised. From a 2021 survey, Value Penguin reports that “72% of pet owners say their pets have knocked down their Christmas tree or knocked off ornaments — and nearly half (49%) of people in that group report damage.” More importantly, Christmas trees can pose a huge health risk to cats.

According to Falls Village Veterinary Hospital, real Christmas trees often have sharp needles that are capable of piercing through a cat’s internal body tissue. All it takes is a small bite of a Christmas tree branch for a curious cat to end up with serious injuries. Exposure to Christmas tree sap is another major health threat for cats. Christmas tree sap is toxic and can give a cat gastrointestinal symptoms, including but not limited to vomiting and diarrhea. Eating a large amount of sap can even cause severe kidney and liver problems. However, your cat does not have to purposely eat sap in order to be affected by the toxin it carries. Falls Village Veterinary Hospital warns that “any method of consuming the resin can cause harm. This includes drinking water from the Christmas tree stand or grooming sap off of their hair if they get some on them from walking under the tree.”

The needle and sap issues can be avoided by using a fake Christmas tree, but North Seattle Veterinary Clinic cautions that the decorations adorning the tree can be dangerous for your cat as well. One of the worst decorative materials your cat could consume is tinsel. When a cat eats tinsel, their stomach is unable to process the material. The tinsel can become stuck inside a cat’s intestines because it is not being digested properly. According to North Seattle Veterinary Clinic, “If your cat swallows a string of tinsel, you may see her pawing at her mouth, refusing to eat or vomiting. You may even see a little bit of the tinsel hanging from your cat’s anus. DO NOT TRY TO PULL THE TINSEL OUT! You could make the situation worse. Take your cat to the emergency clinic immediately.”

Fragile ornaments can also inflict harm upon your cat. North Seattle Veterinary Clinic explains that “Some cats just can’t help themselves – they just have to whack those shiny, dangly temptations!” The clinic recommends that cat parents do not place any glass decorations or easily broken ornaments in the lower portions of the Christmas tree.

But if you feel the need to set up a Christmas tree, such as to give your children a sense of the festive wonder of the season (as some of my friends do), what can you do to protect your cat? Bored Panda’s spotlight on ways to keep a Christmas tree safe from cats and dogs includes many creative and funny photos of Christmas trees hanging upside down from ceiling fans, putting vacuum cleaners around the Christmas tree to ward off a nervous cat, or sequestering the Christmas tree in a cage where it can be seen but not touched. But in all seriousness, what are some of the more practical ways to deter your kitty from a dangerous expedition in the Christmas tree?

Cat expert Jackson Galaxy advises that cat parents wrap and hang decorations tightly to the tree branches so that there are fewer wobbly objects. Remember: “Another word for ‘dangling shiny thing’ is ‘cat toy!’” But how can you discourage a cat from getting close to the Christmas tree in the first place? Jackson Galaxy has a remedy for that, too. You simply need to “take the peels of any citrus fruit and put them in a ziploc bag. Poke holes in the bag and put them around the base of the Christmas tree.” Jackson Galaxy describes this method as “a natural cat repellent.”

Fortunately, there is a way your cat can enjoy their own perfectly safe tree experience all year round. Furniture built for pets stimulates both their minds and bodies. Cat trees provide an excellent outlet for your cat’s energy, satisfy their desire for high ground, and offer a safe place for scratching. Learn more about the benefits of cat trees at and pick out the style of cat tree you like best for your own feline!

Quote of the day: “All I want for Christmas is whatever my cat wants.” - Unknown


Bored Panda, “40 Genius People Who Found A Way To Protect Their Christmas Trees From Cats And Dogs”

Falls Village Veterinary Hospital, “Are Christmas Trees Toxic to Cats?”

Jackson Galaxy, “The Ugly Truth about Cats and Christmas Trees Plus More Holiday Tips”

North Seattle Veterinary Clinic, “Oh Christmas Tree! Keeping Your Cats Safe at Christmas”

Value Penguin, “Christmas Hazards in 2021: Americans Report Tree Injuries, Fire Risks, Frisky Pets and Sticker Shock”