Cats and Christmas Trees: How to Keep Both Safe

Published by Mary Washburn
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You've probably heard at least one story of a cat who toppled a Christmas tree over in their zeal to leap into it. While they may be a cute combination, cats and Christmas trees can also be a destructive force. If you celebrate Christmas or if having a tree is part of your holiday tradition, understanding how to build a cat-safe Christmas tree can help ensure that both your kitty and your tree stay healthy all season long.

The Trouble With Cats and Christmas Trees

While it might seem near impossible to keep your cat out of your Christmas tree — especially if they're a younger kitty — you can take steps to help keep your curious climbing kitty out of harm's way. A good place to start is knowing which aspects of your holiday tree pose potential dangers to your cat.

yellow cat next to fallen christmas tree

Needles and Tree Water

Those little needles that fall all around your Christmas tree can be toxic and otherwise unsafe for your kitty. According to Pet Poison Helpline, pine needles can cause nausea, vomiting, skin irritation or injury to the stomach if ingested. The sap from these trees is also toxic to your cat. The water your tree sits in may contain sap and harmful preservatives, so be careful your cat doesn't drink from the reservoir around your live tree as well.

If your kitty chews on your tree's needles and branches or drinks from the reservoir, they may experience vomiting, diarrhea, cramping and drooling. If you observe any of these signs, contact your veterinarian right away.

Keep the area around your tree swept and tidy, and always monitor your cat when they're around your Christmas tree. If your tree is in an enclosed room, shut the door to keep your kitty out while you're away. You can also cover the reservoir with netting or duct tape (sticky side up) to keep them from accessing the tree's water supply.


Electricity and cats don't make a great pair, and your cat can also get tangled in loose cords. Here are some ways to help protect your furry friend and still have a shining tree:

  • Wrap the wires tightly around the branches to limit dangling or loose pieces.
  • Avoid twinkling or blinking lights, which can entice your cat.
  • Cover any cords leading from the tree to your outlet (try threading them through an empty paper towel or toilet paper tubes!).
  • Check the wires frequently for damage from teeth or claws.

Always unplug the tree when no one is nearby to supervise your cat. If you believe your cat might have chewed a live cord, check their mouth for signs of burns and look for singed hair and whiskers. If you suspect they've been hurt by chewing on Christmas tree lights or wiring, call your vet immediately.

cat playing with tree ornaments

Glass and Sharp Ornaments

You can't fault your cat for loving ornaments. Those shiny, swaying objects look a lot like toys — your cat doesn't know that ornament they just knocked down from the tree is a third-generation family heirloom. So how do you get your cat to leave your precious ornaments alone?

Glass ornaments and ornaments with sharp edges can also harm your cat. For harmony between cats and Christmas trees, cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett suggests the following:

  • Choose nonbreakable ornaments. This will keep your kitty from ingesting or stepping on a sharp shard — and save you a trip to the vet.
  • Hang ornaments strategically. Keeping your ornaments toward the center of the tree and avoiding low-hanging branches will help make them less accessible to your cat's probing paws.
  • Use twist-ties to secure ornaments. This will make it much harder for your cat to bat your ornaments to the floor.
  • Get crafty. If your cat is tree-obsessed, consider decorating with simple paper ornaments and paper garland to protect your cat and your ornaments.

How to Build a Cat-Safe Christmas Tree

Johnson-Bennett offers several ways to keep cats and Christmas trees safe this holiday season. The best bet, she says, is to place your tree in a room that can be closed off when no one is home to supervise your fur baby.

If that's not possible, here are some other suggestions:

  • Attach the tree to the wall or ceiling. You can anchor your tree with a fishing line and an eye bolt to either a wall or the ceiling to help keep your cat from knocking it over.
  • Invest in a heavy-duty tree stand. Find a tree stand that can manage the weight and height of a tree — even if it's under attack by a climbing cat.
  • Clear the area of furniture. This way your cat can't use a nearby table, couch or bookshelf to launch themselves right into your tree.

While you're preparing your home for seasonal safety, keep in mind that several poisonous holiday plants can be harmful to your cat. Take some time to make sure your holiday decorations are compatible with your kitty's health and well-being.

Cats and Christmas trees are what holiday memories are made of. By taking a few simple precautions, you can help protect your cat and your tree for a smooth, festive season full of cat snuggles and holiday cheer.

A cat beside a toppled Christmas tree.