Friday, December 18, 2009
By Julia Williams
Christmas tree decorations come in all sizes, shapes and colors, from glittery round balls and intricate figurines, to handmade ornaments and whiskered cat faces peering out at you from inside the tree. Wait. What??
Yes, it’s true. Cats are the biggest Christmas tree ornament you will ever have. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me for suggestions on how to keep cats out of the Christmas tree. Nearly all cat owners have a story (or two) to tell about waking up to find the Christmas tree in shambles and their precious ornaments either broken to bits or scattered throughout the house. One friend even joked about starting a 12-step support group for people whose cats ruin the Christmas tree.
I sympathize, because I can relate. I’ve had my share of knocked over Christmas trees and shattered ornaments. But here’s the thing: expecting a cat not to be infatuated with your Christmas tree is, well, just plain silly. You can’t change any creature’s instincts, let alone one whose middle name is usually “mischief.” Simply put, cats love to climb trees. All of those shiny things dangling from the branches of your Noble Fir or Blue Spruce just make it all the more enticing to a tree-loving feline.
If your kitty is smitten with your tree, you basically have two options. You can forego the tree, or you can try one of the various methods other people have tried for keeping cats out of the Christmas tree. However, you must keep in mind that every cat is different and what works for one person’s cat might not work for yours. I will give you some suggestions for things to try, but I can’t say for certain that any one of them will be the answer to your trashed-tree prayers. Try one, and if it doesn’t work, try another. Above all, please don’t be mad at the cat for doing what comes natural to them!
The first thing you should do is eliminate temptation as much as possible. Ornaments hanging on the bottom branches and cords dangling in mid-air are a cat’s invitation to play. And if you have breakable ornaments with sentimental value, leave them off the tree. If you must display them, use them on a small tree you can put up on the mantel or some other place your cat can’t get to.
Various sprays have been met with success by some cat owners. Some to try include Bitter Apple, vinegar, pink grapefruit body spray, natural citrus room spray, cranberry room spray and animal-deterrent sprays. Spray your tree thoroughly before you put on the decorations, and spray the tree skirt as well. If one of these sprays works to deter your cat, you may need to reapply it a few times a week (be sure to unplug the tree before spraying). The exception is the vinegar; your cat will smell this long after it can be detected by human noses.
Other scented things some cats find objectionable are dryer sheets, orange peels, strong-smelling bars of soap and red pepper flakes. These can be placed around the bottom of the tree, underneath the tree skirt or on the tree trunk.
Double sided sticky tape is a well known cat deterrent, but it’s not terribly practical for keeping cats out of the Christmas tree. You could, however, try putting it over the tree stand and wrapping it around the bottom of the tree trunk.
Train your cat with the “coins in a can” method. Put some pennies in an empty soda can and keep it handy when you are in the room where the tree is situated. When you see your cat start to approach the tree, shake that can with all your might. The noise startles them and may deter them from investigating the tree when you’re not in the room.
If none of these methods keep your cat out of the Christmas tree, there’s really only one thing left to do. Laugh about it. And while you are laughing, you may as well redecorate the tree, and be thankful for the mirth your kitty adds to your life – not only during the holiday season, but every day of the year!
Read more articles by Julia Williams