Cats and Christmas Trees

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It’s that time of year again; Christmas is coming and our high streets are already starting to show signs of the festive season. As well as worrying what this year’s on-trend colours are going to be for Christmas, pet owners need to make sure that whatever plans they have to decorate their homes for Christmas are pet-proof and more importantly pet-safe. The first thing that signals Christmas in the Noggins & Binkles household is the Christmas tree. After all, who doesn’t love the smell of fresh pine, the glisten of decorations and the twinkle of Christmas lights. As simple as these things might be in a cat-free home, serious consideration needs to be given to them all when you have inquisitive and, in most cases, naughty feline friends in the house; we certainly have two of them!

How To Choose A Cat Safe Christmas Tree

It all starts with the tree and even this requires some thought. Christmas trees contain oils that can be mildly toxic to some cats if ingested in large quantities so you need to make sure that your furry friend does not make a habit of chewing on the Christmas tree. Most cats will not like the taste of the tree so this is unlikely to be too much of a problem, but it is good practice to regularly clean up any needles that fall onto the floor, this should help reduce the chance of them getting pine needles on their paws or in their fur and licking them off. Typical symptoms include minor irritation to your pet’s mouth and stomach. If your furry friend develops any of these symptoms, you should consult your veterinarian. It is a good idea to provide your cats with an alternative source of safe greenery to munch on during the festive period. You can buy cat grass kits at pet stores or sow seeds in pots of soil and this can prove to be an effective way of distracting your furry friend from chewing on the Christmas tree. You can read more about plants which are considered to be safe for cats here. It is worth noting that the Poinsettia plant, which is a common gift in the festive period, is not safe for cats.

Cats and Christmas trees

Noggins eyeing up our Christmas tree.

How To Make My Christmas Tree Cat-Safe

Once a suitable tree has been identified, it is important to make sure that it is secure and will not topple over if an over-zealous kitty can’t resist the urge to climb it. Whilst Noggins considers himself too old and wise to even think about climbing the tree (although he has done it a few times!), Binkles likes nothing more than the challenge of climbing as far to the top of the tree as he can and on a daily basis. The addition of another 5 kilos of cat to the weight of the tree is not something that most Christmas trees can deal with so it is important to ensure that you weigh the base of the tree down enough to ensure that it can withstand the weight of its inquisitive new visitor. Another alternative is to tether the tree to a beam or other strong anchor point to avoid it toppling over.

Cats and Christmas - cat climbing Christmas tree

Binkles climbing to the top of of Christmas tree!

One of the most effective ways to stop the tree from falling over is to buy a Christmas tree stand that fits neatly into a decorative basket or pot and which can then be weighed down using bricks, stones or pebbles. Whilst it is also possible to use a planted Christmas tree, there is a risk that your cat may confuse the soil in the pot with its litter tray so, in our view, it is preferable to use a cut tree from a local, sustainable source and put it in a Christmas tree stand. Most local councils will collect Christmas trees in January, so don’t forget to recycle your tree!

One solution that has proven to be very effective in the Noggins & Binkles household is the Cinco Christmas Tree Stand, which is available in a number of outlets including DIY giant Wickes. This stand, which has an external circumference of 40cm, can accommodate Christmas trees with a trunk diameter of up to 10cm. It also has a water reservoir of 4.75 litres to keep your tree hydrated, which helps to reduce the number of needles which fall onto the floor from the tree. The tree stand can be concealed neatly inside a basket or pot and weighed down with bricks, stones or pebbles to make sure that even the most ambitious climbing kitty will really struggle to knock it over.

Once you are satisfied that your Christmas tree is sturdy and will not topple over, it is time to turn to choosing appropriate decorations. Again, some additional thought needs to be given to this in a home with cats because many conventional Christmas tree decorations are not suitable or practical for cats for one reason or another.

Choosing A Sustainable Cat-Safe Christmas Tree

For a more sustainable option, you might want to consider a potted live Christmas Tree. Not only does this mean you don't need to worry about finding a suitable base (provided it is already in a decent heavy pot) but you will only need to buy it once and it can be reused in years to come. We recommend that you start small. We love the Norfolk Island Pine (araucaria heterophlla) as an alternative to the traditional cut Christmas Tree because in addition to not dropping its needles in the same way as a cut Christmas Tree, once Christmas is over, it can simply be moved outdoors to carry on growing until next year. Over the years, you will need to repot the Norfolk Island Pine into larger pots to encourage it to keep growing. You can read more about the Norfolk Island Pine and other cat safe indoor plants in this post.

Cat-safe Christmas Tree Decorations

At Noggins & Binkles, we believe that no Christmas tree would be complete without baubles. However, many baubles, particularly the really nice luxury ones, are still made from glass, which can shatter if they fall on the floor. It is really important to check whether the baubles you are buying are shatterproof, particularly given that shiny baubles hanging from a tree are incredibly attractive toys for most cats. Binkles can strip a tree of its baubles with a few swipes of his paw.

Cats and Christmas tree decorations

Binkles rearranging our Christmas tree decorations.

To solve this problem, the new Christmas range at Noggins & Binkles includes beautiful handcrafted cork baubles which are decorated with bio-degradable, vegan glitter and finished with an organic cotton ribbon. This means that you can have complete peace of mind that not only are they completely safe for your furry friends but that you are also doing your bit for the environment. The cork is a completely natural, sustainable and eco friendly material and the biodegradable glitter is also non-toxic and toy safe.

Our cat safe Natural Cork Bauble Christmas Tree Decorations With Biodegradable Glitter

When decorating your tree, we recommend placing hanging decorations slightly higher up in the tree than you ordinarily would so that they are out of reach of a swiping kitty paw. It is also worth tying the decoration securely onto the tree rather than simply looping it over the branches so that even a wayward kitty paw won’t be able to dislodge it.

Nothing says Christmas quite like the twinkle of a nicely lit Christmas tree but, again, care needs to be taken when choosing lights for the tree in a home with cats. As many cat owners will know, cats like to chew wires and this can include the wires of the Christmas tree lights. There are a number of battery operated, low voltage light sets that are available and these can considerably reduce the risk to your furry friends. As well as sourcing the right lights, it is important to ensure that wires are concealed as much as possible to take away the temptation to an inquisitive cat. Finally, we recommend only having your Christmas tree lights on when you are in the room and switching them off when you are out. Last year Binkles decided to chew through our Christmas tree lights whilst the humans were out (and the lights were switched off), but luckily we were able to fix them, so we were keeping our eyes on him at all times when he was near the tree! 

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