Follow these tips to make sure your kitty is safe around your Christmas tree. Photography ©talltrevor| Getty Images.
Follow these tips to make sure your kitty is safe around your Christmas tree. Photography ©talltrevor| Getty Images.

Kitty vs. The Christmas Tree — Be Aware of the Holiday Dangers

The holidays are a fun time of year but can be dangerous for your kitty. Keep these seven not-so-jolly tree dangers away from your cat this holiday.
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Christmas is a magical time of year, but it isn’t always the best holiday for cats. There are lots of dangers, from tinsel and ribbon to poisonous seasonal plants like poinsettias. And, for many homes, Christmas trees are the centerpiece of the season, but they too can be a lot of trouble for cats. Here are the top dangers for your cat if you decide to put up a Christmas tree.

1. Puncturing pine needles

Pine is highly toxic to cats. Photography ©FaST_9| Getty Images.
Pine is highly toxic to cats. Photography ©FaST_9| Getty Images.

Jordan Holliday with Embrace Pet Insurance explains that unfortunately “live Christmas trees can be deadly for cats. Pine needles can be ingested and puncture intestines. Pine is highly toxic to cats, potentially causing liver damage or death.”

2. Toxic tree water

If you have a real Christmas tree, one of the most important things you can do this holiday season is to keep your cats away from the water at the base of the tree. Increasingly, companies are marketing various chemical enhancements that can keep your trees alive longer but are toxic to your cats.

Beyond added chemicals, it turns out all Christmas tree water is dangerous. Jordan explains that the water from Christmas trees is toxic to cats because of fire retardants that are sprayed onto most Christmas trees before they are sold, plus pine sap is toxic to kitties.

3. Burning lights

Make sure your cat cannot chew on the wires. Photography ©Casey Elise Photography.
Make sure your cat cannot chew on the wires. Photography ©Casey Elise Photography.

Christmas lights might look beautiful on the tree, but they can be extremely dangerous to cats. “Christmas lights may cause a thermal burn if a cat chews on the wires. In addition, cats can be injured by sharp edges from broken lights,” cautions Dr. Lori Bierbrier, the medical director of NYC’s Community Medicine.

4. Tangling tinsel, ribbon and twine

Don't let your cat get too comfortable toying with twine. Photography ©Erica Danger.
Don’t let your cat get too comfortable toying with twine. Photography ©Erica Danger.

Dr. Bierbrier points out that “tinsel is especially dangerous for cats. If ingested, it can easily become lodged in their intestines and result in a blockage.” In addition, Jordan reminds cat parents that “ornaments with ribbon or twine can be extra dangerous to cats if they are able to unravel it and possibly swallow it.”

5. Cutting ornaments

Jordan also advises, “If you have a cat that likes to get into the tree, it might also be best to stay away from glass ornaments, as they could get hurt from stepping on a broken one.”

Christmas tree ornaments made of wood, fabric and sturdy plastic are safest, as they are least likely to break if they fall. Always avoid glass and other easily breakable ornaments as well as tinsel. However, even ornaments too large for your cat to accidentally eat can be dangerous. Snow globe-type tree ornaments and decorations often contain antifreeze, which can be very dangerous if they crack and cats get access to the liquids inside.

6. Tip-over trees

Cats climbing Christmas trees might make for a cute picture, but it can also be very dangerous, as trees can easily fall over, breaking ornaments or injuring your cat. If your cat is prone to climbing and you want to have a full-sized Christmas tree, a great option is to anchor your tree to the wall and ceiling to ensure it can’t tip over and injure your cat.

7. Don’t-eat-it artificial

Even though an artificial tree isn't toxic, it can still cause irritation if tree pieces are ingested. Photography ©-oxygen-| Getty Images.
Even though an artificial tree isn’t toxic, it can still cause irritation if tree pieces are ingested. Photography ©-oxygen-| Getty Images.

“An artificial tree is the safest tree option for cats. They can still get in trouble by climbing the tree, and you’ll still need to be careful about how you decorate it, but when in doubt, it’s best to go with an artificial tree to avoid the more serious health risks associated with a real tree,” Jordan advises.

However, you still need to monitor your cat around the artificial tree. “Cats should not chew on an artificial tree, as they may accidentally ingest pieces of the tree which can cause both irritation and potential blockage.” Dr. Bierbrier advises.

Consider Christmas tree alternatives

Concerned about the safety of your cat this Christmas? Here are a variety of festive, safer options to consider:

  1.  Make or buy a plywood Christmas tree cutout that can include painted-on ornaments.
  2. Forget the tree completely and hang Christmas tree ornaments from your ceiling where your cats won’t be able to reach them.
  3. Repurpose a small triangle-shaped shelf, paint it green (or not!) and fill it with special trinkets to remind you of the year or of the season.
  4. Create a tower of books (make sure they are stable) to put packages underneath.
  5. Make a cat-safe fake tree out of paper or wood and put your gifts by it.

Thumbnail: Photography ©talltrevor| Getty Images.

About the author

Sassafras Lowrey is an award-winning author whose novels have been honored by the American Library Association and the Lambda Literary Foundation. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor who shares her home and writing life with three dogs, two bossy senior cats and a formerly feral kitten. Learn more at sassafraslowrey.com.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you

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6 thoughts on “Kitty vs. The Christmas Tree — Be Aware of the Holiday Dangers”

  1. Pingback: What’s Mew at Catster: December 2019 Cat Events – Info Body

  2. my 3 babies are now 4, almost 2 & not quite 1
    the kids complain the cats are more spoilt than them so achristmas tree bores them
    they love hiding in the boxes and the crunchy sound the pile of paper makes as they jump on each other in the paper pile and play hide and seek lol they are worse than the human kids lmao

  3. I forgot to mention, my “Christmas trees! are huge ficus plants which have grown as high as medium size Christmas trees. I decorate them with ornaments like Christmas trees.
    Also, it is summer here in Chile.

  4. The first year, my cats were fascinated and played with the Christmas ornaments. Now its old news. Too, they are older, both at age eight this year. The summer heat exhausts them. They relish the breeze from the Andes in Chile, which commences at 1500 hours every afternoon!

    1. I forgot to mention, my “Christmas trees! are huge ficus plants which have grown as high as medium size Christmas trees. I decorate them with ornaments like Christmas trees.
      Also, it is summer here in Chile.

  5. Domino was eight years old when he first saw a Christmas tree. It was a three foot artificial tree housed in the center of a dining table. He sniffed the fake branches, determined they were of no importance to him, therefore he decided the Christmas tree was not worthy of the effort. Besides, he watches me unpack it from its box every year. He’s not a fan of me unpacking large boxes. He’ll sniff the tree inside the box, recognize what it is and go back to bed. He doesn’t care about the colored ornaments, lights or anything else on the tree. Domino will be 13 years old by next Christmas.

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