12 Tips For A Cat-Safe Christmas Tree

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The Christmas tree might as well be an early holiday gift to your cats. Kitty can’t resist the urge to sniff, cheek rub, claw—and scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. Don’t blame your cat. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society.

Youngsters won’t care about social standing, but high energy kitten play turns the holiday tree into a jungle gym. Tree encounters of the kitty kind not only risks breaking your heirloom ornaments, your furred family members can be injured by chewing or swallow dangerous items.

Rather than fight a losing battle to keep cats at bay, create a second cat-safe tree with these 12 tips, so the fur-kids can enjoy the holidays as much as you do.

1. Put yourself in your cat’s “paws.” Satisfy her desire to claw, lounge on branches, and trust that it won’t tip over under her assault. Match the tree size, sturdiness, base (perhaps add guy-wires for steadiness) to the activity level and number of cats.

2. Ditch the lights, and any “fake-snow” flocking that can be chewed or swallowed. Instead, decorate with cotton balls or pillow-stuffing fleece for that snowy look on branches or around the base. If you’ve chosen a real tree, water with plain water and no additives in case kitty decides to drink.

3. Strings and garland look great on the tree, but prove deadly inside a cat when swallowed. Dried flowers like baby’s breath look lovely and are nontoxic even if clueless kittens nibble.

4. To increase the fun factor, insert a few sprigs of dried catnip—but be prepared for the cats to dismantle the tree!

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5. Catnip toys make great kitty tree decorations and won’t be destroyed during the feline assaults. Use “orphan” socks (singletons without a mate), fill with the ‘nip, and knot the open end.

6. Jingle bells (quarter size or larger) can’t be swallowed and offer movement and sound when hung from ribbon on a branch. Put one inside the sealed catnip sock for more jingly fun.

7. Furry toy mice come in bright colors—or go with a standard white theme—and can be placed in the branches for your mouse-aholic feline.

8. Craft stores offer inexpensive bags filled with soft pompoms in a variety of colors and sizes—even sparkly ones. Cats love to play with these. Pompoms are so cheap you can fill the branches with one color theme, or a rainbow approach.

9. Many cats adore feathers, but remember they can chew and swallow these. As long as supervised, a few feathers placed in the tree can be a fun accent as well. How about a bright feather boa instead of garland?

10. Small stuffed toys—kitty theme or otherwise—appeal to many cats. Place around the base of the tree. Feline puzzle toys filled with special treats also are fun.

11. Don’t forget the “cheap thrills.” Empty boxes, wads of holiday paper, and even paper shopping bags thrill cats. Remove bag handles so the cat won’t get hung around her neck.

12. Toss a few special kitty treats in the boxes or bags. The smellier the treat, the better cats like them.

Be prepared to re-decorate the tree after the cats have fun. But a “Cat-mas” tree not only answers your kitty’s Santa Paws prayers, it means she’ll be more likely to leave your formal tree and decorations alone. That promotes a merry Christmas for the whole family, furry and otherwise.

Amy Shojai (www.AmyShojai.com) is a certified animal behavior consultant and the award winning author of 23 pet care books (www.Shojai.com) on aging cats and dogs, first aid, natural healing, pit bulls, including Complete Kitten Care. Amy also appears on Animal Planet’s CATS-101 and DOGS-101, and writes for puppies.About.com. You can “like” her on Facebook (facebook.com/amyshojai.cabc) and “follow” her on twitter via @amyshojai. She lives in North Texas with a senior citizen Siamese and smart-aleck German shepherd dog.

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