Cat-proofing your holidays: This is why we can’t have nice things

Christmas cat prepares to strike. photo: vook

After years of exploring (and suffering) the dilemma of cats and Christmas, I have devised a solution that you can share with cat households: bouncy rubber Christmas tree ornaments. When their cat inevitably knocks the ornaments off the tree and they fall to the floor, they won’t break. They’ll bounce and be easily reinstalled on the tree at any time.

That has to be the solution. It just has to be. Because if it isn’t, then it might just mean we’re doomed. It would mean that there is no solution to the problem of cats, Christmas trees, and breakable ornaments.

My mother still remembers a cat of hers that would climb up the Christmas tree, perch on a limb, and reach out and knock down ornaments. Our own cat, Charlie, is less adventuresome but just as destructive; he will sit on the floor underneath the tree and calmly bat down any ornament that meets his fancy; even with a shorter fall, the ornaments still manage to shatter. Another cat loved to get tangled in the cord for the colored lights. We’ve had other cats that sit on nearby furniture so they can take a whack at that beautiful ornament Grandma brought over from Germany a century ago.

In one of many online forums dedicated to sharing tips for keeping kitty from attacking the tree, one person (“Donna”) wrote, “I blew up balloons and added them to the tree! She jumped in and accidentally popped one, causing her to jump off immediately! It stopped her from jumping into it again, so now I can finish decorating it, but I think I will still leave some in the tree, just in case.”

The problem with that solution is that, of course, you have balloons on your tree, and at no time when you dreamed about your perfect Christmas tree decorations, did you imagine balloons. Your grandparents did not flee the Kaiser with deflated balloons in their luggage.

“Sarah,” another person posting on that forum, said she sprayed apple cider vinegar around the tree and on its lower branches. The cats hate it, so problem solved, right? Well, if you’re all paid up on your visits by the Orkin man, you might be all right, otherwise you could attract gnats and other insects that like the scent of vinegar.

Assuming you don’t like the rubber ornaments idea and you don’t want to convert to a religion that doesn’t celebrate with decorated trees in the house, here are some more rational ideas shared by cat owners on WikiHow (

• You could use clamps or other methods to attach ornaments to the tree more securely than those cheap hooks you’ve been using.

• Don’t decorate your tree right away; give your cat time to get used to the tree sans ornaments, and use that time to try to train your cat to stay away from the tree. (This might work if your cats are unlike any cat I’ve ever had that doesn’t consider my “advice” to be legally binding.)

• Quite a few people complain about cats getting so enthusiastic in their tree redecorating that they actually knock over the tree. WikiHow’s contributors suggest considering that when siting the tree (either where it can’t fall over or where if it does fall over, a minimum of damage will ensue); you can also connect the top of the tree to the ceiling with wire or strong string.

If you are doubtful about any of these solutions working with your cat, depending on your home, you might be lucky enough to be able to close off the room in which you put the tree and only let the cat in when you’re there to police its behavior. Otherwise, you can deploy balloons and cider vinegar and other defenses galore, but your cat will have all night and all day when you’re at work to stare at the tree and come up with ways to try to get around its defenses. You know she will. It’s a challenge that’s too great to ignore.

There is one upside to Christmas with your cats: It’s cheap to buy them presents. Besides a little extra catnip or string toy, nothing will make a cat happier than climbing into a box from which you’ve just removed your own gift (congrats on the new ice cream maker). She’ll climb in, circle around, position herself for a long nap, and peer out at the outside-the-box world with a look of such supreme self-content that you’ll feel like forgiving her for destroying grandma’s antique angel ornament.


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