Last fall my parents got a kitten, so they figured it was best to not put up a Christmas tree. I made one from scratch last year that was kitten-proof. This fall my parents again got a kitten, Jazpurr (yes, we went with the alternative spelling because he’s just a jazzy purr pants!). He just so happens to be the world’s cutest kitten.
So again we had to figure out how to tackle the Christmas tree situation. We figured we would go for a real tree because it may be less toxic if they ate it than an artificial tree. We also thought it would be too dense and prickly that the cats would leave it alone.
Oh how wrong we were.
Within 30 minutes of putting the tree up Jazpurr was in the tree chewing on branches.
When he came out he smelled like Christmas and was covered in sap.
So this led me to think, how do you keep cats safe around Christmas?
Artificial tree vs. Real tree
If your cat is determined to eat the tree, neither one is totally safe.
Real trees are mildly toxic and could potentially puncture the intestines if a lot of needles are ingested (most cats don’t actually ingest a large quantity of tree needles). Another concern is the water the tree stands in-it can grow bacteria that can cause diarrhea. Tree water sometimes has additives in it to keep the tree fresh, which could be toxic to cats. If you opt for the real tree be sure to keep the tree water covered.
With artificial trees you don’t have to worry about water or intestinal puncturing, but that doesn’t mean they are a better option. The tree material can contain toxins and are not digestible.
As a general rule if your cat is eating anything that isn’t something a cat should be eating, there is potential for complications. A lot of cats can keep their mouths off of the actual tree, but other things at Christmas can be more of a concern than the Christmas tree itself.
Working at a vet’s office I have never heard of cats having intestinal punctures from eating real trees, but that doesn’t mean that it never happens. Most cats don’t ingest enough tree material for it to cause any major problems.
Basically if your cat can’t be trusted make sure they are supervised while around the tree.
Common Christmas cat hazards
Tinsel: Just say no. Cats can’t seem to resist and nobody want a trip to the emergency vet over the holiday because your kitty ate a bunch of tinsel. It can get caught in their intestines and cause a blockage, which is an emergency.
Mistletoe and Holly: Both are toxic to cats so avoiding them around the holiday season is a good idea.
Lights: Chewing on the lights on the tree can cause kitty to get an electrical burn. If your cat has a history of chewing on cords I would suggest that your kitty only gets supervised time around the Christmas tree.