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How do I keep my cat away from holiday decorations?

The holiday season is a festive time filled with lights and colorful décor. But for many cat owners, it’s an annual struggle to keep curious felines from pulling down the holiday decorations a paw-full at a time. If this describes you, don’t panic. There are some things you can do to help safeguard your ornaments and heirlooms.

Protecting Your Tree from Your Cat

If you’re a cat owner, you already know how curious cats can be. Even without lights, tinsel, and ornaments, a holiday tree presents a climbing enticement that your cat may find too alluring to resist. So, before you decorate:

  • Be sure your tree is seated and balanced in a tree stand with a stable footprint to avoid toppling.
  • Select a spot for the tree that’s safe, stable, and away from other breakables.
  • Wire your tree to a secure spot such as a wall, banister, or ceiling.
  • If you have a real tree, cover the tree stand with a protective skirt to keep thirsty cats from lapping up the tree water. (Pine water isn’t toxic in small quantities, but a dried-out tree can pose a significant fire hazard.)

These tips will help prevent toppling, even if one of your cats decides to attempt a flying leap into the branches!

Holiday Light Safety for Cats

When stringing and arranging holiday lights—whether on your tree, mantle, windows, or doorways—do so with your cat(s) in mind. A dangling or swinging wire can be as tempting as a cat toy, so be sure all wires are secured. Tips on securing your lights:

  • Bury the strings of tree lights deep within the foliage.
  • Secure all wires traveling between tree and outlet with masking tape to make them less tempting.

Ornament & Tinsel Trouble

A bright dangling ornament or some silvery tinsel might easily be seen as toys by your cats. To reduce the risk for damaged or broken ornaments:

  • try decorating the areas of the tree that are most tempting to cats with shatterproof ornaments. (For example, the lower branches of your tree can be adorned with hand-decorated Styrofoam ornaments.)
  • You can use soft ties—made from cloth, ribbon or pipe cleaners—rather than hooks to secure your ornaments to the tree, as this will make them harder to dislodge.

Avoid décor that can be toxic to pets. This includes tinsel, icicles, and artificial snow. All are made from synthetics that are potentially hazardous if ingested. As an alternative, try beaded garland. (We’ve had a lot of success with this in our home!)

Holiday Plant Cautions for Cats

Remember that the potential hazards of holiday décor don’t end with the ornaments and wires. Some favorite holiday plants—such as poinsettia leaves, holly berries, mistletoe, amaryllis, and English ivy—are all toxic to cats if ingested, so if your cats are curious nibblers, you may want to substitute non-toxic alternatives such as Christmas cactus or non-living plants. From Amaryllis to Christmas Cactus, here are common holiday plants that may pose risk to curious cats.

Cat Deterrents From Decorations

Even with all these cautions, some cats still require some discouragement to keep them clear of holiday décor. Cat owners have found success using cats’ natural dislike for citrus aromas and flavors. Try scattering a few orange peels beneath the tree, or gently spraying the branches with diluted citronella. While the citrus aroma is pleasant to humans, it’s a real “stop” sign for cats.

We hope these practical tips help you and your pets have a safe and joyous holiday season!


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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