Cat in Christmas Tree

Q. Help! My cat won’t leave the Christmas tree alone. How do I keep him out of the tree?

A. It’s generally best to set up the tree so your cat can’t get to it at all. With dogs, you can usually block off a tree with a fold-up children’s play yard or a canine exercise pen, but a normal cat will laugh at so feeble an attempt to contain him. Instead, set up the tree in a room with doors you can close, choosing, say, a formal living room over a more open family room, so it’s easy to deny access to the tree when you’re not around. You could also try making a “moat” of foil around the tree – cats hate walking on the stuff — but that may understandably not appeal to you as part of your holiday decor.

Work to burn off your cat’s excess energy away from the tree, such as in interactive play with a cat “fishing” toy or a laser pointer. Even young cats spend most of their lives asleep, and if you can occupy some of their awake time with active play they’ll have less interest in bothering the tree. The same goes for food puzzles: The more time your cat spends working for his food, the less time he’ll be busy elsewhere.

Scaring your cat away from the tree is not a good solution, though. I don’t like cat-control products that emit a shock or high-pitched noise for pets who step across boundaries, in part because cats generally react poorly to that kind of management. Stressed cats are more prone to illness and behavior problems such as litterbox avoidance, which means you could possibly “solve” a short-term problem and end up instead with a longer-term issue. Not good!

If you absolutely cannot make any of these solutions work for you, you can always set your cat up with food, water, a litterbox, cat climbing tower and toys in a bedroom away from the tree for the duration of the holiday season. As long as you spend time with him, he’ll be just fine there until it’s time to take down the decorations.

You may have to worry about kitty’s interest in the tree for only a year or two, since climbing the Christmas tree is a behavior more commonly seen in kittens and young cats, not more sedate older pets. In Christmas Future, you may look back with nostalgia on the crazy, young tree-climbing thing your cat once was.

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