How to Keep Cats From Playing With Your Christmas Tree

Caitlin Dempsey


Cat sitting under a Christmas tree.

You set up your Christmas tree, hang up your beautiful ornaments, and then you hear it. There is a rustling sound, glass begins to clink, and as you rush to your tree you see it tilt and crash to the floor. Your cat steps out from the tangled branches and walks away as if nothing happened. (Related: Why Cats Knock Things Over)

Welcome to the holidays!

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Why are Cats Attracted to the Christmas tree?

In order to figure out how to keep our cats out of the Christmas trees, we need to understand why our cats want to be in the trees in the first place.

A gray cat exploring under a decorated Christmas tree.

First and foremost, the Christmas tree is something new to your cat. Even if you had a tree set up in the previous years, each year that tree goes up it becomes something new for your cat to explore. A curious animal, your cat will want to take a close look at it, sniff it, and take an exploratory swat or two at the branches.

When your cat sees that it is safe to explore, the bright lights, some that blink, will catch its eyes. And look! Shiny ornaments are everywhere and look like the toys your cat already plays with.

All of the lights, shiny ornaments, and the tree itself create an irresistible urge to play with your cat and it will not be long before its instinct to scratch, climb, and mark its territory kicks in.

Fortunately, there are a few ways we can keep our Christmas trees and cats safe during the holiday season.

How to Stop your Cat from Climbing the Christmas Tree

If you can find a way to prevent your cat from climbing the Christmas tree, you are all set for a semi peaceful holiday season.

One option is to select a slim pencil tree (like this pencil tree on Amazon – affiliate link) to grace your home.

Thin Christmas trees give cats less room to climb and some cats will simply ignore them, but not all.

A black cat sitting under a Christmas tree.

If you want a broader tree, here are more strategies for keeping your cat away from your Christmas tree.

After you have selected your tree, set it up in a spot that is away from furniture, ledges, or any other elevated spots that can provide a platform for your cat to jump into the tree from. If your cat can jump from a table or sofa to the Christmas tree, it probably will give it a try. Avoid that flying fiasco from the start and give your Christmas tree its own space away from everything else.

If, your cat still wants to try and climb the tree from the ground, put aluminum foil around the base of your tree. Sure, it might look a little tacky, but cats generally hate the crunching sound the foil makes when they step on it. You can also try spiky mats that deter cats (Buy: Amazon).

For extra tree protection, place lemon and orange peels around the base of your tree. Most cats hate the citrus smell and will avoid the area altogether.

If nothing else seems to keep your cat away from the tree, it might be time to take a drastic step and put an exercise pen around the Christmas tree. This will help prevent your cat from getting into trouble and is a great option if you also have a dog or toddler in your home because it will keep them at a safe distance from the tree and ornaments.

If all this fails and your cat decides that it absolutely must climb your Christmas tree, make sure your tree is secured in a stable base. Wide bases are best at preventing trees from tipping over and crashing onto the floor.

Stop Your cat from Chewing on Your Christmas Tree

After you have your tree set up, you may notice your cat taking a nibble at the pine needles. It does not matter if the tree is real or fake, cats will want to take a bite out of curiosity.

To prevent your cat from chewing on your Christmas tree and possibly getting sick, use a citrus spray on the branches. These are available online and are used to prevent cats from getting too close to the tree. You can also dab orange essential oil or citronella onto the tips of the branches to keep cats away.

Avoid Tinsel on Your Tree

You should also avoid using tinsel on your tree. Tinsel is a tempting sight to cats and it will give them the urge to chew on your tree. If your cat eats it, the tinsel can cause your cat physical harm. (Related: Christmas Plants to Avoid Around Cats)

Keep Ornaments Safe from Being Knocked Off

Now that the tree is ready to be decorated, start by putting any breakable ornaments towards the top of the tree. Avoid placing ornaments on the lower branches of your Christmas tree if possible. Low hanging ornaments will tempt your cat to take a swing at it.

If you feel that you must hang ornaments on the lower branches, hang plastic, felt, and wood ornaments because they won’t break when your cat knocks them down. You could also attach some jingle bells to the lower limbs so that when your cat is tampering with the tree, you will hear the jingle and be able to put a stop to it.

Cats exploring Christmas stockings over a fireplace.

You can also spray pinecones with apple cider vinegar, a scent that most cats hate, and hang them on the lower branches. It looks pretty but the scent should be enough to make kitty walk away in disgust.

These lower branch ornaments can be secured onto the branches with twisty ties or thin wire. Make sure the twisty ties are tightly secured to the branches so that your cat can’t knock them off the branches and chew on them.

Finally, avoid using metal ornament hooks because cats can easily knock these off the tree and there is a risk that your cat will attempt to eat it. Make sure you safely secure the ornaments on the upper branches to avoid the risk of hooks falling to the ground where your cat may be tempted to play with them.

Lastly, make sure all cords from tree lights are securely fastened so your cat doesn’t chew or get tangled up in them.

Remember that your cat is not trying to ruin your holidays. Your cat simply wants to take part in the family life. Cats are curious to a fault and will get into trouble if we give them the opportunity to do so. Make your holidays safer for all by paying attention to what your cat is doing, give kitty new toys to play with during this time, and provide her with distractions that are more tempting than your Christmas tree. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to 

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey holds both a master's in Geography from UCLA and a Master of Library and Information Science. She is the editor of and an avid researcher of geography and feline topics. A lifelong cat owner, Caitlin currently has three rescued cats: an orange tabby, a gray tabby, and a black cat.