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10 Steps to Cat Proofing Your Christmas Tree, Part 1

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Is your cat smitten by your Christmas tree? So intrigued that s/he clambers onto it, knocking needles, decorations and ribbon everywhere? Or perhaps, like my cat, s/he has come close to knocking over the entire tree?

Keeping your curious cat out of the Christmas tree is a wise idea for everyone involved, don't you think? To help avoid injury to your cat and the potential for further damage to the items near the tree and people in the vicinity of it, here are ten easy steps to cat proofing your Christmas tree this year.

Step One: Start off Smart. Consider the type of tree you will admire this season. Real trees are potentially more dangerous to your cat than artificial ones. Why? It's because the needles on a real tree are sharp and can pierce or puncture the skin of an overly curious cat, while the pine needles themselves are irritating to mildly toxic if chewed (depending on the species of tree used - ask someone when you go get one cut). Although a chewed artificial tree isn't going to be that healthy either, the needles won't fall off and puncture nor are the needles as bad for your cat's system.

Conclusion? Balance the choice of tree type with how you intend to keep the tree safe from your cat using the remaining steps. You'll want to consider the size of the tree - a small tree will be safer than a larger tree because there is less of it to crash down if things go horribly wrong. For a kitten, a tabletop tree might be a suitable choice until it grows up and stops being so playful.

When using a real tree, also choose a water container for the tree that is completely inaccessible to the cat. If s/he tries to drink from it, s'he risks poisoning. For small kittens, wrap tinfoil around the trunk; this way, they won't put their nails into the trunk to try and climb, since they don't like the feel/sound of the foil.

Step Two: Select a strong and unwavering base for holding the tree. Your 'red flag' of caution should always be aware of selecting a smart tree base. Get one that is guaranteed to stay firmly in place if the tree is knocked. This important safety measure is for everyone in your family, not just the animals. Unsure? Be sure to ask your local retailer for advice on the options provided in-store. Best place? Try a local, small business owner.

Even artificial trees should have a firm and solid base. Use a tree skirt to hide all ugly practical safety fixes at the base of the tree (including electrical items). For a solid base, you have the option of anchoring the tree to the wall or ceiling to help prevent it from toppling over, should your cat land in the tree or pull on it. Hey, it happens...anything is possible, remember?

Step Three: Choose a safe location for the tree. There should be plenty of room around the tree so that it isn't too near climbing items (stairs, entertainment stations, doors, etc.). If there are tempting shelves or furniture pieces to act as launchpads for kitty, s/he's very likely to avail herself off them and jump onto the tree. Keep the tree in a clear space that makes jumping either difficult or unlikely.

If possible, select a placement for the tree that allows you to shut the door at night or when nobody is about, in order to keep the cats away. Obviously, this isn't always possible or even doable but if the opportunity is there, make use of it. If the tree is shorter than six-feet, you might find it handy to use duct tape to tape the legs of the holder to a piece of wide plywood and put the whole tree on a short, but very sturdy table. This keeps the tree above the level of the cat and the cat won’t be as interested. Of course, you still need to ensure that the tree is nowhere near any launching points for an opportunistic jump.

Think of your Christmas tree like cat nip. They will do anything to try.

Step Four: Consider not decorating the tree initially. The rationale behind this is to provide adjustment time to the tree, as well as a possible lesson for your cat in leaving the tree well alone. Fill a spray bottle with water and hang on to it. It is a good idea to set the tree in place, then let your cat in to investigate but hover in the background with the spray bottle, just in case. If your cat shows any signs of wanting to leap at or on the tree, a light spritz of water and a stern “No!” might send the message. Hopefully this deters her/him from trying it again and should be enough to teach them that the Christmas tree is not a playground.

Still concerned? Spray the tree with an odorless product to humans, but that will keep your cat away. For instance, you may want to try a citrus spray, as cats are repelled by citrus odors. If you have an artificial tree, a small amount of Citronella oil shaken into a bottle of water and misted onto the tree makes it smell unpleasant to the cat, but fresh and citrus-like to you.

You can also place orange peels under the tree to make your cat less likely to go near it. Cats also dislike the smell of rotten apples; and although you might not like the smell of them either, put some of their juice, with water, and spritz it onto the tree. You could also spray some pinecones with Citronella and pile them around the base of the tree. Cats do not walk on pinecones! Did you know? Pinecones have the same effect in the base of your houseplants, just an ‘fyi.’

STEP FIVE: Decorate the tree with your cat firmly out of the way. It’s hard enough fiddling with trees, decorations and breakable ornaments without also having felines running up past you and pelting at the objects as you’re gingerly hanging them up.

Your cat will assume this is a game you intend for her to play, so it’s just easiest to keep her out of the way until everything has been set-up. While decorating, if your cat is about, resist the urge to tease her with decorations as you’re adding them. Doing so will only encourage her to see the glittery items as toys and things to swat at anytime she pleases.

Stay tuned for the last five steps to 'Cat Proofing Your Christmas Tree.'

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