Are Christmas trees safe for cats?

CatChannel behavior expert, Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, provides facts about cats and both real and artificial Christmas trees.

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Q: I would like to know your thoughts about cats and Christmas trees, both real and artificial. I am very concerned about my cat, Sonny, ingesting some of the tree.
A: Christmas trees and decorations are a yearly challenge. Live, cut Christmas trees can be deadly for cats. Pine needles can be ingested and puncture intestines, and pine is highly toxic to cats, potentially causing liver damage and death. Additionally, the water that cut trees are placed into is toxic. It usually contains pine resin, preservatives and fire retardants.

Fire retardants are sprayed on artificial and live trees and pose a potential danger. A 2007 study published by the Environmental Protection Agency linked fire retardants to thyroid disease in cats and possibly humans.

An artificial tree is generally safer than a live one. However, if eaten by a cat, it can cause intestinal blockage. A bitter apple spray can be sprayed on the tree as a deterrent before trimming it. The spray sometimes stops cats from exploring or chewing on a tree.

It is important to secure the tree so that the cat is unable to knock it over. Some people secure their trees from the ceiling or rig up a way of tying the tree to a nearby wall. Recently, I saw a unique solution to the tree dilemma. The fully trimmed tree was hanging upside down from the ceiling. It was both beautiful and at the same time impossible for the cat to reach.

Christmas decorations also can be deadly to cats. Cats like to play with tinsel and if swallowed, it can cut a cat internally or form an intestinal blockage. Ornaments must be tied securely to the tree, so that an exuberant cat can’t dislodge them. Not trimming the lower branches of the artificial tree can help decrease a cat’s natural curiosity about ornaments.

It’s important to be aware of the potential hazards of Christmas trees and their decorations. To be on the safe side, close the door so that your cat doesn’t have access to the tree unless the cat is supervised.

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Are Christmas trees safe for cats?

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Reader Comments

Ann    tracy, CA

1/3/2016 6:29:12 PM

My cat Frankie died christmas day! I never knew christmas tree's were toxic to cats! Not sure if this is the cause of his death. Sad I don't have my buddy!

Ben    Beaufort, SC

1/7/2015 5:17:04 AM

I had two cats and we put up an artificial tree with the fake snow sprayed on it. They both chewed on it for a couple minutes before we shooed them away. They both got sick the day after. We didn't connect the pieces. The first cat passed away the day after and the other cat passed away today, 6 days later, even with IVs and antibiotics. The vet stated that most artificial trees are from china with lead paint and other neuro-toxins. Never would have known. Watch out!

ann    pembroke pines, FL

12/12/2014 5:47:37 PM

My cat became very sick and drooling like crazy with a temp of 104, hes now on antibiotics,all from the real tree

Holly    Denver, CO

10/5/2014 8:30:46 PM

Cat Owners need to protect from Dangers of the Christmas Tree!

Proven product keeps cats out of the Christmas Tree!

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