Chris Kouwenhoven

Keeping kitty out of the christmas tree

The arrival of the Christmas tree is a big event for Kitty. Life was bordering on "ho-hum" before you brought this wonderful piece of the great outdoors inside. From the feline point of view this is definitely one of the most thoughtful gifts you have bestowed on your well-deserving companion. And, as if the tree wasn't enough, you took the time to hang all those sparkley, dangley toys from its branches! do you break the news to Kitty that the tree is not really for him?

First of all, this is the time to present Kitty with the gifts that you were planning to save for December 25th. Of course if one of those gifts is a floor-to ceiling cat tree, all the better. Let's face it, part of being a cat is loving to perch in high places while surveying the territory and people that are his. It gives Kitty a feeling of security and dominion that is so essential to the feline psyche. A few well-made catnip toys and some interactive play with a new fishing pole cat toy will also help to compensate Kitty for what he is not getting. Be sure your cat has a tall, sturdy, sisal scratching post to which he can direct his instinctive scratching behaviors.

For the safety of the cat, the ornaments, and your household, be sure the tree is non-tippable. A heavy tree stand will help, but it is also wise to screw a hook into the ceiling and attach a string from the hook to the tree top in case Kitty makes a leap for the tree while you're not looking. The ornaments on the bottom branches should be tied on, not hung, (green twist ties work well) and they should be unbreakable. Remember that pets love to drink the water out of the tree stand, so don't add any preservatives that could be harmful to your furry family members.

In order to maintain that holiday spirit of peace and goodwill it is important to devise remote corrections to keep Kitty out of trouble. This means that the environment, not you, tells Kitty to stay away from the tree. Direct corrections (yelling or squirting with a water bottle) only teach the cat "owner absent" behavior. They can also be confusing and frightening to the cat and the added stress may result in other behavior problems, such as housesoiling. The following is a list of tips that the Wisconsin Cat Club has collected to keep Kitty from reeking havoc with the Christmas tree and which will also preserve your warm and mutually beneficial relationship with your favorite feline.

Spray an indoor cat repellent, such as B'Have or Keep Away on the tree before decorating it. This is most effective with artificial trees.

To discourage your cat from climbing the tree wrap a wide funnel of cardboard or stiff plastic around the tree. Use tape or twine to attach the narrow rim of the funnel to the trunk (angle the wide mouth of the funnel toward the floor). Be sure the funnel is high enough up the trunk so that your cat can't jump over it.

Remember that cats can launch an attack on the tree from chairs, tables, and other furniture pieces, so keep these potential launching pads far from the tree.

Hang lemon scented air fresheners from several of the low branches. (Cats are usually repelled by citrus scents.)

Place mouse traps upside down under the Christmas tree skirt. The sudden surprise of the traps snapping shut will convince Kitty to retreat.

Sound deterrents are highly effective with some cats. A mini-motion detector with an alarm chime sold at Radio Shack (for about $25) works well to keep cats from forbidden areas.

Contech, the maker of Scat Mat, offers a half-circle mat for the Christmas tree ($79 plus shipping). The mat emits safe, electrostatic pulses that are uncomfortable to pets. The mat can be ordered by calling 1-800-767-8658.

Of course, the obvious solution to keeping Kitty out of the Christmas tree is to put the tree in a room that can be closed off, but then that would spoil the fun of trying to outmaneuver Kitty, wouldn't it?

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