A nonstandard question about the interaction of cats and Christmas trees
December 1, 2016 8:29 PM   Subscribe

How do I get my cat to stop chewing on my (plastic and metal) Christmas tree?

Juniper (Previously) is about 2 years old and an occasional chewer on cords, etc, but is usually pretty easy to distract. This tree, though. Oh man. She will not stop trying to chow down on the lower branches. I'm a little concerned about her consuming more of the plastic than is healthy, or stabbing herself in the mouth with a wire. What do?
posted by quaking fajita to Pets & Animals (4 answers total)
A lot of cats really hate the smells of citrus, wintergreen, and eucalyptus, which conveniently are pretty nice smelling and even festive to humans.

To test smells Juniper (awesome cat name!) has the greatest aversion to, find a place that sells essential oils - any whole foods and many other fancy grocery stores, lots of drug stores and many other places - and ask them for a bunch of test strips. Put a couple drops of different oils on strips that you've labeled and bring them home for Juniper to sniff. It's pretty easy to tell when a cat is grossed out, just don't confuse it with a flehmen response which is just your cat needing more information and not a definite yuck.

Then go back and get the grossest scent. Dilute a few drops into a spray bottle full of water and spritz your tree liberally. (Turn it off and unplug before doing this!! Let it dry before plugging back in!) If Juniper hates the citrus smells the most you can add to your festive atmosphere by DIYing some pomanders. Note: this was a total bust with my lemon-stealing previous cat, but she was extra weird.

Please be very careful with essential oils - just a small amount can be quite harmful to skin and mucus membranes, so if Juniper chews anyway you really don't want her to get hurt. Seriously only use a few drops for a whole bottle of water.

You could also try some classic cat-scat techniques, like laying crinkled foil all along the base of the tree (cats hate stepping on it) or shooting her with compressed air to make her freak out and run for her life when you see her try to go for a nom.
posted by Mizu at 9:09 PM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

There are chew-deterrent sprays made to be pet-safe - Bitter Apple spray for cats, have you tried any of them yet?
posted by oh yeah! at 8:49 AM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

For the record, we bought some of that bitter apple spray, but my spouse also came back from the pet store with a pot of wheat grass, which appears to have...solved the problem? She takes the occasional nibble from the cat grass, and hasn't attempted to chow down on the tree at all.

Cats are weird.
posted by quaking fajita at 9:41 PM on December 6, 2016

Glad you found a solution. Just FYI, keep an eye out for the cat grass getting dried out - my cat loved eating wheat grass, but it ended up giving her some intestinal distress (she was straining and meowing in the litter box and partially pooped out an undigested clump of grass, I had to pull it the rest of the way out for her). She's got some IBS issues anyway, so it may just be her particular weirdness, or my bad for not keeping the grass watered and trimmed. Now I just get her the occasional fresh catnip plant, since she destroys it more than devours it.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:40 AM on December 7, 2016

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