Indoor decorating for Christmas with a big jerk cat?
December 4, 2016 11:37 AM   Subscribe

We need indoor holiday decorating ideas that can survive our cat's whirlwind of curious destruction.

My wife would like some sparkle and sass in our living room. Something festive and blinky, perhaps with a sparkle. The issue, however, is the large, strong, curious housecat whose greatest joy in life is to discover something annoys you and then to do it incessantly, sometimes to his own detriment.

He bites everything. Literally everything. He'll chew on anything you let him for at least a minute, and if you express a desire for him to stop (by crossing the room to take whatever it is from him) he doubles down and chomps as quickly as possible while you're walking towards him. Seriously, big jerk. Extension cords, phone chargers, woven HDMI cables, rubber coated HDMI cables, twist ties, yarn, pills, socks, the blinds, clothes hangers, whatever he can fish out from under the fridge - nothing is off limits.

I don't want to pull tinsel out of his butt, I don't want to discover how many times he can pull the tree down, I don't want him chewing LEDs off the strand and then swallowing them.

We're totally on board with the obvious stuff - No tree, blinky lights at the very top of bookcases where he can't get to, no glass ornaments, etc. This community, though, has got to have some stellar ideas for avoiding stealthy-destruction and chaos while still feeling festive.
posted by radiosilents to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I feel your pain, as my two male cats are similarly fond of chewing things (let's not go into what happens to any socks left unchaperoned in their immediate vicinity). Would it be possible to decorate the ceiling or upper walls, perhaps with something like these removable holiday decals?
posted by thomas j wise at 11:49 AM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

We just got a christmas light projector for our rear outside holiday lighting. You could use one of these instead of string lights, therefore only one cord/source to defend...
posted by lizbunny at 12:11 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

We've put up a big wreath and decorated it (instead of a tree) for years, and it's nice. If there were a spot you could hang a wreath that the cat couldn't get to, that could work.

Alternatively: you could put up a tree and _not_ decorate it; just allow it to be the best cat toy ever and enjoy it as a family.

Finally: if you don't have a "Yeooow" catnip banana yet, it's a really great toy for cats who like to chew things, even if they're not that into catnip. It sound like your cat could use some chew toys :) Sometimes, cats who chew enjoy cat grass, too.
posted by amtho at 12:12 PM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

We're in our second Christmas with cats, and are making an effort this year to have Christmas decor. Strategies:
  • Christmas tree outside on the balcony, where we can see it through the French doors but the cats cannot reach it.
  • Wreaths, garlands, other decor on walls above cat pawing/jumping reach.
  • Battery-operated LED light strands are useful here for lighting things without trailing cords: all ours have 6-hours-on/18-hours-off timers built into them which are handy.
  • As lizbunny said: projector lamps are good for getting a lot of swirly cheery light from one more-easily-defended plug-in item. Ours were $20 each from Home Depot. They're intended to be spiked into the ground outdoors, but I knocked up some cheap-and-cheerful indoor stands for ours from some scrap wood.

posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:36 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

It'd mean a bit of labor on your part, but there've been people who have hung upside-down Christmas trees from their ceilings..... not sure how they did it, of course, or how high it'd have to be to be out of easy kitty-ninja reach.
posted by easily confused at 12:42 PM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: amtho, you would not BELIEVE how rude he is on catnip. We have to careful plan when new store-bought toys are introduced just because you're guaranteed 5 hours of basically a belligerent jerk with knives for fingers every time he gets a whiff. Chewy delivery days are unmitigated chaos for at least an hour.

We tried the grass. One sniff, one nibble, never looked at it again. He's chewed entirely through a cat teething toy when he was a kitten. We give him all sorts of "I don't care of you chew this" toys and he loves them dearly. We encourage him to chew in approved ways. He just also chews on anything close enough to his face to engage teeth. C'est la vie.
posted by radiosilents at 12:46 PM on December 4, 2016

Please say you have video of this. It may be too trying for you to find video amusing, which I get, but if it's not... maybe you could share it?

If this is your first Christmas with him, he may just be teething, in which case next year might be more calm. Good luck.

You probably know about Bitter Apple spray already, but if not, it has saved many an electrical cord for me. You might be able to spray it on some decorations too. It sounds like your cat is fairly determined, so probably test it on something first.
posted by amtho at 1:16 PM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I feel your pain as the former Pet of four cats (they all lived to ripe old happy cat ages don't worry. The last until she was 23. Record?). Anyhow I stand with great smelling pine wreath on a wall with zero climbing access.
posted by pipoquinha at 1:17 PM on December 4, 2016

I'm not doing a tree this year either (more just bc I don't feel like it - Coya's generally okay about leaving stuff alone) but I have this pre-lit 9-foot garland arriving on Tuesday that may be okay for y'all? I'm going to hang it over a huge mirror that I have on the wall in my living room with some of those 3M command hooks + ribbon. It's battery powered, so no cords to worry about, and it'll be 6-7 feet high.
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:34 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: amtho - We've had Captain Tightpants for 5ish years now. We tried Christmas the first year. We did not try Christmas any of the other years.

Here you go : Instagram

You'll see all sorts of egregious behavior therein. For chewing-related shenanigans please see this video specifically. Or this one.

For catnip inspired violence, we see a weirdo in his inebriated state in this one. That last video documents part of the roughly six minutes that toy was in his possession before he had literally gutted it and ripped the entire vibrating mechanism out of it.
posted by radiosilents at 1:43 PM on December 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

Thank you! I like chewing too. I had a serious gum habit for a while. Also stick cinnamon. I get this. He does have long teeth.

Good luck with that.
posted by amtho at 2:34 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can put a string of battery-operated led lights into a glass (or plastic) jar with some shiny small ornaments, tinsel etc. and make quite a pretty thing that should be relatively catproof.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 3:27 PM on December 4, 2016

The monsters that have moved into my house may be related to yours. My attempt this year is a table decoration (with lights)... citrus sprayed....we'll see how long it lasts.

A festive touch is available if you string lights all along the top of your walls where they meet the ceilings. I've also used dead tree branches painted silver or white along there as a location to hang ornaments and light strings. One key factor is to not do "new thing" (decoration) in sight of destructo-cat because the mere activity excites demo-mode focus in their brains.
posted by mightshould at 4:08 PM on December 4, 2016

I'm going to try -- with infinite trepidation -- a fake tree decorated with unbreakable ornaments that I'm thinking will be a Festive Cat Toy. The lovely, delicate, breakable vintage ornaments I've found over the years will be used on garlands high enough up the walls to allow them to survive.

Mind you, I think they're likely going to be seen as a challenge.
posted by jrochest at 5:17 PM on December 4, 2016

Super Soaker. Shouldn't take more than half a day for Captain Tightpants to associate chewing (or, hell, getting *near*) the decorations with a face full of water.

Or maybe nerf darts?

We had a determined destroyer once. Squirtguns worked with her and she was not otherwise traumatized, based on her long life filled with fetching paper balls, licking our faces, and knocking the snot out of her little brother at every given chance.
posted by cooker girl at 6:29 PM on December 4, 2016

The internet indicates rawhide ain't the best idea, so what about a Kong? Dog rubber. Old non-radial tire scraps.
posted by rhizome at 9:12 PM on December 4, 2016

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