Kittens for Christmas
December 20, 2003 11:30 PM   Subscribe

Um, we have two kittens and a Christmas tree. This is an unfortunate combination. How do we keep them from knocking it and its ornaments to the floor?
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I have Googled this question and have mainly seen advice to tie the tree to the ceiling or nail it to the floor. I don't think our landlord would be happy with either of these options. And I do realize the best thing would be to refrain from buying the tree, but it's here now and if at all possible I'd like to keep it.
posted by lackutrol to Pets & Animals (20 answers total)
I've been told that putting inflated balloons around the base of the tree can deter cats from getting too close: I forget why this is supposed to work.
posted by misteraitch at 11:45 PM on December 20, 2003

I've been told that putting inflated balloons around the base of the tree can deter cats from getting too close: I forget why this is supposed to work.

I'm guessing it's because they start messing around and pop one and the noise scares the bejeezus out of em.
posted by juv3nal at 12:22 AM on December 21, 2003

Water guns work well, even if you feel bad about squirtin' em. Cats stereotypically (Jesus christ now we are pushing our predominant political correctness on felines) hate water, and the shock of it happening out of nowhere usually teaches them the first time.

A 99 cent hand pump model is more than enough, and it taught my cat the first time not to scratch the furniture.
posted by Keyser Soze at 3:04 AM on December 21, 2003

And don't put any ornaments on the lower branches. ;)

The good news is that, at least in my experience, once the cats get older they are much less interested in the tree, so future Christmases will be easier.
posted by litlnemo at 4:38 AM on December 21, 2003

litlnemo's suggestions fit with my experience as well. If nothing else works, try putting down some chicken wire or similar around the base of the tree; cat's can't stand the feel of it and won't walk over it.
posted by thebabelfish at 6:32 AM on December 21, 2003

When we had kittens... we used a combination of spray bottles and an elaborate fishing-line support system.

The tree only fell, maybe, 4 or 5 times that year.
posted by jpburns at 7:37 AM on December 21, 2003

Cats (and dogs) hate citrus, I've used that to my advantage before. There's also a product called 'bitter apple', availible as a spray and a cream.. Supposed to be for dogs, but works pretty good with cats too. My cat hates tape, so I stick double sided tape to things i want him away from, and he stays away. Just make sure its firmly attatched, because a cat tearin' ass around the place with some tape stuck to it makes only slightly less of a mess than a truck driving through your living room.
posted by duckstab at 7:37 AM on December 21, 2003

My sister (who has two 6-month old kittens right now) swears by an indoor repellent spray to keep them away from her plants, tree, etc. You might want to look for a similar product, but as a disclaimer I am not 100% sure how safe it is though, so I would ask my vet before using it all over the place.

In my apartment, I just use squirt bottles and canned air to shoo the cats away from things they're not supposed to touch, but I can't say the method is perfect. I didn't have the guts to even try getting a tree this year.
posted by catfood at 8:31 AM on December 21, 2003

Let them at it. It's Christmas: give the kitties the gift of free access to the tree and ornaments.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:33 AM on December 21, 2003

Three cats here including a climber who has lauched off the couch and into the branches. A good solid stand and a couple of pieces of high strength fishing line secured with small screwable eye hooks worked for us.

Anyone have advice on how to keep a two year old out of the ornaments?
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 8:52 AM on December 21, 2003

Anyone have advice on how to keep a two year old out of the ornaments?

Use wooden ornaments on the lower branches until they're older.
Same for cats, by the way...
posted by jpburns at 9:11 AM on December 21, 2003

Best answer: Keep in mind that water-spraying, while effective, is aversive and most cats will figure out that you are doing it...and learn to avoid you or e frightened by you.

A more productive approach for your ongoing relationship might be to only allow the kittens access to things they require training with (Christmas trees, kitchen counters, climbing the drapes, whatever you set cat limits on) in your presence. In other words, never give them the chance to err without gentle correction. Designate a room with full cat amenities/no breakable rules as "cage" for times when you aren't there/awake, and your kittens' education and relationship with you will end up the stronger.

So what's the training routine when they are out in the rest of the house with you? Removing them and setting them elsewhere. A few seconds later, after they are not playing with the tree, reward them by playing with something else that they like. If badness does erupt, use the mamacat communication of badness: hiss and pick them up by the scruff (don't injure them--this is indignity + removal, not pain) and remove them. Repeat as necessary and make distractions available after a brief pause. Kittens are capable of learning this, but if immature will require supervision and reminders. By their second Christmas, they should only require a brief refresher on the ground rules and then be okay.

But putting the non-breakable ornaments on the bottom branches of the tree is a good way of making the detect-and-correct process a little less catastrophic.
posted by salt at 9:44 AM on December 21, 2003

We had hooks in our walls to tie the tree to in our house to protect against an overly-orderly Grandma who knocked over the tree three times one year straightening the tree skirt. Protecting against cat damage was a bonus.

I tie my tree down every year (use fishing line) and put the breakable ornaments deep on branches so they cannot be easily batted off. And I NEVER USE TINSEL. I still have chew marks on the corners of presents and I regularly find ball ornaments under the couch, but that's the holiday spirit for them. As long as the tree stays upright and they don't eat the gingerbread, it's a success in my book.
posted by dness2 at 2:20 PM on December 21, 2003

"Anyone have advice on how to keep a two year old out of the ornaments?"

Telling the child "No" over and over again may help, although to be fair, my friends tried that and only succeeded in raising a child who thought Christmas trees were called "no-no Mandy".
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:00 PM on December 21, 2003

we tie the tree with fishing line to a planter hook in the ceiling. combined with a really stable tree base our tree hasn't been toppled in well over a decade. some cats never grow out of climbing the tree... we had a 17 year old who loved to sleep in the middle branches.

tinsel and ribbons can turn into a glass type substance once a cat or dog has swallowed them, which can do irreparable damage to their stomach and intestines. poinsettia plants are also poisonous so shouldn't be in a house that has cats.
posted by t r a c y at 4:04 PM on December 21, 2003

You'll have to take the lights off to do this, but you can mix two parts water to one part ammonia, and mist the lower branches and underside of the tree. It's what our vet recommended in lieu of buying a commercial repellant, and it's not unpleasant for the humans enjoying the Christmas tree either.
posted by headspace at 7:58 PM on December 21, 2003

Response by poster: We've used the citrus and the pick-up-and-remove methods (though the idea of having a safe "cage" doesn't really work given the size of our NY West Village apartment), and things are working out about as well as can be hoped. I'm thinking of including the inflatable balloons as well, but in any case, I'd like to thank everyone for your help. Ask Mefi is great! Thanks.
posted by lackutrol at 9:00 PM on December 21, 2003

Our oldest cat loved to climb the tree. The whole thing would shake and threaten to topple before Mom's screams would send the cat scrambling. Squirting him with a water gun quickly and effectively cured him of this habit. We also learned to put the really tempting ornaments (mostly the ones with dangling ribbons) higher on the tree.

He still likes to snuggle in among all the presents under the tree and peer out of his seasonal secret hiding place, but there seems to be no harm in that.
posted by katieinshoes at 9:39 PM on December 21, 2003

We have an 11-month-old at home and decided to solve the problem by buying a very short tree and putting it up high, out of reach, on a small table. Yes, I know it sounds sorta lame, but it actually came out looking cuter than I thought it might. Our concern was equal parts 'he may knock it over' and 'he may eat every pine needle he can get his grubby hands on'. One silly suggestion someone had for us - put the Christmas tree inside a playpen, so kids couldn't get to it. I just couldn't imagine doing that though.
posted by kokogiak at 12:28 AM on December 22, 2003

Most cats don't like the smeel of citrusfruits at all.
At home we a) don't put ornaments at the lower branches of the tree and b) put cut open lemons and oranges around the tree in a nice circle. The cats stay away and as a bonus, they don't mess with the pressies under the tree either.
posted by dabitch at 6:40 AM on December 22, 2003

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