Anyone with a cat will know the holiday season comes with certain trials and tribulations that at times, can drive you to the very edge of reason. No sooner is the house looking a festive joy, then your cat is halfway up the tree, risking life and limb trying to pull down a garland, or happily munching away at your seasonally beautifully, incredibly toxic, Christmas Poinsettia. So, what is it about cats and holiday décor that makes for such a calamitous combination? And what exactly can you do to restore your sanity and maintain your festive spirit in the face of your cat’s craziness? Let’s take a look…
The Novelty Factor
Christmas comes but once a year, and while we may be used to the balls, tinsels, and lights that go with it, for your cat, it’s another story entirely. Seeing their home transformed into a festive wonderland can come as such a surprise, it’s little wonder they go a little crazy at first. With all those new sights, smells, and sensations to take on board, the holiday season can be an overwhelming experience for cats – and one that’s guaranteed to trigger their instinctive need to test out any unfamiliar invaders to their territory.
What may look like destructive behavior to you is simply your cat trying to make sense of what’s happening, and what these new decorations are – are they edible, a game, a threat, or something that must be torn down and defeated no matter what the consequence? To minimize any damage that can come about from your cat’s natural instincts, take your time to decorate. Rather than overwhelm them with a plethora of new curiosities all in one day, spread out the decorating period over a week or so. This will give your cat the opportunity to get used to the new smells and sensory experiences a little at a time, helping to reduce the chances of any craziness (not to mention damage) in the process.
Good Enough To Eat?
Consider the size of the average bird or mouse your cat would chomp on in the wild. Now consider the average size of a festive bauble or ornament. See the similarity? If we adorn our homes with small, dangling objects of exactly the same size as the prey our cats are designed to hunt, can we really be too surprised at their repeated attempts to bat down the decorations from our carefully ornamented trees?
While there’s not a lot you can do to curb your cat’s natural instincts, there’s plenty you can do to minimize their potentially disastrous consequences. If you’re concerned about your cat pulling and gulping down festive ornaments, simply place the items that are small enough to be a choking hazard further up the tree than they can reach. As Cuteness recommends, you can also utilize a citrus-based spray repellent to make your cat so disgusted at the smell of the tree, they’re as likely to chow down on its ornaments as you are.
A Game For One
Cats like to climb. Fact. So, what happens when you introduce a very climb-worthy new addition to the house? You guessed it…. To us, a Christmas tree looks beautiful but has no real function other than to hold up half a ton of baubles. To cats, it’s the perfect plaything, a giant replica of that same cat tree that for the rest of the year, we’re happy enough for them to climb, scratch and sit on to their heart’s content. For us to suddenly start imposing limits on what they can and can’t climb, what they can and can’t scratch, and what we are and aren’t happy for them to nestle in, probably comes as a little confusing.
While there’s plenty you can do to try and deter your cat from paying too much attention to the tree (avoiding low hanging baubles and using a cat repellent spray on its branches, to name a few), for some cats, the joy of having such a huge tree to climb will always prove too tempting to resist. If your cat falls into the latter category, try securing the tree to the wall with a thin cord- that way, you can at least rest easy knowing you’re unlikely to spend the better half of Christmas recovering a yowling creature from underneath a toppled fir.
If you’re too concerned to take the risk, do what feline behaviorist Ingrid Johnson does and forgo the tree entirely for a festive bowl filled with garland beads, small Christmas balls, and other festive decorations instead.
Christmas is the time of the revolving front door – no sooner has one group of merrymakers left your home, there’s another gang to take their place. While this can be fun for us, for cats, it can be an overwhelming experience that understandably makes them a little crazy at times. If you’ve noticed your cat seems on edge or is exhibiting any signs of stress, take action before your decorations feel the brunt of their anxiety. Set up a small room away from the main activity of the house with water, food, toys, and anything else your cat needs to get through the day. Let your visitors know the room is strictly off-limits, and leave your cat to see out the festivities in relative peace and quiet.
Ramp Up The Fun
You know the effects of your cat’s craziness on your festive decorations, and by now, you should hopefully be able to understand why Christmas has quite the effect on them it does. While there’s no shortage of suggestions out there on how best to calm their destructive behavior, one of the best things you can do for your cat over the festive period is to simply show them some love. Give them plenty of affection, lots of playtime, and ramp up the fun – if they’re getting the attention and reassurance they need from you, there’s a very good chance they’ll leave your decorations to survive another winter.