Why do cats love Christmas trees?


The science behind this phenomenon, plus safety tips and tricks for the holiday season

mw47 / stock.adobe.com

mw47 / stock.adobe.com

Cat parents have likely seen their furry friends intrigued by the Christmas tree. Sometimes so much so that all their hard work of stringing lights and perfectly placing ornaments comes crashing down.

But why are cats drawn to Christmas trees? In a press release,1 Mikel Delgado, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow and cat researcher at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, described that any new items that appear in a feline’s familiar territory are fascinating to them, plus the tree has attractive outdoor smells and bark that can help sharpen their claws. Additionally, the reflective ornaments and glistening tinsel with accessible branches look like an opportunity to play and explore for cats.

In the release, Lorna Whittemore, DVM, a veterinarian at ExcitedCats.com added, “As with humans, all cats are individuals. Some may treat the tree as if it is not worthy of their attention, and others cannot easily be deterred from getting into a tangled mess. Glass baubles, contaminated tree water, twinkling lights, and tempting tinsel are just a few of the potential hazards. The expression of these normal behaviors can, however, land them in trouble.”1

“Cats are also naturally inclined to being at a height where they can survey their surroundings and keep out of danger from predators—an indoor tree is often a great temptation for a cat to indulge in this natural behavior,” continued Whittemore. "The instinct of climbing is still alive and well in domesticated cats, and a Christmas tree equipped with plenty of perches and needles is an ideal vantage point and hiding place. The combination of novelty, toys, and a tall structure to climb, makes Christmas trees the perfect 'home entertainment system' for felines."1

A multi-feline house can also cause the cats to group up around the Christmas tree and mark the territory as their own by climbing, scratching, and urinating. This poses a threat for as it can cause harm to felines and damage to your home.

Keeping cats safe

In the release, another ExcitedCats veterinarian, Paola Cuevas, MVZ, shared that it’s important for cat parents to be aware that each time they introduce something into a cat’s environment, to ensure it is non-toxic. She added that laying tin foil, carpets, or orange peels under the tree or commercial deterrent products may help prevent cats from messing with it. Plus, be sure the tree is stable and secure while all electrical wires and lights are covered or out of reach. Cat owners are also advised against using tinsel, ribbons, or string because these pose a risk for choking and ingestion. Dried citrus decorations make excellent alternatives, as they serve as a natural feline deterrent.1

Pet parents can also choose artificial trees or tree alternatives that aren’t as appealing to cats since they don’t have the natural scent and texture. However, if they do get a real tree, the safest options for pets are Douglas fir or white pine.1 The best way to avoid any accidents though is to keep the Christmas tree in a room inaccessible to feline friends.


Why do cats love Christmas trees so much? News release. ExcitedCats. December 22, 2022. Accessed December 23, 2022. https://pressroom.journolink.com/excited-cats/release/why_do_cats_love_christmas_trees_so_much_12021

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