Cats and Christmas trees: Why pet experts say you shouldn’t scare felines away

Some cat owners are scaring their furry pets with Christmas trees as a way to protect festive decorations, and they’ve been posting their results on TikTok.

Becca Richards is one of many TikTokers who have tested out this tree preservation hack. Her video from Nov. 28 has racked up more than 33.1 million views and shows her startling her cat Stella by pointing the large tree at the feline.

“I saw a TikTok saying that if you traumatize your cat with your tree before putting it up they will leave it alone,” Richards’ video said.

Richards has uploaded follow-up videos letting her followers know that Stella is “fine” and hasn’t touched the Christmas tree. 

Other TikTokers have documented themselves chasing cats around with their trees and many report achieving similar results, but pet experts say this method isn’t the best solution.

“While possibly effective for keeping your cat away from the holiday decor, scaring your cat away from the Christmas tree is not recommended,” Pumpkin Pet Insurance’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Sarah Wooten told Fox News. “This strategy will create conflict in your relationship with your cat, which can lead to additional behavioral or bonding problems down the road.”

She continued, “[Scaring cats] may also create fear and anxiety that can result in behavioral or medical problems, such as redirected aggression toward other people or pets, stress diarrhea, stress cystitis (inflammation in the bladder wall that can result in painful or bloody urination), and inappropriate elimination, or urinating or defecating anywhere in the house other than the litter box.”

Instead of using fear to control your cat’s behavior, Wooten suggests cat owners provide an alternative space where cats can spend time and stay occupied.

Monica Freden-Tarant, the director of feline lifesaving at American Pets Alive! – a national education and outreach program for the Austin Pets Alive! shelter said scaring cats away from Christmas trees “is ill-advised.”

“Your cat will simply associate the frightening behavior with you, their trusted owner instead of the innocuous tree,” Freden-Tarant told Fox News. “By following this holiday suggestion, you are much more likely to fracture your relationship with your cat than save a single ornament.”

If cat owners feel that their Christmas trees need protection, Freden-Tarant said placing tinfoil around the base of a tree is an effective deterrent that won’t “harm your relationship” with your pet.

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Emi Eaton told Fox News that “cats are naturally curious” and “the holiday season provides many opportunities for exploration and investigation.”

She added that there’s a list of holiday decorations which should be kept out of reach from cats for safety reasons, including real candles, tinsel, metal ornament hooks, glass ornaments and exposed electric cords. Christmas tree stands should also be secured, said Eaton, who works with Fuzzy – The Pet Parent Company.

“Rather than use punishment-based techniques, we want to provide our kitties with an opportunity to engage in appropriate exploration. Redirect the cat from the Christmas tree to something like a scratching post or approved cat toy,” Eaton said. “Catnip can be an effective attractant and training tool, so feel free to sprinkle it on scratching posts and cat towers within the home. When the cat chooses to explore approved areas, reinforce the desired actions with praise, treats and affection per the pet’s preference.”

She continued, “If your pet seems fixated on climbing the Christmas tree, restrict the pet’s access with use of collapsible gates. Finally, make sure that your cat always has access to a safe, calm, and familiar space away from the holiday excitement, when wanted.”