8 Helpful Tips for Keeping Pets Out of Christmas Trees

Pets and Christmas trees can be a chaotic combination.
Pets and Christmas trees can be a chaotic combination. / Janine Lamontagne/Getty Images

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Unless, that is, you have pets that won’t leave your Christmas tree alone. What’s fun for them can quickly become a holiday headache for the rest of us. Luckily, having pets doesn’t mean sacrificing the well-being of your seasonal decorations. There are easy measures you can take to keep your Christmas tree pet-proof.

1. Hang ornaments higher on your Christmas tree.

Low-hanging ornaments are just asking to be batted to the floor by a curious cat or knocked off by a dog’s wagging tail. To avoid the temptation, hang your ornaments out of reach, leaving the bottom branches for lights alone.

2. Put a physical barrier between your pet and your Christmas tree.

Pets can’t bother what they can’t get to! Place your Christmas tree in a corner if possible, then surround it with a physical barrier like a baby gate. If you have smaller or less determined pets, you can even turn your blockade into an excuse for more decor. Place some large wrapped boxes around the tree (whether real presents or props), and your tree is safe—and it looks fabulous.

3. Make your Christmas tree smell bad ( ... to pets).

Dog destroying Christmas tree and presents
Perhaps a spritz of citrus could have prevented this. / Peter Cade/Photodisc/Getty Images

Certain scents that don’t bother humans are downright disgusting to pets. There are plenty of store-bought sprays available, or you can make your own. For instance, neither cats nor dogs are fans of citrus, so consider hanging homemade lemon- and orange-slice ornaments on your tree. They’ll smell great to you and terrible to your pets. Win-win!

4. Keep your Christmas tree away from elevated surfaces.

When it comes to cats and Christmas trees, it’s all about location, location, location. If your tree is next to an end table or a sofa, for instance, your cat may have all the encouragement it needs to launch itself onto your carefully decorated centerpiece.

5. Opt for a smaller tree that doesn’t sit on the ground.

Some pet owners forgo a standard-sized Christmas tree in favor of a smaller tree that can be elevated away from prying paws. If you’re feeling cheated by the thought of a mini tree, consider getting more than one. Place a few small Christmas trees around your house on mantels and table-tops, then enjoy the fun of having a tree in every room.

6. Skip the food-based Christmas tree decor.

One easy way to reduce pets’ interest in your Christmas tree is to get rid of any food-based decorations that might be too interesting to resist. Popcorn garlands are cheery, of course, but may soon attract the attention of your household’s more sensitive noses.

7. Surround your Christmas tree with things pets avoid.

Keep your pets from getting into the tree in the first place.
Keep your pets from getting into the tree in the first place. / Siarhei SHUNTSIKAU/iStock via Getty Images

Instead of literal physical barriers, you might instead choose to surround your tree with materials that deter pets from getting too close. For example, dogs and cats both famously hate aluminum foil, so creating a moat of the shiny stuff might just be the only deterrent you need.

8. Limit the damage.

If keeping pets away has proven impossible, it’s time for some crisis management. Get a heavy base for your Christmas tree that will keep it firmly on the ground, then ditch your standard ornament hooks for stiff wire that can be twisted and secured on each branch.

A version of this story originally ran in 2021; it has been updated for 2022.