How To Create an Enrichment Christmas Tree For Your Cat’s Delight!
Last updated February 26th, 2020
If your household is ruled by a furry tree dweller, guess who cannot resist climbing the Christmas tree every year! Yes, Tigger has his sights set on diving into some tinsel and hanging precariously from a branch of your pristine Christmas tree. Nothing is going to stop him, not even the thought of losing his balance and feline dignity when it all comes crashing down. But there is a solution to this madness. Yes! Read on for how to make a Christmas tree for your cats.
How do you keep your cat from climbing your Christmas tree?
Cats and Christmas trees – It’s the number one cat meme of the holiday season and the subject of much deliberation in households with cats. As soon as your wonderful Christmas decorations are up, there may be a cat in your household ready to give it the staredown. Christmas tree 0 – 1 Cat. But can Christmas trees and cats co-exist peacefully?
Perhaps, if you offered something else equally thrilling to your cat.
There are many ingenious cat-proofing Christmas tree hacks out there, with one UK store even offering a half-tree solution, which prevents any kitty attempts to climb up.
I thought, “If cats love Christmas trees so much, why not offer them an alternative and make their very own cat-safe ‘Catmas Tree?”
And so I set out to create an enrichment Christmas tree for our cats with all the bells and whistles of a real Christmas tree. Using cat-safe natural scents, textures, and crinkly sounds that cats are attracted to, our kitty Christmas tree is a playground of cat enrichment fun! The ‘Catmas’ tree is adorned with unbreakable DIY crinkly paper ornaments, catnip stem candy canes, paper pom-poms, honeysuckle wood, and other feline treats.
Why do cats love Christmas trees so much?
Cats love climbing. So is it any wonder that cats are completely enamored by your Christmas tree? In a cat’s world, there’s nothing more enchanting than exploring its textures and scents while climbing up high to safety and survey their territory, looking for prey, which happens to be your dangly shiny tree ornaments! Your cat will turn on his wild cat mode and tap into a world reminiscent of his wild ancestors who were both predators and prey themselves. So for a cat, it’s always important to be on the lookout for potential danger and having access to a high vantage point to keep a watchful eye on his world is crucial. Your cat has one goal in mind and that is to explore his territory
desecrate the tree. The most normal of cat behaviors, nothing naughty about that right?
Why your cat will welcome his own DIY enrichment Christmas tree
There are many benefits to providing your cat with his very own festive kitty-corner. Besides the obvious benefit of trying to lure him away from the real deal in the living room, it’s also very comforting to your cats when they are assigned their very own safe spaces to own or timeshare with other cats. What will your cat find alluring about this tree?New textures and scents your cats love
This tree’s branches are made from the pruned cuttings of the hardy Kiwi Vine (Actinidia Kolomikta) that we have growing next to our catio. While this is a different species but the same genus as Silvervine (Actinidia Polygama) which is a known and scientifically proven cat attractant containing the euphoric inducing compound actinidine, it still elicits a response from our cats. I suspect it contains minimal amounts of actinidine judging from the way the cats love to rub against the vine’s branches.
Cat-safe ‘ornaments’ made with paper, catnip stems and catnip!
NOTE: You don’t have to use any of the Actinidia vines for the branches. Catnip stems will work just as good! I keep a bunch of dried catnip stems after the catnip harvest as some cats like to chew the stems too and it comes in handy for cat DIY projects such as this.
Your cats will love the crinkly toys, catnip candy canes, and snow pom-poms to bat around and pounce on! It comes with zero tinsel for a completely cat-safe experience
A Safe Holiday Kitty Corner is much appreciated
With the hustle and bustle of the holidays keeping you busy, cat enrichment might take a backseat during this time. While the children might have Youtube kids to keep them entertained, your cat might be acting out his boredom by flicking stuff off the table and then moving on to his next targets, the sparkly ornaments on the Christmas tree.
There may also be changes happening in the household such as visitors staying for the holidays, which means, new smells, new voices, noisy gatherings, and changing routines. For some cats, this can be too much to handle and they cocoon in the shadows under the bed. Not the ideal spot. You want your cats to enjoy the holidays too.
But having a safe space filled with enrichment ‘cativities’ can bring your cat much-needed comfort and confidence during this time. You want to give your shy hideaway cat the freedom to enjoy the fruits of his home environment in his kitty-corner while giving him a choice to participate and move around among the people in the home if and when he feels comfortable to do so.
Where you set up your cat’s Christmas tree will depend on whether you have the “run and hide” kitty or the “Oh, Hello there, new person, yay!” type. We have ours set up in the kitchen which is a significant social space for the humans and the cats. You may set up your kitty-corner in a quieter space away from too much noise if you think your cats might just prefer to ‘catnip and chill.’
Now, let’s get ready to make a Catmas tree, kitties and humans!
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What you will need
Twigs from a vine or other cat-safe plant or catnip stems
a 18″ or 36″ square white felt fabric piece to cover the base of the tree.
A 16″x16″sheet of plywood for the base
String LED battery-operated warm fairy lights to decorate the tree trunk
How I made this cat enrichment Christmas tree
1. The tree trunk
I found a sturdy tree branch that is relatively upright to use for the cat Christmas tree ‘trunk.’ The ‘trunk’ is 20″ high and 1.25″ thick. This works well for the durability of the overall tree. I also kept some vine twigs from a summer pruning, as well as some catnip stems from the catnip harvest.
2. Drill holes in the trunk
Drill holes along the length of the trunk, spacing the holes vertically about an inch apart and about 4 holes on each level. I was not too precise about this as I wanted a naturally random look for the arrangement of the branches.
3. Attach the trunk to the base
My base is a piece of plywood at 16″x16.” Once all the holes are drilled in the trunk, it’s ready to be fastened to its base. Find the center point of the wood base and screw the trunk to the center.
4. Glue the branches to the trunk
Starting at the bottom, choose the longest branches to insert into the holes of the trunk and work your way up. Insert hot glue into each hole and firmly stick branches firmly in place. Trim the branches if necessary to start wide at the base of the tree and build up towards a narrow top. In retrospect, I think I should have left a little space at the bottom and skipped the first few holes to be able to easily maneuver the snow blanket underneath the tree in step 6 below.
This is the fun creative part, not only for you but your kitties will be all over wanting to ‘snoopervise’ as usual. And of course, when there’s catnip involved, Scout our tortie girl, is not too far away.
Warning: Be sure to keep hot glue out of reach of curious paws or kiddy fingers.
It was interesting to work with this vine as some of the branches are curved, which gives a unique flow to the shape of the tree.
Dealing with some interruptions along the way.
“Oooooh! What is this? A bucket of catnip and vine stems? Why didn’t you call me earlier?” says Jimmy.
5. Lighten up!
Fairy string lights offer a warm glow around the tree and are perfect for this size tree. Start at the top and work your way around the trunk in between the branches until you get to the bottom. The LED string light battery box can be tucked away underneath the white felt snow blanket in the next step.
6. Arrange the snow blanket
Using a piece of white felt 36″x36″ cut a slit on one side to the center and slide the snow blanket underneath the tree. Now you can hide the battery box in the folds of the blanket.
7. Decorate with cat-friendly ornaments
We made an assortment of catnip candy canes and snowflake pom-pom ornaments to decorate the tree. No sooner had I laid out the toys than a flurry of floofiness came running from far and wide (okay, from upstairs and downstairs) to explore the delectables on offer at the Catmas tree. Mr. Jack kept climbing right into the bag of catnip ornaments trying to ravage all the candy canes like there was no tomorrow. With this eager bunch, I had to work really quickly to arrange my kitty ornaments.
Last year when we made our festive fountain corner, it included these cute DIY snowcat cat toys made from toilet paper rolls and cat vine for the arms. They were in storage for a year and all they needed was a fresh set of arms with new Silvervine sticks.
Other embellishments and cat treats
We recently unboxed our toys from our Winter-themed KitNipBox and it came with catnip infused toss toys such as the Winter hat, the candy pillow, and a wrapped present toy, among other crinkly and wand toys. The cats were overwhelmed with the buffet of presents on offer and were batting at these beauties all night until they settled down for a snooze under the new Catmas tree.
We also have some honeysuckle wood under the tree from Cat House Inc. that gets a constant licking and washing from the cats. I often wonder if each individual cat’s scent gets deposited on the wood, creating a communal scent and thereby increasing the bond between them. #multicatharmony
If you don’t feel like making or buying new toys, collect some of your cat’s hidden old gems collecting dust under the couch and wrap them as presents! You can breathe new life into those good old rattling balls or spring toys by placing each one on tissue paper, sprinkle with catnip and wrap in wrapping paper. The cats will have loads of fun trying to unwrap their presents. For extra mental stimulation, wrap a few cat treats with the toy and watch dexterous paws try to unwrap the treat!
Hydration is not just for Summer
We are still using the beautiful Swan fountain by Pioneer Pets since last year and of course, we included it in our kitty-corner Catmas display. I cannot stress enough the importance of hydration all year round, not just for Summer. If Ollie could talk, he would lecture all kitties about how often to drink water and perhaps show them his faucet-drinking skills. #catskillz
What do the Chirpies think of their Catmas tree?
Since we have the Catmas tree on display Ollie does his pre-breakfast teeth cleaning by biting on a few branches and batting around a few snowflake paper ornaments. He’s so distracted by this that we have to keep calling him to get his breakfast while the others are already eating.
Each cat spends some time at the tree batting around the ornaments, biting the branches, trying to flick the paper ornaments off the branches, then saunters off for a drink and settles down for a snooze. Ah, the good life!
How durable is the Catmas tree?
How is our Catmas tree standing up to heavy-pawed cats like Charlie and the two rambunctious brothers, Ollie and Baggy? Pretty good actually. The candy canes are strewn all over the place – a good sign the cats like it. The white snow blanket has evidence of an overlay of slushy paws from the snowy catio, which can be spot cleaned or washed. And Ollie did break off a vine branch. No biggy, because unlike the forbidden fruits of the Christmas tree in the living room, the Catmas tree is meant to be desecrated by cats doing what comes naturally!
Check out the Chirpies’ video to see how they engaged with their new Catmas tree. Put the volume up to feel the festive fun!
Do you struggle to keep your cats away from your Christmas tree? If so, have you tried the clever half tree option or any other devious wall hanging tree solutions to outsmart your cat? Please chirp us a line in the comments below!
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25 CommentsLeave a comment
That is so very clever and no doubt most appreciated too!
Great idea. Thanks for your advice and tips.
Crystal recently posted…Daisy Mae & The Nativity Scene
Great idea! Though we don’t trust the mom with a drill. 😉
The Island Cats recently posted…Easy E’s Santa Hat Selfie on Sunday
heh heh, get the dad to handle the drill stuff! MOL
That is wonderful! Looks like lots of fun for the kitties this holiday season!
I seriously think this is my favorite cat blog post of the year. What an adorable and creative idea!!! And now I need to go check out how to make those snowcats because I’m in love with those too…
Awwe thank you, Melissa and Mudpie. I hope you get to try to make those snowcats. I don’t have the full tutorial but you’ll get the gist of it with photos in last years Christmas watering hole post. 😉
That is a great idea. I always put crocheted cat toys on the bottom of our tree for my cats, but this is better.
Thank you! Crocheted cat toys are awesome, love the idea. I don’t know how to crochet but if I do learn, it will be for the cats MOL
Great idea ! At our home, the Christmas tree is our tree, and it’s made for us. It has non breakable ornaments, many of them are made of fabric, and we are even allowed to play with them ! Can you believe it ? Purrs
The Swiss Cats recently posted…Noël approche
Pixie and Zorro, that’s just plain pawsome that the tree is made for you guys. You’re so lucky 🙂
I’ve been trying to convince people to do this for years, but for all the other doodads and decorations they’ll indulge in they never give their cats their own tree! I hope people learn someday.
Yes exactly! What inspired me was on every cat group the topic about cats and Christmas trees come up and I thought why not give them their own tree! I have to report that they are smitten with this Festive corner. They each get to take turns to sleep next to or even squirming their way behind the tree! It’s really trending in our house this holiday lol. Very funny to see.
Wow. That tree is incredible! I love the pictures of the Chirpies enjoying their very own Christmas tree!
mommakatandherbearcat recently posted…STACKS! of fun!
Thanks! I especially like that the two rambunctious brothers are particularly drawn to it. Keeps them out of trouble 😉
Chirpies! You and your momma did it again – came up with another wise crafty idea. That tree of yours looks so-o very enticing and it blends seamlessly with your home’s color scheme. I can tell that you are designing kitties that appreciate style and function with a flare of fun and whimsy. Purr purr purr. Luv you.
Valentine recently posted…Merlin and the Council of Cats: Part Twelve
Oooh we like that description: “designing kitties, style and function, fun and whimsical” thank you. We’d like to think that we live up to that MOL. We hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Valentine 🙂
I’m so amazed at how creative and crafty you are! Your cats certainly appreciate that, I’m sure! Another great DIY post!
Three Chatty Cats recently posted…Chatty Cats: Presents, Vet Visits and More!
Thank you! I’m glad it really caught the interest of the two mischievous brothers Ollie and baggy! 🙂
Such a great idea! With our newest feline resident – a 7-month ball of panther energy, a tree of his own would be terrific, rather than him scaling up the one we have for the presents! Christmas purrs from Deb and the Zee/Zoey gang.
Deb Barnes recently posted…The Spirit of a Callie Cat Christmas
Imagine all the fun your new little panther paws would have with his own Catmas tree! 🙂 We hope you and the ZeeandZoey gang had a wonderful Christmas! xx
Okay, so our mom needs to become more crafty. Maybe next time you see her you can give her some tips
I sure will! 🙂
What a clever idea! That’s cray cray!
This idea is really amazing next time I will definitely try this and best post thanks for sharing this information I really like your posts.
Sana Haris recently posted…Covid-19 Awareness