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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?

cat sniffing Christmas tree

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.

tabby cat and tortoiseshell cat chill at the DIY Christmas Catmas cat tree
cat sniffing his own Christmas tree decorated with catnip candy canes and other DIY cat toys
tabby cat sitting next to miniature kitty Christmas tree

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.

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.

Cat-safe ‘ornaments’ made with paper, catnip stems and catnip!
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

A 1.5″ cut branch for the ‘Catmas’ tree the trunk
Twigs from a vine or other cat-safe plant or catnip stems
Glue gun
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

catnip stems and vine branches with grey cat in background

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

DIY Cat christmas tree. Drilling 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

making a Christmas tree for cats glueing the branches into the holes.

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.

tortoiseshell cat enjoying and rolling in catnip
Scout enjoying the scattering of catnip while snoopervising the project.

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.

glueing branches to the cat christmas tree

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.

DIY Christmas tree for cats

Almost done!

tabby cat is attracted to catnip stems and vine branches
Nom nom nom nom ….

Dealing with some interruptions along the way.

Ginger and white cat stares at a bucket of catnip stems

“Oooooh! What is this? A bucket of catnip and vine stems? Why didn’t you call me earlier?” says Jimmy.

ginger and white cat at the cat christmas DIY tree
Good job human!

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.

cat biting at branches of DIY cat christmas tree made from vine branches
Ollie is immediately drawn to the Kolomikta Vine branches

6. Arrange the snow blanket

curious tuxedo cat is fascinated by the miniature DIY cat Christmas tree

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.

tuxedo cat exploring his new catnip candy canes under the Catmas tree
Sly Pie investigates the toys for catnip freshness.
DIY cat toys such as catnip candy canes amde from catnip stems and pipe cleaners
Mr. Jack was carefully supervising and inspecting each pomp-pom and candy cane for quality assurance. Red and white pipe cleaners are twisted around catnip stems with the ends bent to form a candy cane.

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.

diy snowcat characters made from felt and empty toilet paper rolls
Last year’s snowcat men were in storage and received a set of refurbished cat vine arms.
cats are enjoying hanging out at the new Catmas tree

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.

A monthly box of fun toys, healthy treats, and other goodies for your cat!

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

multiple cat sniffing and playing with cat toys at the Christmas tree
tabby cat biting at the branches of his miniature cat tree
Pre-breakfast teefs cleaning at the Catmas tree.

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.

tabby cat crawling behind the Christmas tree
The catnip candy canes are popular
sleeping cat at the kitty Christmas tree

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!

tabby cats relaxing at the Christmas tree enrichment display
Cats chilling near the Christmas tree
time sharing negotiations at the Chrsitmas tree with multiple cats
Listen Miss Tortie Head, your time is up, scram!
tuxedo and tabby cat posing at the festive kitty corner enrichment display
cats looking at the assortment of cat toys at the Christmas tree
Wait your turn buddy

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!

tabby cat contemplates on playing with the catnip candy cane toys
tabby cat enjoying the scent from the enrichment cat tys on display at the Christmas tree

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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How To Create an Enrichment Christmas Tree For Your Cat\'s Delight!

About the author

The Lady Cat

Whiskers make me smile.
Coffee is good for you.
And cats are for life.
Helping cats live enriched lives with their people.
(Yasaar Nakchbendi)


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