Our six month old kitten is special. All kittens are, but Stardust is really something else. She’s high energy, a long leaper, and has a penchant for doing exactly what she’s not supposed to do. Including loving all things citrus and vinegar based. Aluminum foil attracts her instead of deterring her. The spray bottle takes no toll, for Stardust loves baths and water in all forms. Yep. Special.

And we’re on our fifth Christmas tree attempt this year. We’ve rearranged nearly every bit of decoration we’ve done in the apartment, and restrung ribbons at least twice in our office.

If you have an unusual kitten like Stardust, we’ve got a few tips for you.

Stardust hiding in the Christmas tree

1. Give Kitty a Safe, Alternative Place While Decorating. Give your cat free roaming on a different day than decorating day. He’s less likely to destroy your ornaments before they make it to the tree.

Keep him in a different room on the initial day you decorate. This will help keep him from getting under foot and from possible injury.Put him in a different room whenever you have to adjust any decorations or add any on. Any time you draw attention to a new decoration, he will be more tempted to investigate.

2. Keep all hooks, nails, wires, ornaments and other tempting items contained. Even if your cat is located safely in another room while you decorate, nails roll, ornament hooks go flying, twist ties come undone and wind up on the floor. You know what that means…

3. Select your ornaments for the tree wisely. Kitties love shiny, round things, and they love stealing exciting “toys” to put in their secret stashes. They’re a bit like ferrets in this regard. At least every cat who’s ever owned me has been that way.

  • Avoid spheres. Those lovely, lovely spheres. Cats love them even more than you do.
  • Glitter and sparkle are fantastic—if you want them to disappear.
  • Skip the tinsel. Tinsel can choke a cat, or make her ill if she swallows it. Use ribbon instead.
  • Forget the dangly and stringy ornaments. What’s your cat’s favorite toy again?
  • Use only non-breakable ornaments. A lot of the articles say to put precious or breakable ornaments up high in the tree. My cats have all climbed to the top at one point or another, and this means those ornaments (and kitty) are not safe.
  • Avoid jingle bells or anything that sounds like a cat toy.
  • Ditch the candy canes and other odiferous ornaments.

4. Provide alternatives for Your Kitten.

  • Place a cat-safe plant near the tree, though not too near. A few feet away should do it. If you’re not familiar with these, you can visit a PetCo or other pet store to find some. I recently spotted Wheatgrass/Pet Grass at a local grocery in the produce section. This item was $3.00 at regular price, while at the pet store, I paid $3.50 at 65% off.
  • Create a catnip corner. Sprinkle some dried catnip (or place a fresh catnip plant) in an area designated and designed for your furry friend. Place toys, a cat plant, blanket or anything else you’d like to offer your curious kitten as an alternative to your tree.
  • Offer kitty her favorite toy. Sora Wondra offers this great suggestion over on petcarerx.com. Every time she’s tempted to play in the tree, counter surf near the nativity or bat the garland, offer her a play session and her favorite self-play toy. This may help to distract her from the new and curious ornaments and decorations which have recently entered her environment.
  • Block the room off. If you have the tree in a room in which your kitten can safely be kept away, this is probably the easiest alternative.

5. Find alternative places to decorate.

  • Your chandelier. This is an amazing place to hang your ornaments and lights, garlands, etc., assuming your cat can’t launch to this from a surface nearby.
  • String your lights and ornaments elsewhere. Make sure your heavy ornaments are given extra support, and only do this if your lights can be secured with nails or hooks. We run a string of Christmas lights near the ceiling and to it we affix ornaments with hooks.
  • Decorative shelves. We have a couple of book shelves that Stardust cannot climb to the top of. These have become our safe places for more fragile decorations and free-standing ornaments.

6. Secure your tree. Use wire and hooks to anchor your tree to the wall, or cover the base with sand bags. Cover the sandbags with a heavy cloth, and then the tree skirt to add some extra and balanced weight. The cloths may also help prevent the sandbags being shredded by your kitten’s claws. They love sandbags. Trust me.

7. Keep tree unlit when not in room with the cat. Cats like the warmth, color, and light of Christmas bulbs. They are likely to chew or suck on them when unsupervised.

8. Choose your other decorations wisely.

  • Don’t place family heirlooms or fragile decorations on surfaces your cat may reach.
  • Don’t allow dangly décor or cloth to drip from any surface. All small creations, be they kittens or human babies, are known for their knack of pulling these things down without effort. Sometimes, I think Stardust has managed this with telekinesis.

9. Keep everything clean, neat and organized all season long.

  • Make sure that all of your surfaces remain cleared. While cats will always be tempted to seek out trouble, the holidays offer a certain whimsy to discovery. Sparkles, lights, dangly things…these all mean excitement and wonder for your cat.
  • Keep all dishes clean and trash secured. Leftovers from parties should be taken care of immediately.
  • Keep the kitty in another room while you clean and while you party. This one should be obvious, but even when you know better, it can be tempting to let your curious kitty keep you company while you clean. I learned my lesson when Stardust dove head-first into the toilet that had just had the cleaning agent added. Thankfully, I caught her in mid-air and saved her from a blue bath.

10. Keep hanging décor high above kitty’s claw span. Make sure wreaths, plaques, canvases, garlands and anything else hanging are far above typical sight-lines of your cat.

11. Use garland and wreaths sparingly in areas cat may have access to.  They will find a way to get up to them.

12. If your cat is all boring and actually hates citrus and bitter apple like they’re supposed to, use cat deterrent spray.

Of course, maybe you have the perfect kitten who never does anything to get in trouble. Good for you and your stuffed animal. But if you’re like the rest of us, hopefully some of these tips will help you out this Christmas season.