Why Cats Love Destroying Christmas Trees, According to Science

Finally, some answers.

Flickr / Simon Davison

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…for cats to tear apart all your most cherished holiday decorations. Clearly, the Christmas tree is the first thing to go.

For cat owners, it’s tempting to chalk up the behavior as typical cat mischief, but a cat researcher tells Inverse there’s a scientific reason why kitties can’t seem to get enough of Christmas trees. With some help from a cat Facebook group dedicated to cat loaves, we got tons of pics.

“Christmas trees are exciting to many cats,” cat researcher Mikel Delgado, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, tells Inverse. “First of all, you brought something new and fragrant into their territory. When cats are in familiar territory, they often want to investigate anything new! The tree has outdoor smells and bark to scratch so there is plenty to investigate.”

Besides, who could blame cats for wanting to play with tons of dangling, shiny things?

“Those ornaments you hang on the tree turn it into a giant cat toy,” Delgado adds. “Lots of fun things to bat around.”

Four-month-old Pidge reigning chaos. (Image: Ed and Chrissy Denelsbeck)

Four-month-old Pidge reigning chaos. (Image: Ed and Chrissy Denelsbeck)

Christmas trees are also like massive perches, and cats love to climb up them. This is probably because cats descended from a tree-climbing carnivore Proailurus — clearly, that ancient impulse hasn’t worn off.

“Many [cats] will climb trees because they love to climb, and especially if they don’t have a cat condo, or cat shelves, it may be the tallest vantage point they can get in your house,” Delgado explains.

Olivia enjoying her new digs. (Image: @KTM12XU)

Image: @KTM12XU

While kitties in Christmas trees can make for an adorable photo opp, it’s important to take some safety precautions. Delgado recommends securing the tree to a wall and keeping ornaments high up.

“Be aware of dangers like glass breakables, cords that cats could get tangled in, and anything small they might ingest,” she advises. “Finally, tinsel is a no-no as many cats like to chew it (it’s very grass-like) and it can cause some dangerous intestinal tangles. Cat proof accordingly!”

In short, cats think Christmas trees are just super cool new toys/thrones for you to worship them in. And of course, you should worship them on Christmas and every other day. It’s what they deserve.

Mew Mew in a tree. (Image: @sedgjm )


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