For the first time in many, many years, we decided to forgo getting a regular Christmas tree and make our own…out of wood. The reason became very clear as we watched our six month old kittens repeatedly try to climb an artificial plant in our TV room only to have it come crashing to the floor. Now, we have had cats forever and we have witnessed them denuding the Christmas tree one or two feet above the floor, drinking all the water out of the tree stand and pulling the tree skirt out from under the tree to make a nest. But this year we decided to surrender to the cats and make a cat proof tree, or as one of our sons calls it, a cat accommodating tree!
I acquired three 2’ x 4’ sheets of ½ inch Baltic plywood, and using scraps of wood and green deck screws, fastened the sheets together to form a 6’ x 4’ pallet for my wife to draw a Christmas tree. The plan was to construct a tree that could easily be disassembled once Christmas was over and to store the tree in the attic. I asked Jennifer to outline the tree and locate two large openings for shelves and two smaller openings to use for hanging cat play toys. When this was completed I took a jig saw and cut out the tree and large openings. I used an electric drill with a 4” diameter hole saw to cut out the smaller openings.
I painted the tree with forest green paint and took it inside for Jennifer to decorate the tree. We covered the dining room table with brown paper and it became our inside work bench for constructing the tree. Jennifer will tell you that our dining room table is my favorite work bench!!
While Jennifer added snow, popcorn, holly and beads, I began construction on the boxes that were to provide the support for the tree. The plan was to mount a 5” wide by 10” deep by 10” high box to the back of the tree at the center. Five inches of the box was left exposed from the front and would be decorated as the tree trunk. Two boxes 12”x 12” x 10” deep would be constructed and decorated as Christmas presents, these would be attached to the front of the tree on the left and right side of the trunk. This provided a very stable tripod arrangement to support the tree. These were fastened from the back of the tree using the same deck screws used throughout the build. The boxes were constructed using ½ inch Baltic plywood. I used a skill saw to cut out all the parts since my table saw was still occupied by the Boy Scout Eagle project we are working on (Adirondack chairs for a homeless shelter in town. Maybe a topic for another blog… how to build chairs with 10 boys 13 to 14 years old trying to use electric drills and sanders!)
Two 12” inch deep shelves were cut from the same ½ “ Baltic plywood. These had their front corners rounded off with the jig saw and painted red. Later these had a wooden strip attached to the bottom which provided a bracket for attaching the shelves to the tree.
The tree was moved to the TV room and placed in front of the fireplace. The backup plan for supporting the tree was to run a board between the tree and underside of the fireplace mantel. We then loaded the tops of the boxes and shelves with treats and hung two catnip toys in front of the small openings and sat back to see what happened. Our 16-year-old cat and the two kittens immediately put the tree to use. They climbed the front, the back and in between. The tree did not even shudder! Success!
Of course, after 30 minutes the newness wore off and they haven’t been near the tree again. However, my wife and I have felt stress-free! No broken glass Christmas decorations! No throw-up from the cats reacting to the chemicals added to the Christmas stand water to extend the life of the dying tree (only kidding about the chemicals). No urine stains on the Christmas tree skirt! No 50,000 pine needles all over the floor to clog up the vacuum! And I figure that if I get one of those tree shaped things you hang up in your car that are pine scented, we can even enjoy the smell of a real tree! Next, we might even add LED lights, battery-powered so we don’t duplicate the cat-atrophy I saw on the movie Christmas Lampoon!