The holiday season is upon us; surrounding us with good will, lots of chill, and neighbors in competition to see who can place the most strands of lights into one electrical outlet. We wear cheerful holiday colors of red and green, and place artificial reindeer antlers and Santa hats on the heads of our unhappy pets.
I love the holiday season. I love the brisk, cool winter days of the desert and the happiness that seems to exude from my fellow drivers as they allow me to cut in front of them during rush hour. And I especially love the thousands of holiday lights that adorn my neighbors’ homes. But even more than that, I love to watch my “anti-Christmas” cats struggle to bring them to the ground.
Yes, this is the time of year that we gently place delicate handmade baubles in our windows and fragile glass ornaments on our newly cut Christmas trees.
Some of us do it more than once…
In our house, for example, the tree is decorated on a daily basis. The holidays have become a bone of contention between my animals and I. While I enjoy the holidays for their highly marketed atmosphere of peace and tranquility, my pets view them as an opportunity for destruction.
To a cat, there is nothing better than climbing up to the top of a newly decorated tree for the sole purpose of destroying it. In their eyes, the symbolic tree has been relocated into their living room for no other reason than entertainment.
Really, what else could a cat want? They already have the comfort and security of a warm home, food and clean water, their own automated litter box, and now they have the convenience of a live tree in their living room. From a cat’s point of view, it’s heaven!
It’s no surprise then to find that cats also share my view that Christmas is the best time of year, but for a completely different reason. To them, Christmas is about having thousands of tiny strands of lights to hang on, dozens of delicate ornaments to knock to the ground, a giant tree to climb in the house, and an unlimited number of noisy beads to knock off the tree.
In my home, the holidays have led to the tradition of cat hockey and tree climbing competitions. On any given day, I must leave the comfort of my desk to referee an impromptu game or remove at least one cat hiding in the uppermost part of the tree as he gleefully removes the ornaments for the other cats’ hockey pleasure.
Generally, the youngest cat is assigned this task. While it is obviously the most entertaining part of the game, the one climbing the tree is always the one to catch the blame. He’s also the one to get sprayed with a water bottle.
While climbing trees is great fun, and wreaking havoc is even more fun, no cat likes to be sprayed with a water bottle. The elders know this; the youngest are still on a “learning curve”.
Here is a typical day in December for me:
4:00 am Wake up
4:03 am Let the dogs out of the house
4:05 am Let the dogs into the house
4:55 am Put some of the dogs into the yard and keep some of the dogs in the house
5:00 am Enter my office and spend the day writing at the computer while letting dogs in and out of the house
5:45 am Hear a loud crash as an ornament falls to the tile floor
5:46 am Listen to the flailing of claws and paws as cats scatter through the home (upon said tile)
5:48 am Curse (a lot) as I make my way through the minefield of little glass balls that have been knocked to the floor from the tree. Run to tree and locate the culprit responsible for most recent ornament drop. Warn them I will take them right back to the shelter if they don’t stay out of the tree, and remind them what shelters do to Christmas-hating, destructive cats.
6:00 am Cat, disgusted with me, storms off as I clean up the shattered ornament I was given as a gift from my best friend.
7:01 am Repeat previous scene. As necessary. Throughout the day…
Each evening is then spent picking up broken ornament balls and replacing them with the rapidly diminishing ornament stash that I keep for these purposes.
Since I can no longer have tinsel on my tree (animals love to eat the dangerous, silvery stuff), I added several beautiful strings of pearls to my Christmas tree. These are great fun for cats as they allow the opportunity for a good game of tug-of-war and, if they successfully move the game into the kitchen, are given the added bonus of making little tinkling sounds on the tile. These little pearl strings are also replaced each day, sometimes as late as 2 am, since that is the best cat playtime.
I console myself with the knowledge that at least my cats have good taste.
Exterior illumination presents a whole new challenge. Christmas lights are wonderful for our neighborhood feral cats to sleep against as they provide heat, but apparently they are even more fun to chew on.
This presents an obvious cat health consideration.
To offset any potential for electrocution, all of our extension cords are covered with electrical tape to prevent chewing. (Generally animals become bored once they have chewed through the tape, thus never reaching the actual cord). The lights are securely fastened with millions of staples to the very edge of the roof. This way, when the cat reaches over the roof to pull the lights down, it faces the possibility of falling to the ground below (something that even cats don’t like to think about) and the threat of getting hurt outweighs the fun it might have playing with the lights.
I spend the holidays walking around my house with a spray bottle in one hand and a dust buster in the other. Gifts are never placed under the tree until the morning of Christmas, (or they are opened each day by over-anxious pets who are worse than children). Tree cats are sprayed from water bottles that are kept in nearly every corner of our home. Hockey cats are subjected to the loud scream of a dust buster, and lights are securely wrapped in tape before they ever reach the roof.
Yes, the holiday season is here. So, keep your lights duct taped and your spray bottle handy, and may you and yours have a wonderful holiday season!
About the Author
Stacy Mantle is a freelance writer who currently resides in the southwestern deserts of Arizona with a number of cats, a coyote/wolf hybrid, and a very understanding husband. Her writing has appeared in publications such as The Arabian Horse Times, Today’s AZ Woman, and Pets Illustrated. Many of her stories and articles have been translated into several languages, and now reach an international audience. Quickly becoming known as “…the Erma Bombeck of animals”, her writing has skyrocketed to new heights as she records the stories of those she loves, inspiring the reader to learn why we have all come to love the animals we share our lives with. She is the author of “Conquering the Food Chain: Living Amongst Animals (Without Becoming One)”, which is available in Barnes & Noble bookstores nationwide, as well as online at www.bn.com or www.amazon.com, and is the founder of PetsWeekly
Causes Stacy Mantle Supports
Alley Cat Allies, Wolf Preservation Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Big Cat Rescue, Liberty Wildlife