By Theresa Wells
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…except if you have cats they are always stirring and up to some form of mischief, and at Christmas time the focal point for the mayhem is always the same: the tree.
I am not sure what the resident felines think when the tree goes up. Last year the only cat in residence, Sirius, spent most of the holiday season in the tree, and most mornings involved trying to extract an extremely reluctant cat out of the tree. Sirius, a Fort McMurray SPCA adoptee, has undoubtedly spent some time on the streets in his life and his street savvy feels thwarted by the new housecat existence he leads. I suspect he saw the tree as a personal gift from his human overlords, a kind of peace offering to a cat who would rather be outdoors and who exhibits distinct envy of the dog who is allowed (and even encouraged) to spend time outside.
I was foolish enough last year to purchase a tree coated in soft white artificial snow, thinking how lovely and cottage-like it would look in my living room. What I failed to understand is that Sirius, who is as coal black as snow is white, would spend the entire month of December and part of January dusted with a light coating of artificial snow. It seemed not only the tree looked seasonally festive, but the cat did, too.
I also failed to truly appreciate the fascination he would have with the ornaments on the tree. The shiny glass balls were too much temptation for any cat, and he would manage to pull them off and chase them around the house, before using a powerful paw smack to send them plummeting down the stairs and meet their final demise by smashing against the front door.
After a week of sweeping up glass ornaments I got smart (I thought) and added small jingle bell decorations to the tree to serve as an early “cat in the tree” warning. The trouble was that the cat was always in the tree and he regarded the jingle bells as new ornaments just for him, and he took great glee in hunting them down on an hourly basis, leading to the constant jingling that slowly drove me mad.
It was with delight last year that I stuffed that tree back in the box, although Sirius was deeply disappointed and shot me dark looks the entire time I was dismantling it. This year when November rolled around I pulled out the tree box, looked at Sirius Black Cat – and started setting it up again, finding a cat in the tree before the final tree top portion was even in place.
I was smarter this year, though. The glass balls and any delicate ornaments were replaced with shatterproof plastic ones that could survive a trip down two flights of stairs. The jingle bells remained, but with the understanding that they were fundamentally cat toys hung on a tree. And I was resigned to at least one cat covered in artificial snow and maybe even two, as this fall a new feline face joined the family with the arrival of the affectionate fluffy fatball named Smaug.
This year however I have not found Sirius in the tree except for the very first day. The plastic ornaments have remained untouched as I believe he learned they were not nearly as much fun as the glass, and the jingle bells have become almost like prey which he steals off the tree, plays with enthusiastically (preferably at about two in the morning) and then deposits at my feet when the fun has worn off and he needs a catnap. But there has been a disturbing new feline strategy.
I have no idea how artificial snow tastes but Sirius and Smaug do. Since the tree has gone up I believe they have each ingested their own weight in artificial snow, and the lower tree branches are often strangely damp. I don’t even know what dietary deficiency could lead to finding two cats under the tree, licking it much like cows at a salt lick, but this appears to be the new feline celebration of Christmas. A weary call to Pet Poison Control, an understanding that the snow is not toxic (although not a suggested addition to feline diets, either, and the licking goes on, leaving me with a tree that is snow flocked up above and starting to look a little less so down below.
Pets change your life, without a doubt. They even change how you celebrate the holidays it seems, as treasured ornaments are now kept tucked away and not on display. But no matter how much artificial snow they eat, how many ornaments they break or how often I find myself pulling a cat out of a tree I cannot deny that along with the other gifts under the tree there will be a few with the names “Sirius” and “Smaug” on them.
Frankly, I’m just fighting the impulse to buy them each a can of artificial snow and calling it a very Merry Catmas indeed.
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