The Christmas season is upon us, surrounding us with good will, cheer, and neighbors competing to see who can place the most strands of lights into one electrical outlet. We all wear cheerful holiday colors of red and green, and we place little cloth reindeer antlers and Santa hats on our pets’ unhappy heads. I love the holiday season – 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. I especially enjoy the thousands of Christmas lights that decorate my neighbors’ homes, and 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 place delicate Christmas decorations in our windows and fragile glass ornaments on our newly cut Christmas trees. Some of us do it more than once. . .
If you have animals in your house, you know why we 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. You see, while I enjoy the holidays for their highly marketed atmosphere of peace and tranquility, my pets view them as an opportunity for destruction. Apparently, to a cat, there is nothing better than climbing up to the top of the newly decorated tree for the sole purpose of destroying it. This is a tree, I might add, that has (in their eyes) been moved into the house for no other reason than to entertain them. Apparently this thought makes their lives a little more complete. Really, what else could a cat want? They have the comfort and security of a warm home, food and clean water, their own automated litter box, and now the convenience of a live tree in their living room. From a cat’s point of view, that is 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 knock to the ground, a giant tree to climb in the house, and an unlimited number of noisy little balls to knock off the tree and roll around on the floor, which makes for a lively game of “Cat Hockey.” Let the games begin! This is, indeed, the season for cats. On any given day, I can come home from work to find at least one cat hiding in the tree, knocking down the topmost ornaments for the other cats’ hockey pleasure. (I like to call that one the referee.) The referee is always the youngest cat of the house (because the others know what’s coming) and is always the first one to get yelled at, and sprayed with a water bottle…
Here is a typical day in December for me: Wake up at 4 am, let the dogs out of the house, let the dogs into the house, shower, put some of the dogs into the yard, keep some of the dogs in the house, drive to work, spend the day writing, drive home from work, stop off at Petsmart for pet food, (and if there is enough cash left over, I sometimes pick up something for my husband and I at the supermarket), drive home, walk through my front door balancing a 50 lb bag of dog food, and step on an ornament. Cursing, I make my way through the minefield of little glass balls that have been knocked to the floor from the tree, set my groceries on the counter, and head back to the tree. In that tree, I locate the culprit responsible for the ornament I just stepped on, warn them that if they don’t get out of the tree immediately, I will take them right back to the shelter where I found them (which they immediately recognize as an idle threat), and then I harshly remind them of what the shelter does to destructive, Christmas-hating cats. Then I spend the evening picking up broken ornament balls, and replacing them with the rapidly diminishing ornament stash that I keep for these purposes.
Last year, since I can no longer have tinsel (animals love to eat the dangerous, silvery stuff), I added a beautiful string 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 hearing the tinkling sounds of tiny little balls on 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 other challenge. Christmas lights are wonderful for cats to sleep against, as they provide heat, but are apparently even more fun to chew on. This presents an obvious cat health consideration. All of my 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.
And so, how do we solve the problems that indoor trees present? Personally, I spend the holidays walking around 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. Lately, they are subjected to a little something known as “SSScat” –a motion-activated spray system that miraculously keeps pets away from everything Christmas.
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.