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 on earth and world tranquility, my pets view the holidays as an opportunity for destruction.
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.
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!
In my home, the holidays have led to the tradition of cat hockey (more on that soon) 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 – I’m assuming because the others have reached a status quo that allows them to order the youngest around. While it is obviously the most entertaining part of the game, the one climbing the tree is always the one to catch the blame. Climbing trees is great fun, and wreaking havoc is even more fun, but no cat likes to be sprayed with a water bottle. The elders know this fact; the youngest are still on a “learning curve.” This rarely stops them, only trains them to not get caught next time.
Here is a typical morning in December for me:
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 always replaced daily, 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 below the edge of the roof. This way, when the occasional stray cat reaches over the roof to pull the lights down, it quickly decides that 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 any fun he or she may have playing with the lights.
I usually 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 excited children).
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!