"The phrase 'domestic cat' is an oxymoron." - George Will

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 wear holiday colors of red and green, and we place little cloth reindeer antlers and Santa hats on our pets 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. This is the time of year that we all place Christmas decorations in our windows and ornaments on our 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. This is a time of bonding between my animals and I. While I enjoy the holidays, my pets view them as an opportunity for destruction. There is nothing better than climbing up to the top of the newly decorated tree that now lives in the house. What better life is there? They have the comfort and security of a warm home, and the convenience of a live tree inside. From a cat’s point of view, that is heaven!

It’s no surprise then to find that cats view Christmas as the best time of year. There are numerous lights to knock to the ground, a giant tree to climb in the house, and an unlimited number of loud little balls to knock off the tree and roll around on the floor. Let the games begin! This is, indeed, hockey 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 top most ornaments for the other cats hockey pleasure. I like to call that one the referee. The referee is always the first one to get yelled at.

Here is a typical day in December for me: Wake up at 4 am, let the animals out of the house, let the animals into the house, shower, put the animals into the yard, drive to work, spend the day writing, drive home from work, stop off at Petsmart for pet food, (if there is enough cash left over, I sometimes pick up something for myself at the supermarket), walk in my door and step on an ornament. Cursing, I make my way through the minefield of little glass balls that have been knocked to the floor, set my groceries on the counter, and head back to the tree. In that tree, I locate the culprit responsible for the broken ornament, warn them that if they don’t get out of the tree immediately, I will take them right back to the shelter and remind them of what the shelter does to destructive, Christmas hating cats, which they immediately recognize as an idle threat. Then I spend the evening picking up broken ornament balls, and replacing them with the stash that I keep for these purposes.

Last year, since I can no longer have tinsel (animals love to eat the 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 play time.

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 has occurred on more than one occasion).

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 dustbuster 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 with water bottles that are kept in nearly every corner of our home. Hockey cats are subjected to the loud scream of a dustbuster, 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!

An excerpt from the book, "Conquering the Food Chain: Living Amongst Animals (Without Becoming One) 

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.



One Cat is Company

"One cat is company.
Two cats are a conspiracy. 
Three cats is an attempted takeover.
Four or more cats is a complete coup!"

Shona Steele (Australia)

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