I love my cats, and my wife loves the pageantry of Christmas. These two things, unfortunately, don’t mix well.
I convinced my lovely wife that we could have a Christmas tree last year. She loves them. I’m a bit ambivalent, but I know how much it means to her, so I fought her to get one. Two years ago, we put a tree outside so we could keep peace with the wee beasties. The tree was on the back deck and we looked at it through the windows. It was better than no tree, my wife told me, but it didn’t make her happy.
I had built a base system for our previous fake tree two years ago that would basically allow the tree to stand upright regardless of whether a cat was climbing on it. I improved on the system last year, including painting the two bases (outdoor pots and urns) a nice aged pewter color to give the entire ensemble a Christmas-colored theme. Our house is small, so we found a 7.5′ thin pre-lighted tree at our local Lowes. Like most things these days, the tree has amazing technology. Via LED lights and a remote, it can cover all the colors of the rainbow, blink, flicker, and probably send S.O.S. signals, if need be. My wife was very grateful that I had talked her into the tree. We pulled out our unbreakable ornaments, (because you know…cats) and went to work. We loved the fact that we got to skip the part about stringing lights – something that nearly always led to a fight between us. We don’t work well together because I always try to lead – I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed.
So let me paint this picture – I have seven indoor cats. Let’s not get into the details here of how or why just accept this as a natural law in the MacMaolain household. Three are quite old, one is young but blind, two are two years old, and then there’s my wife’s favorite, a Siamese she rescued in the backyard nearly five years ago. He’s absolutely the sweetest animal I have ever known. He’s also “all cat” as I tell my wife. Which means, he is curious, destructive, playful and ungodly persistent. As it turns out, he also loves Christmas trees.
The tree wasn’t up 5 minutes when he started reaching for the lowermost branches. The two pots I’d painted reach about 36” off the floor, just within the cat’s outstretched paws. We quickly realized that we’d have to lock him up with us at night. Oh, joy. This cat and the blind one sleep in our room at night, but we are forced to leave the door open because said cat wakes up every single day at 3 AM to go walk around the house. I’ve thought about putting a GoPro on him just to see what the hell he goes and does at 3 AM. Ever since he was a kitten, if the door is closed, he howls at 3 AM. With the tree on the other side of the door the first night it was up and fully deployed, 3 AM came awful early. But we persevered. We would not be beaten by a cat.
After the fourth night, mental capacity diminished from four nights of spotty sleep, I had the idea of putting a pet gate/pen around the base of the tree. My wife even said I was clever. She rarely says that. It was probably the sleep deprivation talking.
I rarely get the chance to say this: She was wrong. Not 15 minutes after we had the 3-foot pet gate surrounding the tree, the cat used it to balance his back feet and was now inside the tree. Immediately, the wife says, “We’re taking the tree down until Christmas Eve.”
I immediately started working on my next design for a cat-proof Christmas tree. I’m stuck between some very nice prison fence designs and a hologram.
We continued to keep “The Grinch” in the room at night. He still tried to get out every morning at 3 AM. We also had to lock him up every time we left the house. We forgot once. He got a piece of the tree and he broke one branch. If I could electrify the gate, I would. I actually spent 20 minutes researching small animal electrified fences. I think I could make it work indoors. My wife lectured me on the cause and effect that would happen if I electrocuted her favorite cat. Maybe next year. With one week to go, we were winning the fight, but sacrificing sleep to do so.
Right before Christmas last year, while we were walking the dog, The Destroyer of Things fell between the tree and the pen – he was trapped. When we came in, he was sitting nonchalantly like there was nothing at all to what he had done.
So on the Friday night before Christmas, the tree was taken down. I’m not sure who won. His face, as we pulled down his new beloved object of obsession, was definitely downtrodden, if a cat can display such emotion. But I got a great night’s sleep. For the remaining Christmas season, we looked at the tree outside.
Enter the 2018 Christmas season. I had all year to plan for outwitting my little Siamese butthead cat. After a long year of thinking about this and that, a potential solution came to me like one of my litter-box ideas. Tin foil. The cat hates tin foil. So inspired by my prison fence idea, I have topped the 3-foot pet gate with tin foil, lightly crinkled so that it’s a little unstable. Cats don’t like to jump up on something that’s unstable. This might work. We’re five nights in, and the bedroom door has been left open, and we are managing. He’s not leaving the tree alone, he’s studying it like a burglar cases a house they’re going to rob.
There’s one more benefit – the tin foil actually looks festive on top of the pet gate. I know, it’s all silly. Such is what we do in life to make our loved ones happy and to tolerate the antics of our pets. Only 10 days until Christmas. We are sleeping somewhat, although I admit, I have one eye open and both ears listening for the sound of tin foil being crinkled by a cat. My subconscious may be suffering a bit on this one. We shall see.
Three days before Christmas. I’m hesitant to claim victory. The Siamese, affectionately named, “Silly-Butt,” has not gotten past the tin foil topping. We are sleeping. The door is open at night. So far, all is good. My wife will wrap presents and attempt to put them below the tree, inside the pet gate. I’m cautiously optimistic at this point. We’ve even left Senior Siamese “in the wide open” on accident once while we went out. He did not move from his vantage point on the couch.
He’s there right now, across from the tree, studying it with his clever Thai eyes. I think he knows I’m writing about him again. This is the cat who lays on my laptop each morning. I’m certain he’s trying to learn my plans. He doesn’t know that I always change the screen before he gets on the table so he won’t erase my work. I know that’s his plan. Cats love revenge.
It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m claiming a victory over a 4 1/2-year-old Siamese triumphantly. I may do a victory dance with him. He likes it when I hold him and dance around a little. I bet he won’t like this dance, but I don’t care – I won! I will be smug and laugh at him behind his back all day tomorrow. We have had a Christmas and cats! It’s nothing less than a Christmas miracle.
Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates, and happy holidays to everyone else.
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