When Nature Joins the Song ~ Cat Carols

 

Everyone knows there are “cat people” and “dog people”.  I qualify as a cat person. Mine is a beautiful calico named Dixie Rose (short for Dixie-Rose-Center-of-the-Universe-and-Queen-of-all-She-Surveys). I already was “old” when I brought her into my life as an unloved, four month old stray. Apart from a painted turtle and a small black birthday puppy who lasted only hours (tiny and overly enthusiastic, the pup terrified me and was sent packing), she’s my first pet. Like a favored first child or grandchild, I believe her to be the most beautiful and most clever creature on four paws. I don’t think she’s the most spoiled creature in the world, but we’re working on it – diligently.

The first Christmas season I shared with Dixie, it became apparent some things would have to change. The entire process of tree-trimming, gift wrapping, and holiday decorating simply was more than she could bear. A swath of shredded ribbon, broken ornaments and pulled-down swags marked her passage through the pre-holiday festivities. When the tree went over for a second time and then a third, I surrendered. My first Christmas with Dixie, we celebrated with a bare tree that had been weighted down around the base with a length of 3/8″ galvanized chain. No candles burned that year.  Presents were hidden in the closet until time for humans to unwrap them, and all sparkly things were banned because of my furry darling’s quite literal appetite for all things that glittered, whether gold or not.

Christmas came, and Christmas went, and sometimes Dixie and I disagreed strongly on the nature of true celebration. Things weren’t always good that year, and the phrase “This hurts me more than it does you” came to mind more than once.

As a matter of fact, things were so bad for a week or so I began to amuse myself by creating the first of what would become a series of little ditties I called Cat Carols. You know the tune, and can add the “Fa-la-las” as needed.

Wreck the Halls

Wreck the halls all decked with holly,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la la-la-la.
Sheer destruction is so jolly,
Fa-la…
Tip the tree with all its treasures,
Fa-la…
Shred the presents for good measure!
Fa-la…
Fast away the fur-ball passes,
Fa-la…
To wreak havoc on the masses,
Fa-la…
Swinging through the punch and cookies,
Fa-la…
You can tell she is no rookie,
Fa-la…

It was the start of something wonderfully fun. When I included the lyrics in Dixie’s Christmas card to her vet, he suggested she keep writing. So, she did. Again, you know the tune:

Stalking in a Winter Wonderland

Collars ring, are you listening?
In the lane, eyes are glistening…
The moon is so bright, we’re happy tonight,
Stalking in a winter wonderland.
Gone away are the bluebirds,
Here to stay are the new birds.
They sing their same songs as we skulk along,
Stalking in a winter wonderland.
In the meadow we can build a snow mouse,
And pretend that he is fat and brown.
He’ll say “Are you hungry?” We’ll say, “No, mouse”,
But we’ll have you for dinner on the town.
Later on, we’ll retire
For a snooze by the fire,
And dream of the prey we’ll catch the next day,
Stalking in a winter wonderland.

Of course, not everyone loves the kitty-cats, and there is a song for them, too. While I don’t advocate the shooting of cats (or dogs, or people for that matter) I certainly can understand the emotions which might lead to a Christmas song like this.

Jingle Bells, Shotgun Shells

Jingle bells, shotgun shells, there’s that danged old cat!
Get my gun, let’s have some fun, I know just where he’s at!
Jingle bells, oh, Hell’s bells, now he’s on the run!
If I find my glasses that cat’s hunting days are done.
A day or two ago, I thought I’d feed the birds,
I grabbed a bag of seed, a second and a third.
But halfway ‘cross the yard, I saw the bushes shake,
It was my neighbor’s scroungy cat, a big orange tom named Jake.
Oh, jingle bells, shotgun shells, (repeat chorus)…..
I love to feed the birds, it makes me feel so glad.
But Jake, that danged old cat, he makes me so darned mad!
He’s not content to eat a lizard or a mouse,
He wants to eat my pretty birds: that cat’s a stinking louse!
Oh, jingle bells, shotgun shells (repeat chorus)

Finally, there is this cautionary tale. A great-aunt much given to malapropism used to caution me, “Tempus fidgets“. Just like a child, cats (and probably dogs) need to be reminded that tempus does, indeed, fidget, and the magical night is not far off.

Santa Cat is Coming to Town

Oh, you’d better not hiss, you’d better not bite,
You’d better not tempt the dog to a fight;
Santa Cat is coming to town!
He’s making a list, checking it twice,
Gonna find out who chased all those mice,
Santa Cat is coming to town!
He knows when you’ve been scratching,
He knows who you’ve outfoxed,
He knows if you’ve been in a snit
And refused your litter box!
With potted cat grass and catnip-filled balls,
Snuggly warm beds and mice from the malls,
Santa Cat is coming to town.

We haven’t started this year’s song, but things are stirring, and “O, Christmas Bush” seems a likely candidate. It’s pure silliness of course, just another bit of holiday excess. On the other hand, excess isn’t always bad, and sometimes silly excess is a path to truth. Looking at Dixie, singing her little carols to her, I suddenly remember another carol. “Joy to World”, we sing, “The Lord is Come. Let Earth receive her king“.

We don’t sing, “Joy to human beings, joy to those who walk upright and drive cars and open too many credit card accounts and are nasty to their neighbors.”  The joy we sing is meant for the whole world, for stars and dirt, mountains and seas, trees, rocks, valleys and hills and every creature who inhabits them all. While we prepare our hearts, heaven and nature sing out the truth. Gifts of the season are meant for all, and we need to love our world enough to include it in our celebration.

 

In the meantime, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, whether you take the promises of the season seriously or whether you don’t, accept these bits of silliness as a gift from Dixie Rose. Feel free to laugh at them, sing them to yourself, or pass them on to friends. Believe me when I say an entire room filled with pet-lovers singing these songs can be hilarious, and they’ve been known to bring a smile to the face of even the Scroogiest animal “hater”.

As for Dixie, she continues on her best behavior. She’s learned she can avoid kitty-jail by avoiding kitty-misbehavior, and so we trim our tree in peace.  I hang ornaments that stay in place and display cookies and gifts without fear. While I prepare our celebration, she spends a good bit of time sleeping in the low afternoon sunlight, visions of catnip-plums dancing in her head as she waits in perfect peace and joy for whatever might come next.

In this season of Advent, this season of waiting and anticipation, may we all be blessed with such peace and joy!

 
Previously published in 2008, this post has been revised and re-published due to overwhelming demand (one request) and constant nagging by Dixie Rose and her agent.  I didn’t know about the agent until recently, but I should have.  Comments are welcome. To leave a comment or respond, please click below.
Published in: on December 10, 2009 at 5:35 pm  Comments (15)  
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  1. Dear Dixie-Rose,

    By now I hope you realize that I am a cat-person. My kitties send the following to you and Linda because we are a warped trio (also very out of tune):

    Hark! The Housebound Felines Sing

    Hark the housebound felines sing,
    Glory to the milk-jug ring!
    Mice on earth and squirrlz reviled
    Even indoors we are wild!

    Warily our tails do twi-itch
    As we down the halls do ri-ip,
    With triumphant meows proclaim,
    Cats have the far superior brain!
    Hark, the housebound felines sing,
    Glo-ory to…the milk jug ring!

    Thank you for the chance to indulge in silliness, may you be indulged with lots of catnip…

    And Linda, thank you for the reminder of the true nature of the season–joy and peace. All the blessings of the world to you!

    ds,

    What a wonderful addition, especially since you’re still a trio and have survived the latest feline crisis. I shared the song with Dixie this morning, and she sends a thank-meow right back to Mister Man and Miss Moo!

    Anyone who thinks our cats – and dogs, and birds, and turtles and horses and lizards – don’t have something to teach us about celebrating life and its seasons just hasn’t spent enough time with the creatures. Thank goodness they’re willing to allow us into their worlds, too. Even the wonderful frog you photographed some months ago surely has added his voice to the chorus – a neat little package of life, all tied up with Christmas ribbets!

    Linda

  2. The song on my lips right now is Hosanna in the Highest, Linda, after reading this delightful bit of silliness. It has made my day! :)

    Ginnie,

    Hosannas are good, holiday delights are good and silliness is especially good! My personal opinion is that if God didn’t approve of a little silliness, he never would have made giraffes or the Venus fly-trap. (Well, ok. Not so silly to the fly, but still….)

    Glad you found a smile for your day!

    Linda

  3. Hi Linda,

    Thank you for readng my blog. I love yours! Your words feel like velvet in my ears. “…an aunt given to malapropism’ (which I always have to look up for fear of adding too many r’s!)

    Anyhow, I’m a dog AND cat lover. Alas, our Sweety disappeared November 2008, and it’s our 2nd Christmas sans a cat, and actually before that I’d had cats for 25 years.

    This post was a delight. I will be sure to pass it on to my husband, who is a big cat-lover. Dixie is DARLING! Don’t you know, Christmas is a cat’s favorite time of year?? I miss my kitties at Christmas. We had one who was a holy terror, Earl Grey, and he was given to climbing into the tree & getting stuck.

    I’ve always had fun with my cats at Christmas playing “chase the ribbon” games.

    I miss Sweety (and Earl Grey, Booger, Buster, Cringer, Simone, and Clapton).

    Julie,

    Was Clapton named after Eric Clapton? He’s one of my favs, and I’d be happy to name a cat after him! I’m sorry about Sweety – they do leave big gaps in our lives, don’t they?

    Dixie’s getting more sedate in her middle age, but if she thinks my back is turned, she’s still willing to give mischief a bit of a go. Last year her game wasn’t climbing the tree, but taking the ornaments off, one at a time, and taking them under the bed. It took a while to figure that one out ;-)

    Give your dog a pat for me, and do feel free to pass the songs on to anyone you think would enjoy them. I need to add a note tonight at the bottom of the post that it’s ok to do that.

    And thanks for stopping by!

    Linda

  4. What a lovely post! I am definitely a dog person but I am glad to read that I am not the only person who makes up songs for her pet. I also like to speak things I think he would say, in my “skylar” voice. God, I love my dog!!

    Hi, Courtney,

    Some like dogs and some like cats, but we all love our pets and, yes, we all can be just as crazy-acting when we’re around them. Dixie has her own Christmas stocking and her own gifts, and every Christmas eve I tell her the story of Santa-Cat again. :-)

    There’s no question they teach us a lot about unconditional love with their patience and devotion. No wonder we love them back.

    Wish I could hear your “skylar” voice!

    Linda

  5. I was afraid I was among the silly-few, but I see “we” are everywhere! Not only do I have a dogger, but I have a granddogger too. Every weekend she comes over for a grandma overnight. I haven’t done much singing with them, but I just might this weekend, I am so inspired by your post and the comments!

    The girls and I did do a holiday dance together – you will have to visit and view.

    Tis the season to indulge in great happiness and fun:)

    qugrainne,

    Now, that’s new to me – “dogger” and “granddogger” – and certainly puts a smile on my face. There’s nothing more special than an overnight with grandma – those are lucky dogs!

    I have a friend who was amazed to find that I talk to Dixie on a regular basis. I greet her when I come home, tell her she’s the cat-in-charge when I leave, and generally carry on quite lucid, casual conversations with her when I’m home. My friend never, ever talked to her dog, let alone sang to her. When they were together, it was utter silence. When she tried a little conversation, she was amazed at the changes in the dog’s behavior and her feelings toward the dog. Last year, she wrote a dog-carol, and called me in tears of laughter the night they began singing it together. Let heaven and nature sing, for true.

    I can’t wait to see your dance – as I recall, that’s one fine looking partner you have!

    Linda

  6. Linda,

    I admire your creative spirit and the inspiration behind them; the Dixie Rose Carols are wonderful.

    Who needs a ‘better letter’ when you have these carols to usher in the season so gloriously?

    Surely your Cat Carols inspire both heaven and nature to sing.

    Janell

    Janell,

    Even my grumpy old cat-averse mother has been known to crack a smile when she hears them. Never mind heaven and earth – if I can get Mama to sing along, Christmas has surely arrived.

    Not much Christmas outside the window tonight – the fog’s so thick there’s no way for the annual boat parade to go on. A few have their lights turned on, but no one is leaving the docks (at least, the one I can see through the fog). I guess we’ll just have to stay home and sing!

    Linda

  7. On the note of talking to your pets, I say, every morning as I walk out the back door on my way to the garage, “Don’t forget to do the dishes, girls.” One of these days they are going to surprise me!

    I love the story about your friend – you helped to improve her dog’s life immeasurably!

    qugrainne,

    Your admonition to your girls reminded me of a funny, absolutely true story.

    A ship chandler in a nearby town had a parrot. It burbled and chatted with him, but never said much to the customers. People always were asking stupid people questions, like “Polly wanna cracker?” One day I was hanging around the door when a woman walked up to the parrot on his perch and asked, “Polly wanna a cracker?” The parrot looked her straight in the eye and said, “No!”

    So. There are surprises out there, and occasional reminders those are real beings underneath all the feathers and fur!

    Linda

  8. Oh, I love Dixie Rose! From her name to all her beautiful parts, she is one lovely kitty.

    I didn’t always love kitties. In fact, I used to laugh at a certain book called “101 Things To Do With A Dead…” let’s not go there. Suffice it to say, I’ve been redeemed.

    I am now the proud owner of TWO kitties: Minou (French, for kitten) and Samantha. They are quite dear to me, and even when I’m frustrated I can’t put up a Christmas tree (for fear of damage you mentioned), they’re worth every aggravation.

    I especially loved the songs you posted. What a clever writer that Dixie Rose is, just like you!

    Bellezza,

    Ah, yes. I’ve seen that unfortunate book, and remember laughing myself. But cats and dogs (and all our pets) in the abstract are one thing. OUR cats and dogs are quite another, with all their idiosyncracies and charms.

    One of the lessons I had to learn is that while I have a whole world to roam, I am her world, and she needs as much time and attention as I can give. There’s nothing sadder than a lonely, despondent creature who doesn’t understand deadlines and other such silliness from the human world. But as you say, they’re worth every bit of trouble and worry.

    It just now occurs to me – I don’t remember ever seeing a cat painted into a nativity scene. Surely there has been. I’ll have to explore!

    Linda

  9. Ah, that clever Dixie, having an agent and all! Some of the carols made me burst out laughing but the last is likely my favorite. It was the “being in a snit” and “the litterbox thing”, which is quite foreign to this household of dogs but even more hilarious for that reason.

    I love Joy to the World. It fits for everyone, the idea of joy. This is lovely.

    And good job that you can have your tree, ornaments and the presents on display. Very cool that you and Dixie worked it out.
    (true confession: laughed at your lines about the puppy who was so energetic and was sent packing!)

    oh,

    Leave it to you to pick up on the literary agent! Dixie claims to be hawking a memoir based on our life together, but I haven’t been allowed to see the manuscript…

    Joy is for everyone, absolutely. How sad that it so often gets confused with fun, or celebration. It can be a part of those, but the beauty of joy is that it can be experienced even in the worst of circumstances.

    The poor puppy – it was sent packing because it terrified me, actually. It would have been the perfect pet for a more secure and adventurous child, but I had to wait a bit for those qualities to develop ;-)

    It’s so lovely to see you – I trust you’re enjoying the season to the fullest.

    Linda

  10. Oh, my! Waaahahahahahaha.. Gasp… Snort… Hiccup…..

    Oh, heavens above! Let me get my breath back here a minute and dab the tears from my eyes. Sigh…

    I don’t think I’ve had such a good laugh on a Sunday morning in quite some time. I’ll be sending the URL to a few family and friend pet lovers. This is too good not to share!

    We haven’t had a tree since we got Thor, 13 years ago. I realized soon after we got him that putting up a Christmas tree with him in the house would be a definite no go. I vividly visualized a black, furry tree topper, just before the entire kitandkaboodle toppled over. And over. And over. Ornaments would be demolished. Possible tummy upsets from eating unsuitable items would ensue, if not electrocution from chewing on the light wires.

    The tree is languishing in the attic, all these years later, unless the squirrels have gotten ahold of it. Which is possible. There have been a couple of attic invasions over the years.

    Daisy, on the other hand, would probably disappear into the front bedroom until the tree was taken down. She’s terrified of everything.

    I’ll be humming those tunes with the new words for the entire holiday season, I’m sure! LOL

    Bug,

    Once you get started, it’s hard to stop. For one thing, there’s nothing here that requires a trip to the mall, maxing out a credit card or even getting dressed up. All that’s necessary is a sense of humor and a willingness to stop being so dad-gummed serious about everything. As far as I’m concerned, that’s one of the good things children and animals do for us – help us forget ourselves for just a bit.

    The year Dixie landed in Kitty-jail was the year of the repetitively-toppled tree. She just couldn’t help herself – you could see it. Spoken to, she’d slink off to a distance of about ten feet, and then start looking at the tree again. In about five minutes, you could see the memory of “bad cat!” fading out of her eyes as the slitty-eyed inner predator returned. WHAM! Down it would go again. When I finally got the idea of wrapping about 50 pounds of chain around the bottom, it was hilarious. She made a couple of attempts to push it over, but when it didn’t work, her interest flagged.
    I poured a glass of wine and celebrated.

    Glad you enjoyed the read – laughs in the morning always are good. Maybe Daisy would like one of the songs ;-)

    Linda

  11. Sweet!

    When I’ve had cats, which is most of my life, it was always obvious at Christmas because the tree was nearly bare on the bottom couple of feet. Same for my golden retriever, whose tail was like a minesweeper. :)

    I hope you’ve exposed your furkid to the Jingle Cats…

    ella,

    I didn’t know about the Jingle Cats! But now I do, and so does Dixie. She came to full attention in her chair when the first one came on – the next thing I knew she was on my keyboard shelf, absolutely entranced by the screen. We enjoyed several numbers together ;-)

    Love the image of the retriever – I can just see that tail sweeping the ornaments off the tree. And they always have that wonderful “Who, me?” expression in their eyes.

    I hope your holiday season’s progressing nicely. This coming weekend is cut-out cookie and cardamom cookie time!

    Linda

  12. Linda,

    What fun these are. I stopped by a few days ago, and I was interrupted in the middle of reading this.

    Dixie Rose is beautiful. So is her name and so are your wonderful photos. We had a calico named Tibbs. She was probably the prettiest cat we ever had. I wish digital cameras were around back then. I recall how she looked at me with that haughty expression when I swept the floor. It was clear that she wouldn’t be caught dead doing such a menial task. Queenie may have been a more appropriate name for her.

    Thanks for making me think of her. I hope you’ll share this year’s song with us when it’s ready. These are a gas.

    Bella

    Isn’t Dixie pretty? She turned into a big cat, too – long and tall, as well as hefty. When someone sees her for the first time their initial response always is something like “She’s beautiful”. She’s way too smart for me, too. The first time she let herself out onto the balcony by sliding the glass door open with her paw, she slid the door shut once she was outside. It took me a full, panic-stricken hour to find her. Now I have to keep the door locked. But she doesn’t climb or jump on things – as long as her favorite sleeping chair’s available, she’s happy.

    I do love parody, and these songs just don’t get old. I really liked ds’ song, too, and will add it to the collection. It’s refreshing to tune out the news and have fun with a few holiday tunes!

    Linda

  13. Our tree is now propped up in a corner – we are not sure if the cats nudged it over or if the stand is “el cheapo” and therefore not functioning properly. Either way, this is the 2nd X-Mas season with this set of brother and sister kitties that has resulted in a battered tree and hardwood floors ruined from the resulting seeped through tree water. Next year we either go artificial or lock the cats in the basement for the month of December. Hmmm. Lucky for them they are cute and soft and purr.

    Bumbles,

    I can only imagine that the effect of two playful kitties increases geometrically! Of course, a few years will help with all that, but in the meantime – artificial solves a lot of problems. Of course, even with one kitty and an artificial tree, a little jail time’s sometimes called for – but not the whole month of December.

    We do put up with quite a bit for those cute, soft bundles of purr – but they are so worth it! Merry Christmas to everyone in your household, both two-footed and four-footed!

    Linda

  14. I’m so very glad you found me :)

    amandzing ~

    I hardly can believe it’s been more than a year – all those cracks about time flying when you’re having fun must be true!

    Linda

  15. This is the very funniest post ever! And I must print it out for Mr. Gyps and we will sing together! I didn’t do it last year (he’s pretty good with the tree) but after Stimpy knocked the tree down more than once, I would anchor with a 20# box of kitty litter on each leg of the stand (sealed, of course!) — I had litter for weeks!

    Dixie Rose is simply gorgeous — I can see why you fell in love and why she’s still hanging out with you, glitter and lifechanging moments notwithstanding! I will revisit this post often and share it with others of us who are of the feline-preference persuasion!

    Merry HoHo! And now, excuse me while I go sing!

    jeanie,

    Litter would be the perfect solution with a “real” tree stand. My tree base is more like a rootball on a real tree – that’s part of the reason the chain worked so well.

    Dixie accepts your compliments – with gratitude, for once :-) If you want to print and copy this one, feel free. The songs are Dixie’s gift to her fur-friends!

    Linda


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