For Cats Who Love Christmas

Laugh at the antlers if you must, but laugh at your peril. That business-like look in the eyes of my beautiful calico is very real. Dixie Rose (short for Dixie-Rose-Center-of-the-Universe-and-Queen-of-all-She-Surveys) loves Christmas, and she intends to be ready when it arrives. I don’t advise standing in her way.

Dixie arrived on my doorstep fourteen years ago: an unloved, four-month-old stray who became my first pet. I did receive a small, painted turtle as a child, but it met an unfortunate end. A well-meant birthday puppy lasted only a few hours.  Tiny but exceedingly enthusiastic, the black Cocker Spaniel terrified me, and soon was sent packing by disconsolate adults.

Later, I raised a fox squirrel, and laughed my way through four years with a prairie dog, but my relationship to Dixie Rose is of a different order entirely. I believe her to be the most beautiful creature on four paws. Whether she’s the most spoiled remains up for debate, but she’s working at it — diligently.

On our first Christmas together, it became obvious that old routines would have to change. Tree trimming and gift wrapping were more than she could bear: a swath of shredded ribbon, broken ornaments, and pulled-down swags marked her passage through the house.

After she tipped the tree a second time and then a third, I surrendered.  We celebrated with a bare tree that had been weighted at its base with several feet of galvanized chain wrapped around the trunk. No candles burned. No poinsettias glowed. Presents piled up in the closet until time for humans to unwrap them, and all things sparkly were banned due to my furry darling’s obsessive appetite for tinsel, glitter, and gold.

As Christmas Day approached, Dixie and I began to disagree more sharply on the nature of true celebration. Things weren’t always good that year, and the phrase “This hurts me more than it does you” became as common as “Merry Christmas.” Things were so bad I began to amuse myself by creating the first of what I’d later call 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…
Snarling at the reindeer rookies,
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.

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 sweet 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’s a song for them, too. While I don’t advocate shooting cats (or dogs or people for that matter), I certainly understand how pure frustration 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. Like children, cats (and probably dogs) need to be reminded that 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.

Eventually Dixie’s online friends joined the fun, sending along their own contribution to the songfest.  Housecats themselves, Mister Man and Miss Moo know how to have a good time despite not being allowed to stalk in the Great Outdoors.

Hark! The Housebound Felines Sing

Hark! the housebound felines sing,
Glory to the milk-jug ring!
Mice on earth and squirrels reviled
Even indoors we are wild!
Warily our tails do twitch
As we down the halls do rip,
With triumphant meows proclaim,
Cats do have superior brains!
Hark, the housebound felines sing,
Glory to the milk jug ring!

Dixie and I haven’t begun working seriously on this year’s song, but phrases are bubbling away in our lyrical stewpot 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 necessarily bad, and even silly excess can become a path to truth.

Looking at Dixie, singing her little songs to her, I can’t help remembering another carol.  “Joy to World, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her king.” Remarkably, we don’t sing, “Joy to human beings. joy to those who walk upright, drive cars, open too many credit card accounts, and are nasty to their neighbors.” We don’t sing, “Joy to the church-goers, the faithful, the few.”

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 human hearts prepare, heaven and nature are singing out this truth: the gifts of the season are meant for all. The coming of truth and grace is meant for the world as a whole. We who inhabit that world, who trace a path upon its soil and gaze upon its stars are called to sing its praises, too, including it in our celebrations.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or whether you don’t, whether you take the promises of the season seriously or simply enjoy the traditions and the festivity, 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 – an entire room filled with pet-lovers singing these songs can be hilarious, and they’ve been known to bring a smile even to the face of the most anti-feline Scrooge.

As for Dixie, she continues on her best behavior. She’s learned she can avoid kitty-jail by avoiding kitty-misbehavior, and we trim our tree in peace. I hang ornaments even on the lowest branches with confidence, and display cookies and gifts without fear.

While I prepare our celebration, she spends quiet afternoons sleeping in the low, slanting light. I like to imagine visions of catnip-plums dancing in her head as she waits in perfect peace and joy for whatever gifts come next.

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

Something of a tradition at The Task at Hand, this post last was published in 2012. If you’re inclined to share the post or the songs with someone, please do. Songs of the season are meant to be shared.
Special greetings go to Max, Lizzie Cosette, Gus, RC, Jasper, Sammy, T-Bob, Emmaline, Wimsey,  George, and the White, Black and Gray trio (you know who you are.) Like Gypsy, and Blue, Bill and Cherie’s Dixie Belle is with us only in memory this year, but we’ve been joined by Charlie, and by seven year old Kitty, who’s learning to live with a new pal named Muffin up on the Tallgrass Prairie.  Merry Christmas to them all!
Comments are welcome. To leave a comment or respond, please click below.
Published in: on December 13, 2014 at 9:09 pm  Comments (82)  
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Even Cats Crave Christmas!

Laugh at the antlers if you will, but laugh at your peril. That business-like look in the eyes of my beautiful calico is very real. Dixie Rose (short for Dixie-Rose-Center-of-the-Universe-and-Queen-of-all-She-Surveys) loves Christmas, and she intends to be ready when it arrives. Do not stand in her way.

Dixie arrived at my door as an unloved, four-month-old stray who became my first real pet. As a child I did receive a small painted turtle, but the poor thing met a most unfortunate end. My birthday puppy lasted only hours. A tiny but exceedingly enthusiastic black Cocker Spaniel, the pup terrified me and was sent packing by disconsolate adults.

Later, I raised a fox squirrel and laughed my way through four years with a prairie dog, but my relationship with Dixie Rose is of a different order entirely. 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. (more…)

Published in: on December 14, 2012 at 8:05 am  Comments (84)  
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The Art of Winter

Grown to middle age, my calico is placid and content. She spends her days searching for perfect napping spots, occasionally indulging herself in bird-watching at the window. Long past the enthusiasms of kittenhood, her favorite excitement is shredding cheap tissue paper. She prefers white, although she’ll work with colored if forced, and each Sunday morning she gets a dozen sheets. For the next week she rolls in it, hides under it, buries toys in it and claws at it, until nothing is left but ribbony shreds and bits of paper.

Despite her increasing years and even temper, she dislikes every sort of storm. Lightning brings her to electrified attention. Thunder triples the size of her tail in a flash. The approach of a winter cold front sets her pacing for days. Once a low crosses the Red River, she begins to move restlessly from room to room. By the time it gets to Dallas, she’s tearing full-tilt through the house, circling around and around until she collapses in a panting heap.

She’s survived several tropical storms and two hurricane evacuations, and what she lacks in scientific knowledge she makes up for in pure instinct and experience – she knows storms are bad. When her people begin to fuss and mutter about systems still hundreds of miles away, she’ll head to her carrier, snuggle down into her sheepskin and wait it out: wide-eyed and anxious, uttering the low, undeciperable sounds she reserves for rising storms. (more…)

Published in: on December 29, 2009 at 4:16 pm  Comments (15)  
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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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