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!
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Published in: on December 13, 2014 at 9:09 pm  Comments (82)  
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The Runaways

No, that isn’t me. And no, that isn’t my pet elephant.

On the other hand, it could have been me and it could have been my elephant, or so I imagined as a toddler when a serious infatuation with Dumbo led me to run off to join the circus. I’d forgotten that sudden childhood impulse until I came across the story of Lilly and Isa, a pair of  elephants who traveled years ago with the Carson & Barnes Circus.

I first heard of Lilly and Isa when I visited the circus’s winter quarters in Hugo, Oklahoma.  As young elephants, they became famous for running away from the circus, not toward it.  Still, there were similarities in our experience. Neither of us had a clear destination in mind when we decided to make a break for it, and neither of us had a real plan. We simply saw our chance and took it, hot-footing it down the road for all we were worth, determined to outrun our pursuers and evade capture. Lilly and Isa were more successful when it came to long-term evasion, but by the time it was over I suspect all three of us had decided that one escapade was enough. (more…)

Published in: on May 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm  Comments (95)  
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Persistence, Personified

After months of struggle, The Little Essay That Could finally started its engines, cut loose the string of cars that had been carrying the freight of an idea that didn’t belong and began chugging its way up the hill toward publication. It had been left on a siding, bereft and forlorn, condemned to idleness by my own obstinancy, my stubborn insistence that two thematic strands should remain entwined in a single essay.   Only after I pulled them apart, discarding one, was the storyline able to get going and pick up a little steam.

Ironically, just as I began working again on my simplified piece, sighing and moaning to myself that things ought to be progressing more quickly, I came across news of Harper Lee and her former literary agent, Samuel Pinkus. Lee recently filed suit in Manhattan federal court seeking to recover royalties from from the sale of her novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.  According to Associated Press reports, Lee was contending that Pinkus had tricked her into signing over the copyright to her novel while she was recovering from a stroke.  (more…)

Published in: on May 10, 2013 at 7:41 pm  Comments (110)  
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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 Fruitcake’s Revenge

Got Fruitcake?

Johnny Carson said it, and I believed it.  Every year, shortly after Thanksgiving, he began the Christmas season by reminding us, “There’s only one fruitcake in the world. It’s been passed around from person to person since time immemorial, and it doesn’t matter how hard you try. You’ll never escape The Fruitcake.” 

I knew his little joke wasn’t factual. Every year multitudes of fruitcakes marched like overzealous Nutcrackers into the heart of the holiday season, overflowing store shelves and filling up catalogs.  How essentially good ingredients – fruit and cake – could be combined into a “treat” that was both gummy and dry was beyond me. But the fruitcake people had managed to do it. Even though I preferred not to waste my holiday calories on something that appeared to have been circulating since the days of the Roman Empire, people kept pressing fruitcake on me.  I wished there were only one. It would have been easier to escape the ghastly conconction. (more…)

Published in: on November 27, 2012 at 11:05 am  Comments (115)  
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