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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cameo And The Christmas Tree

(This post stuck here through the Christmas season. Please scroll down)

With many thanks to Stogie, who made the graphic for this post! Click directly on the picture to enlarge it:

I wrote the story below the fold in 2005. Within the past several months, Cameo has mellowed (somewhat, anyway, in large part due to her recent illness). But the memories of those bygone days Cameo's terrorizing the Christmas tree still bring a smile to our faces. I hope that the anecdote will bring a smile to your face too.

Cameo, our youngest cat of a little over four years, is one-fourth Siamese. As she is mostly Russian Blue, she doesn't have the appearance of a lean Siamese; in fact, she's smoky-gray, except for the dainty white spot on her chest and built like a little fireplug. Every annual check-up at the vet brings the warning, "You'd better watch her weight." Keeping Cameo's food intake to a lower level is easier said than done, however, because she steals the other cats' food before she eats her own — and none of the other three girls mess with Cameo's feeding station.

True to her Siamese heritage, Cameo is busy, busy, busy. I suspect that Christmastime is her favorite time of year because the season provides her with more opportunity for getting into trouble. From the moment that I wrestle the decorations out of that miniscule guestroom closet (A man built this house in 1940, and apparently he didn't believe in closet space or in enough electrical outlets, for that matter), her eyes glow with mischief.

As soon as my husband struggles into the front door with the large box containing the artificial tree dragged from the rafters of the shed, Cameo dives headfirst into the box. We guess that she detects the scent of mice as our shed is infested with those vermin. As the box gets progressively empty, she watches intently as we assemble the tree. First, we lay out all the branches so that we can match the back prongs to the now faded color scheme on the "trunk." It never fails: Cameo leaps from the box and drags off one of the branches into the dining room, and I shout, "Cut that out! Leave that tree alone." But after a few minutes of struggle with her, the tree is up. We loop a piece of twine around the trunk and fasten the tree to the window ledge. I don't want that tree tipping over and coming home to find the angel-topper's porcelain head in pieces on the floor!

Next come the lights. Of course, strings of lights have to be plugged in and tested, and Cameo participates in checking the lights too. The string itself is interesting, but when those bulbs come on, Cameo seems to feel that it's her duty to double-check that each bulb works, and she makes every effort to bite each one. As we wrap the lights around the tree, the trailing strands probably remind her of her favorite toy, the laser gun, so she becomes ecstatic with the thrill of pursuit. Again, I scream, "Cut that out!" followed by "Leave those lights alone!"

The first decorations to be placed on the tree are the strands of beads. We store the beads in plastic bags and, no matter how carefully we've put them away at the end of the Christmas season, somehow they get all tangled up, so we have to disentangle them. Cameo has no interest in a ball of tangled strands, but once they're laid out as separate strands, she goes into action. "Cut that out! Leave those beads alone."

Assembling the tree and putting on the lights take less than an hour. But then the real fun begins for Cameo — putting on the ornaments! She watches carefully as each ornament is placed. Then she spies the empty boxes. Small though they are, Cameo feels that it's her obligation to inspect those boxes and to try to secrete herself therein. "Cut that out! Leave those boxes alone!"

After hours of work, the tree is glowing with lights and ornaments, and all of us — my husband, the four cats, and I — sit back to inspect the results. Our tree has no tinsel, of course: tinsel can be fatal to cats. They love to eat it, and tinsel and digestive tracts are not a good match. We learned that lesson with a previous cat; fortunately, the vet got to her in time, and Laxatone took care of the problem. But my husband and I decided that, from that point on, our Christmas tree would go tinselless rather than risk losing a beloved pet.

As soon as the tree is completely festooned, Cameo goes after those ornaments on the lower branches. Unlike another cat I once had, she has no particular favorites to scramble for. Rather, any ornament on a lower branch is her target. I grab the water spritzer and soak her good. "Cut that out! Leave that tree alone!" Sheepishly giving me that what-did-I-do look, she goes to the radiator, which is still tantalizingly close to the tree, and pretends that the tree isn't really there.

Inevitably, we have to leave the house within hours of decorating the tree. Either work calls or we have to run an errand. You guessed it! When we return home, the lower branches are bare. Sometimes the ornaments disappear, only to be found during spring housecleaning; sometimes the ornaments are just below the branches or in the gift bags. We put the ornaments back on, once again, with "Oh, Cameo, can't you just leave that tree alone?" Her eyes are round with innocence.

Every evening, we go through the same routine: Cameo secretes herself under the tree as soon as the switch is thrown, I shout "Cam-eee-ooooooo!," she swats at an ornament, and I grab the water spritzer. "Cut that out! Leave that tree alone!" Sometimes the very sight of the spritzer does the job, and I don't have to soak the tree skirt and any presents under the tree as I attempt to shoo her out from under the tree. Being a little klutzy, Cameo usually dislodges an ornament or two in her scramble to the radiator. I sigh and readjust the tree. My husband says, "Leave that cat alone."

Cameo's first Christmas was the most disruptive for the tree, but the most entertaining as well. After several days of the above routine with the spritzer, Cameo decided to be sneakier in her approach. While I was busy polishing the silver tea service, she removed all the ornaments on the lower branches. My hands were full, so I let that defiance go and waited to see what she would do next. She went to her toy box, and, one by one, retrieved her toys and placed them on the lower branches. If I hadn't seen this with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it! Then she sat back to survey her work. Within a few minutes, she stalked, then attacked the tree and swatted her "ornaments" all over the house. To our regret, Cameo has never again repeated her tree-decorating efforts.

My husband and I have had cats all our married lives, and we've noticed that most cats lose interest in a Christmas tree as they get older. In fact, because of that waning interest, until we got Cameo, we had become accustomed to using only felt and plastic ornaments for each cat's first Christmas tree and returned to using the breakable ones as the years passed. But Cameo seems to be a true Siamese — ever curious — and we don't foresee adding many breakables during her lifetime, especially on the lower branches.

I hope that I don't have to soak Cameo too many times this year. After all, it is Christmas and the season of good will. I don't want "the little portly" to catch cold!

Uh oh! She's staring at the tree again right now. Where is that spritzer?


  1. That's a nice story. Children and pets make Christmas so much more enjoyable.

  2. Hi AOW.

    Smiles... i used to have a cat it wasn't a full breed ,more a 'DeLaRue'(Fromthestreet) cat.lol
    And yes the christmas tree ornaments suffered badly from him also.
    He would first tap them softly then start whacking them full force till they flew off.Had to put all the breakable on top or he would have destroyed them all.Still it was very funny to watch him going at it.

  3. Adorable! My kitties used to run up inside the tree, up the trunk! And, since my tree is on a wood floor, I remember the first night it was up...I was in bed upstairs and started thinking it must sound like Vietnam in the war with some of the balls hitting the floor in a CRASH! I learned and put only nonbreakables within their reach after that!
    Thanks for this...give Cameo a scratch and have fun! I miss my kitties :-(
    One thing I love without the cats is POINSETTIAS! They're very poisonous and I didn't have them for the twenty years my cats were with me!

  4. Stogie,
    Cameo gets feisty when I try to give her a tummy rub.

    Then again, she's feisty about almost everything. LOL.

    Without a doubt, she's one of the most entertaining kitties we've ever had in our household. She's an alpha cat -- not only toward other cats but toward her beloved humans too.

  5. Z,
    When I get a poinsettia, I make sure to set in up out of our cats' reach.

    For whatever reason, not a single one of the cats we've ever had has been a climber -- except on the floor-to-ceiling scratching posts.

  6. Silverfiddle,
    Glad that you enjoyed the story!

  7. Will,
    Had to put all the breakable on top or he would have destroyed them all.

    We've had to do the same, of course.

    The last time that we put up our big tree was in 2008 -- because of Mr. AOW's stroke in September 2009. I do miss that tree.

    But Mr. AOW is getting better ever so slowly. So, maybe next year, we'll get the big tree up again. By that time, Cameo, if she's still with us, will have mellowed even more. Maybe.

  8. Cute story! I hope you can get the big tree up next year.

  9. Love the story, and Cameo sounds like she is a lot of fun.

    Thank you for sharing.

  10. Aww, that story is still so cute. My cats never had the chance to get at the tree- good thing, practically all our ornaments break easily. Anyways, I hope you have a very merry Christmas, and Cameo don't need to be soaked! Then again, cats WILL be cats.


  11. That was super, thanks for it.
    BTW, I have a Cat that was 20 years old last month.

  12. Malcontent,
    Cameo is 1/4 Blue Point Siamese and 3/4 Russian Blue. What a stubborn and domineering personality! Good thing that Cameo loves us, or there would be no living with her.

    You have a 20-year-old cat? Only one of ours has ever made it to such an advanced age. Sheba had a great life -- except for those last few days.

  13. Good morning, AOW.

    How nice to read something apolitical for a change!

    I have two cats, myself, and wouldn't know what to do without them. They both arrived here from the shelter on the same day seven years ago last August. I had hoped they'd make good company for each other, but unfortunately the larger of the two -- a black and white female -- is very jealous of the other -- a pewter gray part-Persian female with a ruff that looks like silver fox. The Gray One -- sometimes nicknamed Dustmop -- is much smaller and easily intimidated, so she hides a lot.

    I have to feed them separately or the black-and-white would never let the little gray one get her nourishment.

    I keep them confined to the master bedroom and the large screened porch adjacent to it.

    B & W would make short work of all the knick knacks, if I let her have the run of the house. She's still over-privileged even with the confinement.

    I'm lucky that both seem to love being around me, bless their little hearts!

    Your story of Cameo reminded me of long ago when I was still a child and we had a kitten who regularly climbed the Christmas tree, then would cry to us to rescue him. My father had to fasten it securely to the woodwork with "guy wires," as he called them, or the tree would have come crashing down several times a day.

    As it was we lost lots of beautiful old glass ornaments from the early days of my parents' marriage, but Heck! that kitten was more precious to us than those bright bits of hand-blown glass.

    I hope you and Mr. AOW have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS, and that things will ease both of you in the NEW YEAR.

    God bless you both!

    ~ FreeThinke

  14. FreeThinke,
    Thank you for your well wishes. Mr. AOW and appreciate it!

    At present. we have three cats: Dusti, Mysti, and Cameo (We lost Sheba when she was 20.5, but she had a luxurious life after we took her in -- literally, from an alley where she was sleeping with the winos). Cameo, the youngest, is by far the alpha cat. She even tries to boss us around!

    Cameo was quite ill this past summer, but our dedicated vet and I pulled her through.

    Thanks for taking time to type in the anecdotes that you told here. No doubt about it: cats are entertaining and endearing! Even if we do have to change the decor! Cameo broke several pieces of precious glassware when she was younger and climbing a lot. One time, she climbed that mantel at Christmas time and knocked off my two porcelain kissing angels; from that time on, we had to call those angels "Headless" and "Assless," even though I did glue the pieces back together and managed to somewhat restore those lovely kissing angels.

    Mow that Cameo is older and portly enough that she does little climbing, I have been able to bring back out some of my glassware.


    As for this being an apolitical post, I do try to create such posts from time to time. I have grown weary to the bone of politics!


    Merry Christmas to you, FT.

  15. ALL of your kitties are very beautiful, AOW. All the love and good care you've given them shows.

    I'm sorry Cameo was ill. 2011 was a bad year for us in that regard. Fleas got the better of us for the first time in all my long experience. The little gray one with the long hair developed an allergy to flea excrement. Her skin developed a nasty rash; she itched and scratched constantly, lost most of her fur and a great deal of weight too. It took more than three months of persistent visits from the exterminator, prolonged vet care and a change in diet to set her straight. She's filed out beautifully and all her fur has grown back, thank God, BUT her "new" fur came in much lighter than before which gives her a "frosted" look. It's not unappealing, but it has taken some getting used to.

    No sooner had we resolved that problem then B & W developed a yeast infection in both her ears, which was just miserable. She's still under the doctor's care, but we're getting the situation under control -- at very great expense I must add.

    Anyway, it was fun to visit your blog at last. I haven't been very adventurous that way, since I tend to be a stick-in-the-mud, but I can see I've been missing a lot.

    It's good to get a change of air now and then, isn't it?

    And yes, the political scene is so discouraging I'm getting tempted just to "play ostrich" and leave it up to younger more energetic posters, BUT somehow I can't let go of it after having invested a good ten years in such pursuits.

    Doubt if anything I've said has changed anything for the better, but I sure have learned a lot about human nature -- and about what NOT to do when involved in an argument.

    Once again, I wish you and Mr. AOW the best of the Season -- and a New Year with strengthened faith and renewed vigor.

    ~ FreeThinke

  16. This year we have a tabletop tree, and surprisingly our two cats show no interest in it! I thought for sure that our youngest cat would at least be all over it.

    Of course, I've probably just jinxed myself... ;)

  17. FreeThinke,
    Yes, veterinary care is expensive. But worth the expense -- especially when the outcome is good.

    Since 2008, after becoming disgusted with our previous vet's fees AND attitude (She wouldn't treat our very elderly Sheba as a hospice case), we've been using a home-care vet; he has a huge RV, complete with an operating suite and a laboratory, and his assistant comes in with a carrier and does all the work in getting the pet into the RV. His travel fee adds a bit to the bill, but his rates for care are more reasonable than the other vet we had; he gives us a significant senior-citizen discount, and when an illness requires visit after visit, he will waive the travel fee (He lives only a few miles from my house). And his way with animals is much better! He's a "cat talker."

    Cameo as a young adult, long before we switched vets, has had one other serious illness: an abscess that wouldn't heal even after two surgeries. For 9 long months, I had to bathe the area twice a day, and she had to wear "the hoodie" for all those months. She was totally cooperative! All I had to say was, "Let me tend to your sore," and she'd march right into the kitchen for her treatment. All the various treatments for that abscess set us back some $1200! Had Cameo not been so cooperative, we'd have lost her back then.


    When it comes to politics, I refuse to be an ostrich. But I do have to take breaks from all the grimness.

    I can't see that I've changed anyone's entrenched views with my blogging, but I slog on.

  18. Brooke,
    None of our cats pay much attention to the tabletop tree we have now. However, I did catch Cameo exploring the small tree last week. She's relentless -- and thinks that all the world is her oyster.

  19. Odie,
    Merry Christmas!

    I'm so glad that Mr. AOW has become buddies with you on the web. Of course, he's not an obsessive blogger like I am, so he doesn't get out and about on blog rounds with much regularity because he's "discovered" YouTube. But when he does visit the blogosphere, he always visits your site.

  20. Merry Christmas AOW and Mr. AOW.

    We have two "mostly" Blue Russians - only one is really fluffy. I can relate to the diving into an empty box. For some reason, they were never interested in the tree even when they were young.

  21. Cameo is a great name for a cat. As I've mentioned before my hubby is allergic to cats so we don't have any. (Well we tried it once and all the cat wanted to do was terrorize our toddler daughter, so he had to GO)

    We've always had dogs, and they never bothered the tree.

    Right Truth

  22. Debbie,
    I just got back from a client's house. He has a beautiful Golden Retriever. That dog has been terrorizing their Christmas tree. No ornaments whatsoever now remain on the bottom 2/3 of the tree!

    I guess that not all dogs are well behaved.

  23. Alligator,
    Russian Blues are wonderful cats.

    But I have to say that I've found them very, very stubborn -- and domineering, especially the females. The males seem to be mellower.

    I do love the coat of the Russian Blue. Cameo's fur is so very plush. And with her body build, she does look like a fluffy and cuddly toy.

    Merry Christmas, Alligator. I do appreciate your frequenting my web site and leaving comments.

  24. Alex,
    Thank you!

    Cameo is now an international Internet celebrity!

  25. A vet that makes house calls! WOW! I'm impressed. I don't think we have any such thing where I live, but I like the sound of it.

    Had to laugh the other day, as I told my Black and White, "I'm paying more for your care than Mom and Dad paid for MINE when I was your age."

    That's all right. I'm just glad I can do it.


    ~ FreeThinke

  26. FreeThinke,
    The home care vet we have does ONLY home care although he does have an association with an animal hospital in case that kind of care is needed. Our vet is convinced that home care is the best way to provide medical care for cats in particular.

    When Sheba's final day came, having her euthanized here at home was so much easier on HER. No trauma with a final trip in the car.

    Many regions in America do have home care vets.

  27. AOW, that is the BEST story! Your little Cameo is a genius! I can't believe she decorated the tree with her toys! What a beautiful darling.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us, and I hope you, your hubby, and all your pets have a Wonderful & Merry Christmas, God Bless.

  28. Hi Lady! Merry Christmas to your family and you, and please have a happy (safe) New Year. ;)

  29. Thanks, Rosemary.

    I wish YOU a Merry Christmas and a blessed 2012.

  30. Cameo sounds like a real pistol. I love feisty cats. I'm glad she's healthy again.

    The only problem we've had with our tree is when our cats were kittens. They'd climb up into the tree and cause mayhem. Now that they're older, they don't even bother with it.

    We had the worst time with our beloved German Shepherd, Dax, who couldn't keep away from the ornaments. Everytime we returned to the house, we'd find something destroyed. Finally we ended up only putting the ornaments where she couldn't reach them. Visitors thought our tree looked funny, but we saved a lot of ornaments.

    I'll close my long comment by wishing you and Mr. AOW a Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year.

  31. AOW,
    It was interesting reading about the vet care for your cat.
    I too faced many discouragement. Anyway, hopefully, a better year for me and everyone at AOW.

  32. Always On Watch, All cats are great. Sound like there is never a dull moment with Cameo around. The only cats we have around any more are the neighbors. Theirs are out door cats because he's allergic to them. Last sprig they had some young ones running around. I had to stop for gas on the way to work one morning. While I was pumping gas someone told me there was a kitten under my pickup. I thought it belonged to my neighbor and had hitched a ride so I put it in the cab of my truck and took it to them. The neighbor lady said, "David, that's not one of ours. She agreed to keep it. By now I was a few minutes late for work, I work for the Salvation Army, if I worked at a lot of other places this might have been a problem. The ladies in the office loved it when I explained what happened. One of them, a case worker spent the day telling clients I was a cat thief. Then she'd tell them what happened. There is a stray female cat that hangs out at our homeless shelter. The residents named her "Sally", in case you didn't know that's an old slang term for The Salvation Army.

    God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

  33. Cube,
    Cameo is the feistiest kitty we've ever had! Never a dull moment!

    Some dogs aren't the least interested in the Christmas tree -- ours never were.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.

  34. WLIL,
    The home-care vet has saved two of our cats' lives so far. I wish that more vets were as good as our home-care vet. He's got "the magic touch."

    Thanks for your Christmas wishes.

    May you have a Merry Christmas and a blessed 2012. We all could us some blessings in the New Year, can't we?

  35. David,
    Cats surely do make life more enjoyable. In many ways, cats are "forever young."

    Glad to see you back in the blogosphere again. I've missed you.

  36. I have three small dogs--shihzu's and they are quite enough! Years back I had cats and they do get into things.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  37. What a cute and wonderful story! Cats are wonderfully curious animals. They certainly do have lots of energy.

    Have a blessed and Merry Christmas!

  38. Looks like you are still busy AOW!

    Merry Christmas to you and Mr!

  39. Imagine the YouTube hits you would get if you could catch Cameo decorating your tree with her toys. Great story.
    Wishes for a Blessed Christmas and a Happy & Healthy New Year.

  40. Merry, merry Christmas. I was delighted to see your comment!

  41. We have dogs here. One is a puppy. We got a smaller tree and put it up higher than he can reach. So far so good.

    Merry Christmas AOW.

  42. Hello, LA.

    You have a puppy this year? What kind of dog?

  43. Jungle Mom,
    In the pre-Christmas-Eve lull yesterday, I actually had time to make some extensive blog rounds.

    I'm so glad that I stopped by your web site and learned of your wonderful Christmas surprise. Enjoy!

  44. Dcat,
    Right now, I'm busier that a one-armed man hanging wallpaper.

    By Tuesday morning, I'll get back to a less grueling schedule.

    But it IS good to have a full social calendar this Christmas. Christmas 2009, right after I had brought Mr. AOW home from the nursing home, we were pretty much left out in the cold as far as any kind of social life was concerned. Things are better now. Not great, but better.

  45. Conservative Lady,
    Cameo isn't as frisky as she used to be. Getting older! Aren't we all?

    Anyway, Mr. AOW's iPad does have some kind of video cam. But we haven't learning how to use it yet. **sigh**

  46. Ron & Teresa,
    Most pets get into things, particularly when they're young.

    Fortunately, they usually mellow out.

    In a way, that's a shame as they are so entertaining when "toddlers."


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