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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cameo And The Christmas Tree

(This re-post will be stuck here throughout the Christmas season. Please scroll down for more recent material, including political topics.  And I will have another post specifically for Christmas Day 2013)

With many thanks to Stogie, who made the graphic for this post in 2011! Click directly on the picture to enlarge it:

I wrote the story below the fold in 2005. Over the past few years as she has aged, Cameo has mellowed — somewhat, anyway.  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?


Last year's graphic, created by Stogie:


  1. It couldn't have been written in 2005. OH, my GOSH, AOW........the time sure passes! I'm glad you've been part of 'my time,' my friend!
    I think I probably told you back then that when I got my two little kitties, about 25 years ago now!, the first night I had their first Christmas tree up in my home, I started hearing glass balls crash to the wood floor. I told friends later it must have sounded like Hanoi during the war! CRASH CRASH! And Marcello would work himself into the tree and climb UP the bark !! And HIDE in the tree!
    Thankfully, they mellowed and thankfully I got smart and only put the less breakable stuff around the bottom! XXX

    1. Z,
      Time flies!

      This past spring marked my 8th blogoversary.

      Thanks for sharing the story about your beloved Marcello. Cats are a riot!

      Here in the AOW household because of the necessity for having the hospital bed and bedside potty in the living room, the only room in the house suitable for a Christmas tree, we no longer have a full-sized Christmas tree. I miss that tree and hanging my favorite ornaments thereon!

      We were going to put up a full-sized tree in the living room this year because Mr. AOW could certainly return to the master bedroom for at least a few weeks. Alas! My retinal surgery interfered, and I couldn't endure all the physical stress of putting up a tree. Maybe next year we can have the full-sized tree. I'm interested to see if Cameo is too old now to "attack" a Christmas tree.

  2. ADORABLE! Only a true feline fancier could understand, however. One of our cats -- years ago -- loved to CLIMB all the way to the top of the tree when he was still a kitten -- always after Mom and Dad had just put the finishing touches on the tree. They laughed and laughed about it, but I as a small boy was thunderstruck with indignation.

    Fortunately, my Dad always secured the tree with "guy wires" to the base boards and the built in bookcase. He was a very capable self-taught engineer, and always did everything as though it were meant to last a lifetime. Christmas was QUITE a production at our house.

    We had two ornaments I still remember one a large dark blue hand blown ball with a ling point at the end and three thumbprint-sized "dents" in the sphere -- the other an equally large silver orb with similar "dents" each one a different color -- red, blie and green, as I recall.

    Much as I loved our kitty, I STILL mourn the loss of those particular ornaments. They had come from my grandparents and long predated my existence.

    Now, sixty-odd years later, most everything I have is made of cheap plastic manufactured in China -- but it still looks nice.

    HEY! I did put my (very small) tree up just yesterday, and spent a couple of hours arranging the ornaments. I wasn't going to bother his year, but I'm glad I did. Got the old Dellarobbia wreath on the door too. The brightly painted artificial fruit, holly and and magnolia leaves looks beautiful against the dark green front door, even though the wreath is so old now, it must have whiskers.

    Still no poinsettias!

    1. FT,
      Cats, mischievous and curious to the core, and precious breakables often don't mix.

      I've lost a few pieces of highly esteemed glassware to different kitties.

      Strangely enough, over the past four decades, I've lost only one ornament to a cat's breakage; but I must also say that most of the ornaments we had on our tree weren't of the breakable type and that I put the breakables well beyond the reach of kitties' paws..

      The ornaments weren't cheap plastic, either. Most of them were handmade, and I even had a few tatted ones. See this photo of the Christmas tree that we had before Mr. AOW's stroke.

      Most of the beautiful ornaments that my parents had disappeared when my parents moved in 1983. Mom must have given them away to somebody, likely somebody who couldn't afford to buy ornaments. Mom was like that -- kind to the core toward those less fortunate than she.

  3. What a sweetheart! I can see her now! I wish I had seen her interior design attempts! :)
    I have never had a cat climb the tree. Never! However, I still take precautions such as placing the Christmas tree in a bucket filled with bricks inside an urn! McGillicuddy is very unpredictable. He may just try this year!

    Snuggle those kitties for me, will you?


    1. Andie,
      Cameo can be feisty. She insists on being the alpha here -- and lords it over her two-legged servants, too.

      But when Cameo is in a loving mood, there is no louder purr or better expression of affection.

      When I recently had retinal surgery, Cameo slept round the clock by my side. And with her protective paw on me all the while! She dared anyone else to come into the room. Clearly, she was in guard mode!

      I'm thinking that Cameo knew how vulnerable I was during those first days following my retinal surgery, and she was determined to look out for my safety. As the saying goes, "Cats know things."

      Once I could see well enough to get around without having to be led by the hand, Cameo left the bed and returned to her own plushy bed by the living room radiator.

  4. too sweet AOW!!..I miss my doggie..................

    1. WHT,
      Our four-legged friends add so much pleasure to our lives.

      How do you stand life without a dog?

  5. I couldn't help, but smile as I read about Cameo's antics. I had a cat once who believed that it wasn't Christmas, until he had scaled the tree once or twice to survey the living room. Once he had gotten that out of his system, it was safe to decorate the tree...usually. I hope that you, your family, and your readers all have a very merry Christmas, AOW!

    1. William,
      Cats do seem to be obsessed with Christmas trees. I wonder if all the red color attracts them?

      Merry Christmas, William. May 2014 bring you improved health.

  6. My cat Missy used to attack our Christmas tree when she was young, but now she is an adult and tends to leave the tree alone. I adopted your spritzer technique to keep her off the kitchen table, but that's one no-no she won't leave alone. Often when I am blogging, she climbs up on my desk and insists on being cuddled in my arms, so I have to type with her pressing against my chest. I don't mind, though. I do love cats! Merry Christmas to Cameo and all her friends and family.

    1. None of our cats are cuddlers. Too bad! They show a bit of interest in the computer, but only when I have the audio on for certain cat videos at YouTube.


      Merry Christmas, Stogie!

  7. Have a great Christmas AOW and Mr. AOW. We have been enjoying some wonderful music at our church. Nothing like celebrating our Lord's birth than with talented musicians, voices, I appreciate those gifts so much because I can't sing a not on key if my life depended on it, ha.

    Right Truth

  8. Getting back to the subject of Islam. An important question: is the Quran the Word of God or is it a fabrication of a man. Thus, is the Quran the truth or a fiction and a hoax? The jihadists use many verses from the Quran as the Main source of justification for their violence, mayhem and murders. There, the question is clearly given on pages 145 through 157 in THE ISLAMIC INVASION by Robert Morey in which he wrote a section on the Quran with its self-contradictions. Just two of the many he cited are the following “The Quran differs on whether a day is a thousand years or fifty thousand years in God’s sight’ and “Who was first to believe? Abraham or Moses [Sura 6:14 versus 7:143]? The above is inconsistent and illogical. Further, Morey wrote about “The fact that Judaism and Christianity broke up into different sects was used in the Quran to prove that they are not of God [Suras 30:20-32. 42:13, 14]. Yet Islam has broken up into many warring sects and therefore cannot be true if the Quran is right.” Moreover, Morey in his book shows many more contradictions and absurdities in the Quran, there are and how Muhammad incorporated extra Biblical and Jewish folklore along with pre-Islamic Arabian myth and parts of Zoroastrian and Hindu stories into the Quran. Furthermore, the Muslims claim that “the Quran is the direct, literal word of God unmodified in any way by the Prophet who uttered them at the bidding of God.” Nevertheless, in the book UNVEILING ISLAM by Ergun Mehmet and Eethi Caner has shown that the Quran was modified in the following account on pages 45. “Muhammad felt the need to improve on the words of Allah, since he changed Allah’s wisdom for his own on several occasions. A hadith tells of the nonchalant emendations of Muhammad:’ On a number of occasions he [a scribe] had, with the Prophet’s consent changed the closing words of verses. For example, when the prophet had said ‘God is mighty and wise ‘ Adbollah b. Abi Sarh suggested writing down ‘Knowing and wise’ and the Prophet answered that there was no objection. Having observed a succession of changes of this type, Adbollah renounced Islam on the grounds that revelations, if from God could not be changed at the prompting of a scribe such as himself. After his apostasy he went to Mecca and joined the Qorayshites.’ Other writers reveal that later Muhammad and his people did go war with the Qorayshites and he personally killed Abdollah. Obviously Abdollah knew too much and Muhammad wanted Abdollah’s knowledge to die with him.” In conclusion, the Quran is not only a fiction, it’s also a hoax.

  9. A very merry Christmas to you and mr aow. Best wishes for the coming year.

  10. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, AOW and Mr. AOW!


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