Header Image (book)


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

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 2014)

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?


2012 graphic created by Stogie:


  1. I LOVE this, AOW! What nice tradition to post it every year a Christmastime!

    You know I share your great love for pussycats. My life would be dull, indeed, without my three -- even little Mr. Pussy, the latest addition who recently came into my life as an orphan of the storm. Poor Mr. P turned out to be virtually blind, and has been no end of trouble since he arrived, but he still warms my heart, even as I try to deal with his random acts of destruction such as peeing on scatter rugs and turning the door jamb at the entrance to the laundry room into a mass of splintered wooden fragments. (:-o

    Somehow, life, however flawed, always turns out to be more important than mere things. The little fellow is totally innocent. He doesn't know he's doing wrong, he's handicapped and had a very bad start in life, so how could I not accept him just as he is, and love him?

    I hope you and your mister have a cheery Christmas, AOW.

  2. FT,
    Yes, posting this story is a Christmas tradition for this blog and has been since the first year I began blogging.

    I am on hiatus from posting about politics. Christmas is almost here!

    Depending on some medical tests I'm having tomorrow, this blog may go on a hiatus of indefinite length after Christmas.

  3. My kitties used to climb up the bark of the tree...get way inside and climb! Cracked me up. One night, I heard balls breaking on the wood floor and laughed to myself thinking "it probably sounds like Vietnam during the way" Crash! Explode! Bang!
    They did enjoy the tree...but, you're right...as they grow older, they lose interest (thank goodness).
    I don't have them anymore...but had both for 20 years!

    I hope your med tests go well tomorrow, AOW. xxx

  4. Our MG 'roadster' used to 'warn' Mr. B with a big 'scraaaatch' on the back of the sofa just so Mr. B could start hollering "you little sh*t, you little shi*t" and get in gear with HIS spritzer bottle. He'd chase the cat around the sofa several times - soaking him - until the cat peeled off to under the bed. It was his GAME. He watched the tree with interest, but never bothered it.

    Now my mom left the lower quarter of our tree that was by the sofa undecorated --else the cat would un-decorate it herself. Nice memories of our little friends and their holiday antics.

    Best for tomorrow.

  5. Z and Baysider,
    Thanks for your well wishes for today's grueling EMG. I had the MRI yesterday, but don't know the results thereof. Please pray that the treatment plan doesn't involve surgery.

    1. Z and Baysider,
      Diagnosis: significant degeneration of the lumbar spine (bad news), EMG within normal parameters (good news).

      Treatment plan: none from the neurologist, other than Tiger Balm, ibuprofen, and hot baths. No surgery!

      Recommendation: see the spine-pain specialist. Appointment scheduled for December 31 with the pain specialist I used in 2006-2007.

    2. This sounds positive given the circumstance.

      I do wish you and Mr. AOW a Merry Christmas.

    3. AOW, that is great news. I'm so glad you don't need surgery!
      Tiger Balm!? HA!! That DOES work well, but I didn't think it worked so well for such serious nerve involvement as TMW described to me about you on the phone today.
      I'm very relieved and hope that pain and other involvement is gone SOON.
      MERRY CHRISTMAS, dear AOW, to you and Mr. AOW. xx

    4. Z,
      I may not be up to driving to the family gathering today. We shall see later in the day -- after I'm dosed up.

      Mr. AOW and I are having a scaled back Christmas, but we're making the best of the situation.

      Merry Christmas to you.

    5. Duck,
      The situation could certainly be worse. At least I can sleep.

      Merry Christmas to you. Now is the time of year to put aside our disagreements -- for these few days.

  6. We so seldom here about the good deeds people do. Thanks for sharing, AOW.

  7. I'm sure it's all true AOW, being a cat owner. Most of ours are about 10 years old now and still play like maniacs.

    1. Kid,
      A lot crespuscular antics here almost every day -- even for the oldest of our kitties. Mysti is approaching age 16, but she still has her moments. Amber, the youngest, is the most playful, of course.

  8. Wishing a very Merry Christmas the AOW family!

  9. Wishing you and Mr AOW a Merry Christmas! Prayers go out for you and Mr AOW's health.


We welcome civil dialogue at Always on Watch. Comments that include any of the following are subject to deletion:
1. Any use of profanity or abusive language
2. Off topic comments and spam
3. Use of personal invective