Duncan Learns About Christmas

Who knew an 8-plus pound cat could wreak so much havoc at the holidays?

Our little man, Duncan, is not so little any more. At 9 months, he’s almost bigger than any of the other cats. And I think he’s going to get bigger still.

But he’s still a kitten. He’s still learning about his world and everything is still new and exciting. He touches everything, and smells it, and tastes it, and watches the most mundane things with wonder and astonishment and curiosity. And we forget that he’s still such a little boy inside, because he’s so big.

For example, snow is new to him. He stands in the foyer, sniffing the cold air when we come in and out. He sat in the window this weekend, just amazed at the falling snowflakes. He watched it fall for hours, tracking individual snowflakes. He eats the snow off our pants and boots when we come in — it’s something new.

And so is Christmas. Unfortunately.

He’s endlessly fascinated by the tree. We brought it out in stages, so he would have a chance to get used to it. He investigated the branches as they lay on the floor, tasting them from time to time, hiding in them to ambush his sister at other times. Then we put the tree up, bare of lights or decoration, so he could lay under it and look at it and get used to its presence. Then we put the lights on it.

And that’s where it began to get REALLY interesting.

Duncan was fascinated by the illuminated tree. He would flop down under it, roll onto his back, and gaze up at the lights. Maybe he thought they were pretty. He occasionally tried to taste one or two, but with a stern “NO!” he left them alone pretty quickly.

And then, on Friday, we decorated it.

For as long as I can remember — my entire life, actually — we have put cheap, indestructible ornaments on the bottom boughs of the Christmas tree for our cats. It has always been that these ornaments are THEIR ornaments, so they have their own special part of the tree, and if they bat them or knock them off, it’s okay. They have their spot, and they generally are content. And they get bored pretty quickly. Once they mystery is gone from the tree, they could care less.

For the last 18 Christmases, we’ve had 2 jinglebells that we hang on the very bottom branches of the tree. They are Opus’s bells. Ever since she was a tiny kitten, they have been her bells to swat and jingle whenever she wants. She’s too old to care now, but every now and again she’ll walk by and you’ll hear a little tinkly noise as she trots away from the tree (giggling to herself, no doubt). Also, they act as an early warning system that something (read: cat) is causing a ruckus around the tree, so we know to watch for trouble.

And Duncan? He LOVES bells. He spent the first hour the tree was up just endlessly swatting at the bells, having a heck of a time. So we put the rest of the ornaments on the tree, the cats snoozed underneath on the tree skirt, and all was right with the world.

Or so we thought.

We went to bed Friday, and slept right through. I woke on Saturday to find the cats in all their usual spots, mostly lounging in front of the bedroom door waiting for people to wake up. I went upstairs to grab my laptop, and noticed…

Ornaments. All over the floor.

So, I let BDH know about it. He went upstairs.

He came downstairs.

The words “little bastard” escaped his lips. Although, not in an angry way. More in a “what are you going to do”, defeated sort of way.

Now, we have an artificial tree. The branches? They’re made of wire. Wire that is designed to support lights, and glass balls, and little angels, and other pretty little ornaments.

NOT a large, fuzzy, mobile ornament. Certainly not an 8-plus pound ornament.

As it appeared to us, doing a little crime scene investigation afterwards, it seems our little man took the middle of the night as an opportunity to do a little tree climbing.

There was a huge, gaping, Duncan-sized hole in the branches from ground level, up through the branches, and out to the front, where there was another huge, gaping, Duncan-sized hole. All the branches on one side, about 2/3 of the way up, were flattened and bent down. The tree “stem” was bent into a bit of a curve. And there were ornaments scattered all over the floor.

It appears he tunnelled up through the branches, and attempted to lay across several of the boughs. Either the sparkly exciting new things were too irrestistable to his little kitten eyes, or he thought it might be nice to snooze at elevation.

Either way, our tree needed some repair work.

You can’t get mad. Cats climb trees. It’s what they do. And I’ve known plenty of people — my sister, for example — for whom cats in the Christmas tree is just a normal, everyday part of Christmas. But it’s the first time in 40 years that one of my own cats has done it.

But from that day on, Duncan and the Christmas tree have had an adversarial relationship. Since that day, Duncan has found that whenever he’s started fussing at the Christmas tree or the ornaments, there’s a lot of shouting of “NO!”, and he gets very, very wet.

And Santa will probably be bringing squirt guns for Christmas for the people in this house.