Thursday, December 27, 2007

Kelly's Christmas Cats

Hi folks!

Happy Holidays to you! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas/Hanukkah/non-denominational time with lots of friends, family, good cheer and critters!

You'll probably be surprised to hear me say that I don't love all my cats equally. That would be impossible. It's more accurate to say that I love them all uniquely and individually. Each cat has a different temperment, different needs and wants, and a different personality. Because Spanky and Junebug are a little needier than the others, come Christmastime, I'll whisper in Spanky's ear, "You're my best present every year, 'Panky!" A little while later, I'll tell Junebug, "You're my favorite Christmas kitty!" The other cats seem to understand that those two need extra help, and no one seems to hold a grudge about it because the truth is, they all know that they're going to be spoiled eventually!

The cats have no idea what the holiday fuss is all about. Stockings, carols, and Christmas cards mean nothing to them. I do hang a stocking for them, a red felt thing with a mouse embroidered on it that I found in a store years ago. I usually have to Zip-loc the things that smell good, otherwise the cats will help themselves well before the appointed day. On Christmas Day, I'll sit down on the floor with them, use my excited tone of voice and say, "Christmas, cats!" Then I'll pull their gifts out of the stocking one by one.

This year, there was a new feathery thing attached to a stick. It was an immediate hit with Junebug and Spanky, who both pounced on it gleefully. Buddy just observed for a bit, while Gracie leapt back in horror every time I waved the feather in her direction. I suppose that while she was on the streets, movement meant danger, so I didn't push the issue.

There were two new toy mice to add to the collection of other toy mice that they rarely play with. You know the kind: a small mouse-shaped thing covered in rabbit hair, with a leathery tail at one end. For some reason, Buddy always chews those tails off and eats them. And he works pretty quickly, too: those mice weren't out of the stocking for more than ten minutes before I noticed their tails were gone!

The cats also got a package of snack treats. I don't recall the brand, but they're cheap and crunchy and crab flavored. Muffin, in particular, has taken a keen interest in these treats. Old Muff, who generally spends her days doing very little, will suddenly spring to life if she gets a whiff of crab or hears the package crinkle. Then she'll come running over to me with a speed I didn't know she possessed. It's nice to see she's still got some life in her after all these years!

So we spent about an hour chewing and leaping and sniffing and batting. Everyone joined in the fun, and after watching the other cats have at it, Gracie eventually mustered up the courage to give the feathery thing a few rabbit kicks! It was good bonding fun, where every cat got to sample the new goodies and enjoy some playtime with me.

Realistically, every pet owner (including me) should set aside some playtime with the critters every day. I understand that busy schedules often get in the way, and to be honest, I don't believe that all my cats want to play every single day: Muffin's too old; Buddy has his own agenda; Spanky prefers snuggling to playing; and Gracie's a little afraid of play that involves humans. Out of the five, Junebug is the only one who will aproach me with toy mice in her mouth, asking me to play. And while Junebug's only three years old, I've noticed that even she doesn't ask me to play that often anymore.

It seems more important to my cats that I am consistent. That I acknowledge Muffin when she maiows. That I stop working at the computer for a few minutes and let Spanky have a snuggle with me on the desk. That instead of shooing Gracie away while I'm trying to type, I scoop her onto my lap, where she'll purr happily until I get up. That I drop everything and respond to all of Junebug's squeaks. That I know when Buddy's had enough petting and wants to me to go away. Different cats, different personalities. While the cats don't need Christmas, they do need to be able to rely on me.

All my cats get presents every Christmas, but Santa gave me something a little different this year: my very own elf! A few weeks ago, I got an email out of the blue from a woman named Liz who had read about Pretty Boy and I in the Toledo Free Press. She liked what I was doing for the ducks at McKinnon's Pond and offered to take on the task of feeding them at weekends. So not only are the ducks getting a healthy meal when I'm not there, but I've got a set of eyes and ears at the pond, now, too. If there's an emergency, I'll learn about it that much sooner. Santa really took care of me this year - what I asked for was a bag of money and a date with George Clooney. What I got was the one thing I really needed: some help with the ducks. Thank you, Santa! And, thank you, Liz!

That's all for now, folks. I hope you all remembered your critters in some small way this holiday season - maybe with a new rawhide bone, or fancy collar, or just some extra crab-flavored snacks. But what your animals really want for Christmas - and all year around - is your love and attention. The great thing about those is that neither one will show up on your credit card bill in January! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!

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