As anyone who knows me well is aware, I have two cats. Two in a long line of felines who have been my faithful companions since birth. I love all animals, but I am truly a cat person. I love everything about cats: their thick, soft fur and dainty little paws, their inquisitiveness, their playfulness, their ability to make me laugh even when they’ve done something wrong, their ability to know just when I need comfort. Their purring is a background noise in my life, their presence a solid friend on whom I can always rely.
And I love their never ending ability to amuse and disarm me with their simplicity and yes, at times, stupidity.
One of my kitties, Meadow, began her life as a feral kitten. She was born in my mother’s yard, and became quickly acclimated to the life my mother provided: generous food allowances, a soft place to sleep on my parents’ covered back porch, and ready affection. Knowing that I had recently lost one of my cats, my mother quickly decided this stray would be a perfect companion for me and my remaining crotchety tabby cat. I agreed, and we made arrangements with a local vet for the kitten to be spayed and have all her shots. She came through her vet ordeal wonderfully and I brought her home on a Friday so I could spend the weekend introducing the two cats without bloodshed.
I needn’t have worried. After an initial thirty or seconds of hissing and fluffed up tails, the two cats took to one another like they had been together all their lives. They were fast friends, and I would find them curled up together more often than not. And although Meadow was a little skittish, I expected that after an adjustment period she would come around. After all, she was affectionate with my mother, and I was the one patting her new friend, not to mention providing food.
I was wrong. After the first couple of weeks, during which I could touch her from a distance and talk to her, she wouldn’t allow me to touch her at all. In fact, for the next three years, the only times I touched her were when I had to trap her either to take her to the vet or move to a new place, or on the rare occasion when I could reach down as she streaked past. She slept on my bed and would snuggle up near where I was, but just out of reach, and if I made a move in her direction – even if it was not for the purpose of touching her – she was gone like a shot.
Then I discovered the key to her heart, and my ability to pet her, and occasionally even pick her up (which she still hates). Greenies cat treats. She gets a handful every morning when I come downstairs, and I do not exaggerate when I say she lays in wait for me (or my poor, put upon Hubby). My alpha cat extraordinaire, Bella, sleeps at the bottom of the bed and if Meadow so much as peeks her head over the side, Bella smacks her between the eyes and chases her away. Since Meadow is not “allowed” to sleep on the bed, she sleeps on the bedroom floor on top of the pile of extra blankets, a perch from which she can see anyone (or the crazy cat) coming.
When my feet hit the floor in the morning, Meadow jumps up from her pile and circles my ankles, chirping at me in her loud (think Siamese cats), staccato voice. She waits not so patiently while I put in my contact lenses and then runs to the top of the stairs, where she waits until I start down the hall. Once I’ve hit about level with Muffin Man’s bedroom door, she races down the stairs to her preferred feeding spot – under my son’s art easel where she can take cover while wolfing down her breakfast, and continues her yowling until I’ve parsed out the treats. It’s during those hurried meals that I am permitted the honor of touching her. She is so soft, like a bunny, her fur thick and dense, reflecting her past as a feral needing a thick coat to guard against the winter cold. My sister jokes Meadow’s fur is so soft because it’s untouched by human hands.
But back to the stupidity.
We have an artificial Christmas tree because I am ridiculously allergic to conifer trees. Hives, swelling of the eyes, nose, throat. Nasty allergic, developed as a young adult. Growing up, I was always on alert for cats trying to eat the tree or drink the tree water, but since switching to a plastic tree, it never really occurred to me to worry. Then again, I have never been able to foresee Meadow and her insanity. My Meadow eats artificial trees, you see.
Since I put the tree up in November, I have been finding little messes, all deposited very neatly and discreetly in corners, for Meadow is nothing if not fastidious, but still, more work for me than if she didn’t eat plastic pine needles. I have chased her away from the tree on numerous occasions, risking my already tenuous relationship with her, but she will not be deterred. I’ve tried everything: I’ve sprinkled essential oils around the base of the tree on the skirt, figuring the smell might be distasteful to her – no; I’ve put our Polar Express train around the base of the tree, thinking the obstacle might throw her off her task – no; I’ve even tried spraying her with water. She flattened her ears and narrowed her eyes, but even that didn’t deter her. The only thing that deters her is having people in the room, or keeping the tree in a bag in a closet, which is not really an option for the months of November and December (and January this year, because I’m still sick and get out of breath going up the stairs at night, never mind lugging around an eight foot fake tree and boxes of ornaments).
So for now I simply tell her, every morning, that she shouldn’t eat plastic pine needles. I’ll give her more food and treats in the hope that perhaps it’s hunger driving her to ingest prickly little pieces of plastic. And once the tree is down, I’ll begin searching for a “cat stay away” cure for next year. Suggestions?