Thanks to cats, for the first time in my life, my family will not enjoy the traditional glow of a Christmas Tree. To type this and make it a published reality makes me a little melancholy, but with new additions to our family in the last year, standing firm on our tree tradition would only result in a fallen spray of shattered ornaments and blown fuses – mine. What do you do when circumstances force a sudden shift in your “new normal”? Our only options are to fight it and add to the stress or create a compromise. This blog is a story about five kitties, a family, and a mamas refusal to let fur babies take over the holidays.
Herding Cats- It’s a thing
Somewhere between a tossed pizza crust and a cold rainy November night, we became the adoptive family for the hussy barn cat and her babies. That first pepperoni disk was innocent. She was so little and innocent herself. We hadn’t seen a stray in years that was even willing to come into the zone of human contact. Did I mention we live out in the country in the woods? Growing up, I knew feeding strays would lead to an attachment and an expectation of future feedings. It was June 2017.
During the festivities of Drew and Libby’s wedding week, my sister-in-law informed me Anna Kat was looking plump. “I think she might be a mama soon,” she said. Crap. That’s always my response to the unpleasant. One outdoor cat, cool. Built-in free mole chaser. A colony of outdoor cats equals total nuisance. Sure enough, Anna gave birth to four solid black kitties, and she raised them unbeknownst to us in the barn. We didn’t see hide nor hair of them until they were old enough to scurry out of the stalls and dash between parked cars in our driveway. The family of five suddenly became a family of two; coyotes we think.
It’s a Cat-tastrophy!
Okay, two outside female cats. I can do this. Mom and I were already trying to figure out how to catch them and have them spayed. Feral cats are not a welcome addition to any neighborhood. Anna Kat and Kit Kat were warming their way into our hearts and slowly gaining trust for humans. One warm, sunny fall afternoon Anna lazily rolled over on her back and stretched for us to scratch her belly. Her round belly. Another crap moment. She’s expecting again!
Stardate entry, “November 4, 2017. It was a dark and stormy night. One mama, four kittens, cold is approaching. Barn cat, house cat, what’s the difference?”
There is a big difference!
I’ll never forget the transition of my mom going from strong, buttoned-up, independent woman, to Cat Lady. “But it’s going to get cold! They can’t stay out all winter. They’ll die!”
“As God intended it, ” said my husband. Or maybe he just said, “WE DON’T NEED ANY OTHER ANIMALS IN THE HOUSE!” I think he was only that bold in his head because on December 4th, my birthday, we captured four one-month-old kittens in a laundry basket and cajoled the mamma and older sister into the house. All while John was at work. We quarantined Anna, Kit, and four babies into one room in the basement and promised ourselves it was only till the kittens turned eight weeks, and we could take them to a no-kill shelter.
But kittens are so cute and funny!
New Year-New Plan
How do you give away a tight family of six? Even worse, how you select who stays and who goes? My husband, “It’s easy. Put them all in a box, punch some holes, and take them to the SPCA. ” My mom, “I really want to keep them. Cats are easy, much easier than dogs. They’re so precious.” My youngest son, “Get rid of Anna and Kit, but we’re keeping the four kittens. They need each other.” Me? I really don’t care. I’m stuck in the middle of wanting to be logical like John, but up for a feline adventure like Mom.
Current score, John 0, women 2. We decided to keep Anna and Kit and one brother my son named Sebastian. As soon as Bash was four pounds, we whisked all three to OAR (Ohio Alleycat Rescue) and had them fixed. Sidenote: this is a fantastic organization. They do a lot of good for our community in trying to lessen the burden of strays in the city. Stray cats are an ever-increasing problem in the city. Every city! It’s almost an infestation in some urban areas. Spay and neuter your cats!
We’re Done for Reals
Jump ahead to May this year. I was in a coaching class minding my own business when one of my classmates walks in with a five-gallon bucket; it’s mewing. A teeny tiny kitten, not even big enough to be a weaned baby, is fearfully looking up at the sea of faces hovering over his body. He was found wandering in the street. Alone. No mommy to protect him. Not one of those students could take the kitten. They all had places to be, and none of them included walking into an appointment with a baby in a bucket. I did what any tenderhearted stupid girl would do. I called my mom. “Oh, bring him home!” What had I done?! Did I mention my mom shares our house?
No More Christmas Tree
I don’t know about you, but I typically am not thinking about Christmas during the summer. My first blip on the radar occurs in September when I walk into Costco and see the gorgeous display of lit Christmas trees; too early for Christmas! My mind is on fall, cooler days, and what can I dress the Fam in for Halloween. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that holiday decorations crossed my mind. Oh, no.
Cats+Christmas trees= disaster.
You know it, I know it, there are dozens of Youtube videos and America’s Funniest Videos submissions with this fact. I was sad, Y’all. SAD. How did I let my lifelong tradition of holiday decorations come to a screeching halt with a few rambunctious cats? I know when it is futile to fight a lost cause. These new additions have created a new normal. Instead of encouraging disaster and anger from my husband and myself with a fallen tree or shattered ornament, we put our thinking caps on to other possibilities.
John has the knack for collecting “free” things. Other peoples castoffs. Perhaps an extra refrigerator that needs a good home. In this case, a cast-off Christmas tree that a co-worker was going to toss in the dumpster. Always on the lookout for a good deal, John rescued that tree and brought it home last year and stored it in the barn for such an occasion as this. My outside visual replacement to a lost childhood tradition.
Our animal acquisitions are a year-round commitment while my Christmas tree is a 45-day visual stimulation. While I didn’t get the tree I annually take pride in decorating for the family, I still have my representation of the holidays. This gorgeous outdoor 9-foot fake tree wrapped in 900 lights represents my compromise. This tree is my outside new memory in place of a stubborn will for an indoor disaster.
Kitty Zen Lessons
- If you know something in your life has changed, find a new normal. Don’t try to force the same routine. It will only frustrate you and burden the family.
- Create a new tradition. Don’t give up on finding meaning with your current situation. Explore new options.
- Get creative. Yes, an undecorated tree on the porch is a far cry from my beautiful past seasons, but I still have the colorful tree outside my window that I can enjoy without impending disaster.
- What is most important at this moment? Is it a tree or animal kingdom harmony? I know my husband is not a fan of the cats. I don’t need to give him another reason to resent them.
- Embrace the full picture, not the passing moment. There are 365 days a year. To create chaos for 45 of them is not worth the stress. I don’t need a tree to tell me it’s a special time. The season of giving and time spent with loved ones is a year-long aspiration. I am still able to create my special moments in the holiday months.
- Expect change. Every year we are faced with illness, loss, or a change in the dynamic of our family circle. It seems the list gets longer with loved ones that are no longer around to celebrate the holidays with us. Enjoy the memories, grieve the losses, but cling to those who remain. My tree is not my focus for this time of year. My family is.
My porch tree compromises with the new cats.
Love, laughter, and whiskers on kittens,