44: The Catmas Tree

44: The Catmas Tree

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

The Catmas Tree

I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult. It’s not. Mine had me trained in two days.

~Bill Dana

When we first got a housecat, our concern was that he would chew on the cords of the Christmas tree lights. We need not have worried about that particular issue, as the aptly named Stinker had other ways of aggravating the bipeds. He had no interest in the electrical cords circling the tree.

He wanted to eat the tree itself. And climb it.

December became the month when small piles of regurgitated pine needles would appear around the house. When we acquired a second housecat, Mr. Z, he also showed no interest in the electrical cords, but the quantity of regurgitated needles increased.

Verbal admonishments have no effect on cats, so we needed a different approach to deter them from nibbling on the conifer. When winter rolled around, our very creative Mom would carefully brush hot habanero sauce onto the needles of the Christmas tree, at least on the lower branches. She also cut small habanero chilies into thin slices and hung the small rings of orange and red pepper around the lower branches of the tree like tiny ornaments. The idea was that a tree that rated 100,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville heat scale would be unappetizing to our fuzzy housemates. It seemed to work to some extent — there were fewer piles of barfed up needles scattered around the house. However, perhaps in retaliation, the felines began chewing on the edges of any gifts placed beneath the tree, and trying to eat the wrapping paper. In response, Mom dusted the Christmas presents with a fine layer of powdered cayenne pepper.

The spicy odor that emanated from the Christmas tree seemed to keep the cats away but also made the area somewhat unpleasant for people. An alternative solution that had occurred to several of us was to replace the real tree with a fake one, in the (vain) belief that the cats would find synthetic needles unappealing. It took a while to convince Dad that this was the course to take, as he is a man of habit who prefers dragging a dead tree into the house every December.

At first there was joy in the house that the tree-shaped decoration would not have to be drenched in capsaicin juice. The joy subsided when a small pile of regurgitated silk needles was found near the front door.

These days, we have a kind of truce during the Christmas season. The housecats haven’t completely given up on chewing the tree, but they do seem to find synthetic needles less appetizing. As for us humans? Well, at least the presents don’t make us sneeze anymore.

~E. Sutton

More stories from our partners