Christmas must be confusing for cats. You go to sleep one night and everything’s normal, then you wake up the next morning and some lunatic has brought a giant tree indoors, everything smells like ham, and around every corner is a drunkard trying to strap antlers to your head. We’re celebrating the joy and good cheer, meanwhile our pets are trapped in a John Cassavetes movie. Luckily, my cat has developed a routine to cope with all the holiday stress: first she eats the Christmas tree, then she throws up the Christmas tree, then she hides under the bed. While that can make antler application difficult, there was a magical day in 2008 when, for at least 7 minutes, I was able to hook the horns around her back right paw. The Miracle on 34th Street has nothing on that shit.
Then there’s the complex issue of giving your pet gifts. Why do we do this? Everyday I give my cat food, water, sleeping pillows, homeopathic stress medicine which let’s be honest is just water in a very expensive bottle, and when she goes to the bathroom, I rifle through the box to clean her waste like I’m a prospector panning for gold. Are these not gifts enough? What presents does she give me in return? The occasional face lick that usually turns into a bite, and a sardonic facial expression? That’s like the worst Secret Santa trade ever. Oh, and for a stocking stuffer, she sometimes sneezes in my food. Yet somehow when Christmas rolls around each year, I find myself wandering up and down the aisles of the pet store wondering what my cat would like for a holiday she doesn’t know exists. And you’re there too. I’ve seen you. We don’t make eye contact, because we’d just assume remain anonymous when buying a $15 catnip ball that says “Have a Meowy Meowy Christmas.” But we’re there. We’re all friggin’ there.
Over the years, I’ve bought my cat many Christmas gifts. Each December, I wrap them for her and scribble out a nice little tag. “To: Cheese, From: Brian,” I write, for an animal who can’t read and knows full well from whom all gifts come. Who’s it gonna be from, George Clooney? Then I put the package in front of her, hoping that she’ll delicately unwrap it with her claws, or, at the very least, recognize its existence. When that fails, I shake the gift, which is really the extent of my human to cat communication skills. “Do you like this thing? No? Well, what if I move it around a bunch?” When that bombs, I unwrap Cheese’s gift and present it to her, at which point she sniffs it, and with expert comedic timing, turns and walks away. I don’t know. Maybe she’s Jewish?
Here’s a list of the items I have bought my cat for Christmas. Each one very carefully selected.
Fresh Water Fountain: Because my cat is the King of England and not just a domesticated animal, she refuses to drink out of a normal, still water bowl. For a while I let her drink out of the bathroom faucet, until a girl I was dating reminded me that it’s probably not wise to share a water source with an animal who licks her own butt, and also that I’m insane. So I invested in one of those fancy circulating water fountains that keep the water fresh and cool and extremely expensive. Cheese took one look at it and decided she didn’t mind drinking out of a still water bowl that much after all. Merry Christmas.
A Santa Hat: As long as there have been pets, there have been owners desperate to dress those pets up like Santa Claus. It’s irresistible. I have no idea why. No one dresses their cat up like the Easter Bunny, or Cupid for Valentine’s Day, or Uncle Sam for the 4th of July. Or maybe they do, and I just haven’t bottomed out far enough to do the appropriate Google image searches. Some cats tolerate the costume party, some do not. I will let you try to guess which one Cheese is.
Right after I snapped this, she punched me in the nose.
Homemade Food: To truly reach the pinnacle of insane pet celebration, you have to physically cook your cat or dog dinner. It’s the Mount Everest of animal lunacy, the sign that you’ve truly made it, pulling out the pans, preparing the ingredients, cleaning up the dishes afterwards. A few years back for Christmas, I climbed this lofty peak, sauteing some scrambled eggs, chicken thighs, brown rice, and a bunch of other nonsense I bought in the hopes of producing the perfect gift for my cat. And truth be told, she loved it. But it’s not happening again. My soul won’t allow it.
Man is only meant to reach the Everest of indignity but once.
A Box: The most popular gift I have bought my cat is not a gift at all, it’s the box that the gift comes in. I go online, snag the fanciest looking pet thingy, then it arrives, she ignores, but goes crazy over the box. She jumps in the box. Then she chews the box, chases the box, and sniffs the parts of the box where she chewed the box. So now, finally, I know what to get my cat for Christmas. Whatever I want from Amazon, and the box that it arrives in.
This year, I’m hoping for a Thank You note.