Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Offbeat - Christena O'Brien

Off Beat: This feline just loves to explore Christmas trees 

  • Winston-1

    Winston, Leader-Telegram reporter Christena T. O’Brien’s cat, tried to moonlight last Christmas as a furry tree topper — much to O’Brien’s horror.

    Staff photo by Christena T. O’Brien
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It’s the week before Christmas, and my tree is still in the bag — all because of that darn cat.

The day after Thanksgiving last year, I dragged the bag containing my 7-foot tree out of a back bedroom and set about the painstaking process of assembling it branch by branch.

More than an hour later, I was done for the night, deciding to wait until the next day to string the lights and add the ornaments.

Sitting down to supper, my boyfriend said, “He is almost at the top of the tree.” My head snapped toward the living room, and the he Jeff was referring to was my 15-pound cat, Winston, who, by this time, was at the top of the tree, peering back at me.

Stunned, it took several seconds for my brain to process what I was seeing — essentially a furry black tree topper with bright green eyes.

“Winston!” I yelled, and he flew out of the tree. Thankfully, he didn’t tip it as he leaped from his perch.

Growing up with cats, I don’t recall any of them climbing the Christmas tree, so the thought that Winston — who was 5 at the time — might do just that during his first Christmas with me never entered my mind.

Considering my reaction to his antics, I figured Winston would leave the tree alone. Stupid me.

The next day as I was attempting to string the lights, I felt the tree start to shake. Peering through the branches, I saw Winston climbing them like rungs on a ladder. Realizing I had spotted him, he quickly turned tail, and I didn’t see him again for a couple of hours.

Those two encounters seemed to have curbed his desire to climb the tree, but in the days that followed, I started noticing some of the lower hanging decorations were missing. Getting down on my hands and knees, I found them all under the tree and hung them back up — only to find them gone again before long.

No laughing matter

Frustrating — and now a bit funny — story aside, pets can be injured and even killed this time of year when their curiosity can get the best of them, and that certainly is no laughing matter.

Regarding the tree, the ASPCA recommends anchoring it, so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. (Jeff’s daughter’s cat used to sit under the tree and use his front paws to push on the trunk until it tipped. When the tree started to go over, Casey could be seen streaking out from underneath like a weasel. Surprisingly, he was never hurt.)

Other tips from the ASPCA:

• Avoid mistletoe, lilies and holly. The latter, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Lilies can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems.

• Skip the tinsel. The sparkly, light-catching “toy” is easy for cats to bat around and carry. “But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery.”

In his more than 30 years as a veterinarian, Dave Menard has had several cats die of ingesting tinsel.

“The moral of the story,” he said, “(if you) have cats, no tinsel.”

• Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of the reach of curious critters. Shards of broken glass from ornaments can damage a pet’s mouth and digestive tract, a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, and a wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock.

“Every dog I’ve had has chewed a cord or two, (so) we protect the cords,” said Menard, who has two golden retrievers, Finn, 7, and Frankie, 3, and his son’s hound, Clay.

As a vet, he has seen several mild electrocutions from chewing cords, and a few cats and dogs have lost a couple of teeth.

• Don’t leave candles, which pets can burn themselves on or knock over and start a fire, unattended.

Meowy Christmas!

Hoping to prevent a true cat — tastrophe — a fallen tree with dozens of broken glass ornaments, I decided to leave the tree in the bag this year. But, that hasn’t stopped Winston from trying to land on Santa’s naughty list again this year.

Being a typical curious cat, he has knocked other decorations over as he’s inspected them. He also has spilled a glass of water on a box of Christmas cards. And he has hindered my attempts to wrap gifts by lying on the boxes I’m trying to cover with pretty paper, going after the ribbon as I’m trying to tie a bow and jumping into gift bags.

Considering some of the stories I’ve heard from other cat owners and a couple of cats and Christmas tree compilations I’ve viewed on YouTube, it could be worse.

Merry Christmas!

O’Brien can be reached at 715-830-5838, christena.obrien@ecpc.com, @CTOBrien on Twitter 

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