Thursday, December 24, 2015

Cats and Christmas

Read Marg Corjay's column in the December 24, 2015 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin. Marg is an Outreach and Circulation Assistant at the Morrill Memorial Library and a voracious reader.

"Deck the Halls with Catnip Mousies, FaLaLaLa LaLaLaLa, Wreck the Tree and Blame the Doggies." The Christmas season naturally lends itself to thoughts of warm, fuzzy things like sweaters, fireplaces, family, and cuddling with a cat. I am a covered-in-fur longtime cat enthusiast, as most people quickly find out because of my cat clothes, jewelry, reading habits, and home decor. I even dress as a cat for Halloween, complete with whiskers and a long fuzzy tail, so I'm the obvious person to write on this subject. Presently I only am owned by one cat, Nefertiti Isabella, but this year I am especially grateful because she just successfully came through a major health crisis. Christmas always brings back memories of the year that a neighbor "gifted" me a kitten.

Their daughter had moved into an apartment and had adopted a cat, not realizing that it was a "no-pet" complex. Since I had just recently lost my cat, they thought I would like this one. They gave it a lavender bubble bath, tied a big red bow on its neck, and rang my doorbell. The cat lover that I am of course I could not resist this tiny bundle of fluff, whom I named Snowflake. I was now the foster mother of a too-young 5-week-old ball of energetic fur that missed its mom and littermates. Bedtime arrived and I made her a box in the kitchen with an alarm clock wrapped in fluffy towels, barricading the doorways with 4-foot-bigh cardboard and went upstairs to bed. I soon found out small kittens have the ability to fly, because I was barely settled down than I had a little fur buddy snuggling with me. Brought her back downstairs, resettled her, turned off the lights, and watched how she escaped. She jumped out of her warm nest, boldly approached the barrier, got a vigorous wiggle going, and easily sailed right over the top of the cardboard. Needless to say I shared the bed with the kitten that night and for many nights to come, she lived to eighteen.

My reading preferences have a tendency to lean toward stories that include cats, naturally. I also love the illustrations and artwork in children's picture books and this season lends itself to some fantastic examples that can be read and enjoyed by the whole family together. One of my favorites that relates the traditional story is “Room for a Little One” by Martin Waddell. The story of always having room for one more in the stable and the beautiful warm golden-toned illustrations make this something that can be treasured by the whole family. Also keeping with this theme is “On This Special Night” by Claire Freedman, another wonderful heartwarming story with gorgeous illustrations of Christmas and the animals in the stable. Although this book doesn't have a cat as the main character, I include it in my notable list of picture books, “The Last Straw” by Frederick Thury, because of the intricate illustrations and different perspective that it brings. Those with a more up-to-date storyline include “Bless You, Santa” by Julie Sykes, the story of Santa's friends stepping in to finish the toys when Santa comes down with a cold, and there’s a cat who wears a headband with springy stars attached that often goes awry. An old classic that was written in 1949 and still is loved today is “A Pussycat Christmas” by Margaret Wise Brown that was re-released in 1994 with delightfully realistic illustrations by Anne Mortimer. Another of my perennial favorites that has a more serious theme is “Christmas for a Kitten” by Robin Pulver, about an abandoned kitten that finds a forever home with Santa. Even the “Twelve Days of Christmas” gets a remake with cat-themed verses and intricate, detailed illustrations in “The Twelve Cats of Christmas” by Kandy Radzinski. My favorite Christmas selection is “Here Comes Santa Cat” by Deborah Underwood, the hilarious tale of a mischievous cat that decides to improve his image with Santa. I am a huge fan of all the "cat" books and the silly adventures of this silent character. All of Deborah Underwood’s books make great gifts for children in your life; they have relatable stories and fun illustrations. Of course most of the children's well-loved characters have Christmas books also, “Merry Christmas, Splat,” “Pete the Cat Saves Christmas,” “A Bad Kitty Christmas,” “Hello Kitty, Hello Christmas,” “Lyle at Christmas,” and “Kitty Cucumber and Her Day with Santa.”

There are many Christmas cat books to choose from for adults also, anything from pet rescue stories to cozy mystery series. In the cozy mystery genre, you can choose from “Santa Clawed” by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown, “Cat Deck the Halls: A Joe Grey Mystery” by Shirley Rousseau Murphy, “A Cat on Jingle Bell Rock” by Lydia Adamson, or “Cat in a Golden Garland” by Carole Nelson Douglas. “A Gift from Bob” by James Bowen tells the story of a homeless man who takes in a stray and how it changes his life for the better, especially at Christmas. Cleveland Amory has written three stories that relate his adventures with a cat that wandered into this life one year starting with “The Cat Who Came for Christmas,” “The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas: How a Cat Brought a Family the Gift of Love” by Viola Ramp, and “Henry the Christmas Cat” by Mary Calhoun are both excellent and heartwarming stories of how a rescue cat came into families and how they made a huge difference in people's lives. Christmas cats have also been immortalized in verse, “Cats Love Christmas Too, a Seasonal Celebration in Poetry and Prose” illustrated by Isabelle Brent, is a lovely little volume that includes selections from many different authors and has detailed illustrations that are highlighted with gold leaf; this is a book that many cat lovers would appreciate under their tree. Speaking of gifts, some fun selections might include “Cats Galore, A Compendium of Cultured Cats” by Susan Herbert, featuring masterpieces that have been repainted with cat figures, “Cats on the Job: 50 Fabulous Felines who Purr, Mouse, and even Sing for their Supper” by Lisa Rogak (dogs aren't the only ones who contribute to society), and “Tiny Hats on Cats: Because Every Cat Deserves to Feel Fancy” by Adam Ellis, which has glamour photos of cats wearing the latest headgear. “I Could Pee on This,” “I Knead My Mommy,” and “You Need More Sleep” by Francesco Marciuliano are three books of poetry "written" by cats that explains how they see and interpret the world around them; I personally own two of these and they are highly entertaining.

If you are a crafty cat person, you might consider checking out “Christmas Cats and Dogs: Quilts to Celebrate the Season” by Janet Kime, “Cat Quilts and Crafts” by LaVera Langeman, and “Cat Crafts” by Linda Hendry, all of which have projects that are centered around your pets. If you ever wonder what you can do with all that hair that you brush off your cat, you might find “Crafting with Cat Hair” by Kaori Tsutaya interesting. It gives detailed instructions on how to re-use cat hair to make cute needle felted accessories; I have been collecting for a year to give it a try. I am a tireless crocheter and “Cats in Hats: 30 Knit and Crochet Patterns for Your Kitty” by Sara Thomas has given me many cute fun projects and holiday photo-ops, much to the embarrassment and loss of dignity to which my cat has been subjected.

All of these books are available at the Morrill Memorial Library or through the Minuteman network catalogue. May everyone have a safe and joyous season.