News and Tribune

December 19, 2008

STAWAR: A Christmas tale of Claus, paws

By TERRY STAWAR

Claus, our 2-year-old cat, seems to be on a rampage over the holidays.

He won’t stay away from the artificial tree, and when I went into the family room the other day, the real Christmas tree was laying on the floor. The rug was soaked with water from the tree stand, and Claus was nestled in the branches, denying any knowledge of how it could have possibly have happened. Although a very attractive cat, Claus unfortunately is an inveterate liar.

For example, all winter he keeps insisting that he wants to go outside. He is a very vocal cat — not a desirable trait in a feline. He sits by the door for hours, whining about how he needs to see a man about a rodent or something. But no sooner than you let him out than he is on the other side of the door complaining about how cold it is outside. You would think he could at least go to the bathroom while he was out there ... but no, that might be too uncomfortable for his majesty. He saves it up, apparently preferring his litter box that I have to clean

The other day, my wife, Diane, let him out the back door and then went down to the basement where she immediately met him again. Evidently, Claus has learned to dematerialize and reappear in our basement at will.

Diane and I constantly compare him to our previous cat, Hobbes. Poor Claus is like the second wife in Daphne du Maurier ‘s novel, “Rebecca,” who must compete with the memory of the beloved first wife. Hobbes was one in a million: an elegant, gentleman cat. Claus, I am afraid to say, is no gentleman. Unlike the noisy and disconcertingly human-sounding Claus, Hobbes only meowed his orders once and expected — and usually received — total obedience. If we didn’t rush to open the door at his first command, Hobbes would simply walk away and act totally indifferent. There was none of this pedestrian squalling. Also, Hobbes always did his business outside — bless his cat soul.

Of course, we have a selective memory when it comes to Hobbes. He was not perfect either, if the truth be told. As a kitten, he ran up our Christmas tree and batted at every ornaments he saw.

There was even one Christmas when the great Hobbes totally disgraced himself. Against our better judgment and expressed wishes, our oldest son brought another cat into our house. This new cat, Clawdy, was a female who had shared an essentially feral existence with a bunch of college boys. Clawdy immediately took possession of Hobbes’ favorite place — our bedroom. Hobbes was too much of a gentleman to evict a lady and besides Clawdy had become terribly ferocious, competing with college boys for pizza scraps and having to use a filthy litter box that was hardly ever changed — much like the boys’ apartment bathroom if I remember correctly.

Thus, having both gender and territoriality issues, Hobbes apparently wanted to make certain that everyone in the house knew that the shiny presents under the tree were his property, which caused Diane, an obsessive compulsive wrapper, to almost have a seizure.

Last winter, Claus was outside during an ice storm and managed to get severely injured. We don’t know exactly what happened, but he managed to drag himself up the porch steps and to lay next to the dog. Fortunately our son-in-law, Jeff, is an emergency veterinarian near Cincinnati and managed to patch him back together. We also are lucky that cats have great recuperative powers. Jeff says if you throw two pieces of cat in a room, they will grow together into a cat. Claus was in intensive care at my daughter and Jeff’s house for several months, while my granddaughters nursed him back to health. I am not sure Claus truly appreciated all the attention, such as wearing a baby bonnet or riding in the doll stroller. Except for the indignity of having several inches removed from the tip of his tail, he recovered remarkably given the extent of his injuries. And he can still catch a mouse, he would like you to know.

Claus was named by our middle son after a friend of his from Germany, but we still think of him as a Christmas cat. At the restaurant at Holiday World, there are several paintings of Santa’s workshop and many of them contain a cat that has the same unique markings as Claus. We told our granddaughters that the paintings prove that Claus is related to Santa’s cat. They just smile back at us skeptically and humor us, as if we were completely insane, much the way our children do.

Terry L. Stawar, Ed.D. lives in Georgetown and is the CEO of LifeSpring, Southern Indiana’s mental health center in Jeffersonville. Contact him at tstawar@lifespr.com and check out his holiday Welcome to Planet-Terry podcast at www.lifespr.com/podcast