Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Very Last Time Ruby Climbed The Christmas Tree

Kittens and Christmas trees do not a good combination make.

As soon as I brought the sections of the (apparently no longer) pre-lit tree up from the basement Thanksgiving weekend  and laid them on the floor of the living room, I knew we were in for trouble, as immediately, there was a kitten playing hide-and-seek in the branches. 

The big kitty boys were not immune to the tree, either, especially Fletcher. He was in the middle of everything as well. (Pete would have been, too, if not for still being so pissed off that Ruby came to live with us in the first place.)  

I secured the bottom third of the tree in the stand; Ruby climbed up the middle and poked her head out, eyes snappy and black.

I added the middle third of the tree, and she shot up that.

The only reason Ruby didn't climb up to the very tip-top of the tree was because the branches in the top tier were too close together and angled upward. But she was content to zip up and down the middle of the bottom two-thirds of the tree, occasionally stopping to chase her tail or do a little kitten spaz or to poke her head out an opening in the branches and peek out.

She helped me add string after string of lights to the (non) pre-lit tree.

She watched as I wrapped fishing line around the center post of the tree and secured it in two places to the wall, hopefully preventing her from tipping the tree over.

She even helped me put ornaments on the tree, although, to the casual observer, it looked a lot more like she was taking them off and running away with them.

Think "Where's Ruby?" instead of
"Where's Waldo?" or follow Fletcher's nose
Ruby had several methods of getting up inside the tree. One was to sit below it, wiggle her behind, and jump up. Another was to stand up on her back feet, hook her front feet over a branch, and pull herself up into the tree, chin-up style. The most exciting way Ruby gained access to the tree was to run full-tilt into the room and under the lowest branches, then leap like a flying squirrel up into the tree. She would then scamper up the inside of the tree as if she were on a spiral staircase.

We took pictures of her in the tree, eyes bright. She was so STINKING CUTE!

Then, she got sillier and crazier. The whole tree would shake (and we had an alarm bell of sorts on the tree: a tiny wind chime ornament that would ring when she started climbing the tree). She would chase her tail endlessly, making the wind chime dance and sing, but the tree never toppled over.

By this time, she had quit exiting the tree by climbing back down the center in the same way she climbed up, and instead, would stick her head through a hole in the branches and ski down the outside of the tree, ornaments flying in her wake (I wisely didn't put any of the precious or breakable ornaments on the tree this year, thinker that I am).

Preparing for dismount.

It was at this point that it ceased to be so cute that Ruby was in the tree, and we were resigned to saying, "Dammit, Ruby, get out of the tree!" and trying to extricate her before she knocked any more ornaments off the tree.

But finally, it was Christmas morning! Our family was gathered in the living room, everyone emptying their stockings. Santa remembered the kitties, too, and they had new toys scattered about already. We were just getting ready to open gifts when Ruby decided to make a dash up the tree. My husband was filming the kids with his phone and turned the camera on Ruby to document her Christmas tree climbing skills.

And that's when it all went wrong.

She was about four feet off the ground, chasing her tail, when she started crying, sharply. Then she began thrashing and making the worst sounds I have ever heard come out of an animal. The other two cats ran towards the tree, hesitated, then ran right back out of the room, their tails poofed out, their fur standing on end.

I jumped up and thrust my arms through the tree, where she was screaming and thrashing. As I grabbed for her, she sunk her needle sharp teeth into my finger, her claws scratching me, so frantic that I didn't know if I would be able to help her. I finally got my hands around her little body, and as she twisted and writhed, my fingers found the fishing line that secured the tree to the wall, twisted and wrapped around her hind foot. Since there is some stretch to fishing line (and this was very thin line), I was able to hook my finger under it, pull her foot free, and remove her from the tree.

Bitten. To. The. Bone.
She was still terrified, as was I, and continued to fight me for a bit, but I held her tight and soothed her, finally calming her down. My husband, who had abandoned the video at some point, came over to see if I was okay. I was shaking so, I could hardly walk, but I made it into the kitchen and began to run cold water over my bitten, clawed hands and arms. My son ran upstairs for peroxide and bandaids. The kitty boys slunk upstairs from the basement where they had been hiding, tails still poofed, eyes black. 

My hands were shaking so hard that I couldn't pour the peroxide over my bites and scratches myself, so my husband did it for me, bandaged my hands, held me until I stopped crying. What if I couldn't get her loose? What if it had happened when we weren't home? What if, what if, what if?

About that time, Ruby sauntered into the kitchen, headed to the food dish, and had a little snack, as if nothing had happened, the little shit.

We all assembled in the living room again and opened our gifts. Ruby hung around the periphery, but didn't get very close to the tree. The boys didn't get very close to her. And as soon as all the gifts were opened, I cut the fishing line and removed it from the tree. 

The tree didn't get knocked over.

Choosing an ornament
to take off the table
And the next morning, I took the tree down. I just didn't have a happy feeling about it anymore and wanted it put away for this year. Ruby was nearby while I took the ornaments off the tree and laid them on the coffee table. She even snagged a few off the table and played with them. She watched me unwind what seemed like miles of lights. She played with the branches of the tree once it was disassembled and lying on the rug.

But she didn't try to climb the tree, not even when my fingers were wiggling inside it, fighting to untangle the strings of lights.

I don't know how long Ruby's memory will be of this event, whether she will remember next year when the tree goes up that horrific event of the last Christmas (my husband says I'm giving her way too much credit in the brains department in that case), but I do know her memory is at least 24 hours long, and she didn't climb that kitten-eating tree again.

One life down, Ruby. Eight to go.

Watching me box up the ornaments


  1. Owwwwwww! Real Christmas trauma! Poor Ruby and poor you! Glad she's okay, and hope you're healing well *HUGS*

    1. I told you it wasn't a good story! And thank you! She's fine. I'm scabby.

    2. Yeah - wow, you weren't wrong! Eek!

  2. Sometimes I think animals don't remember a specific event but develop an instinctive "Tree=bad" type of association. Maybe it's just wishful thinking?
    I'm glad everyone is ok

  3. It's probably way too soon now, but I imagine that this story will eventually be a "remember when. . ." tale of legendary proportion in your family. I'm glad Ruby is OK, and I hope your hand heals quickly.

  4. *GASP* OMG...poor Ruby...poor YOU!!! Glad everyone is ok.

  5. The photos are priceless, and the "tail" is 100% pure cat... the adventure never ends! I'm grateful you were home to rescue Ruby, and I'm so sorry that you had to get torn up for doing so, those little needle-sharp claws and teeth hurt so very much! I'm just betting that curiosity will get the better of her again next year and she'll be up the tree, but perhaps a bit more cautiously!

  6. New Kitties and Christmas trees always make for some fun times don't they? I lost a few ornaments this year - Miss Kitty was actually chewing on one of them like she was loving the crunch crunch of glass in her teeth! I have Candy Canes scattered through the house, I wouldn't be surprised if one were found months from in some secret hiding spot Miss Kitty left it in.

  7. Wow, you're lucky! One of my girls bit my husband once, and his hand swelled up like a pink catcher's mitt. He had to get two rounds of i.v. antibiotics. But I guess Ruby's too cute to carry germs...

  8. Yeesh....scary! Glad all is well...she is soooooo stinking cute!

  9. I just about spewed my drink onto the screen reading this: "About that time, Ruby sauntered into the kitchen, headed to the food dish, and had a little snack, as if nothing had happened, the little shit." Oh....cats. I remember well. (it's probably a good thing I do remember so well otherwise my son could probably talk me into getting another one!) ;)

    I love Ruby's spirit. ...sounds like our Jackson was as a kitten. He was such a lovable, cute & charming BRAT!

    p.s. you should enter Ruby's picture in the tree (pick the cutest one) into THIS contest:

    Both myself and Mrs Always Random entered our pets (I think Indy has a really great chance at winning the thing!)

  10. I'm so sorry for the trauma...that is scary stuff for sure. Indy ate a bunch of chocolate just a couple days before Christmas and we seriously thought he was a goner. Nope. He's fine. And has clearly forgotten about the whole incident. We, on the other hand, are traumatized for life.

    It is a good thing Ruby is cute.

  11. Despite the sadness and trauma for all involved, this is a truly fabulous cat story, no? OK, maybe not now but perhaps in time... Oddly, our three Rotten Cat Boys have never bothered the tree - they just crawl under it and use it as a cave until we take it down. They love it. This year, though, there was a three-way cat brawl underneath the tree and it definitely started to sway and we thought it would surely topple, but no - still standing!

    Anyway, I think cat memories are short enough that Ruby will have no long-lasting scars next year!

  12. ouch… have only been bitten by a cat once. It hurt.

    glad you have gotten on the other side of that Christmas memory ("! really I was there…the kitten was stuck and flew across the room entirely in the air and landed on her arm!")

    Hey! just wanted to wish you and all a Happy New Years from the gang at the Wakefield Doctrine.

    (see ya on the circuit)

  13. The pic of Ruby in the tree was super cute. Last year, my sister was bitten by her kitty and wound up with a blood infection and needed surgery. It was totally crazy! I'm glad you are OK. Happy New Year.