My Christmas Gifts

by Lisa McClellan

I was never a cat lover growing up. Now don’t crucify me… I never owned a cat, only dogs. My only experience with a cat was an episode with a childhood friend’s cat who scratched me, bit me, and left a lasting impression on me. I did not do a thing to that cat, I simply walked by it… I swear.

So - I just was never a cat person.

But it seemed that the fates in charge of Christmas were determined to change my mind on the subject of felines.

So determined, in fact, that our current household includes THREE kitties - sister and brother Persians, Emma & Oliver... and a red tabby Exotic named Chili.

All three were kitties who joined our family at Christmas time... so the holiday season is a special time for celebration in our home.

Words cannot express the comfort, joy, and laughter we get from having them as part of our daily lives. I cannot imagine a day without combing them, playing with them, cuddling with them, laughing at them, or being comforted by their constant purring. I can not imagine a day without the routine of waking up to Oliver’s whiskers tickling my face, Chili racing to the bathroom to get his morning attention and drink from the sink faucet, or Emma rolling on her back to play with my shoelaces and get her daily massage.

But I am getting ahead of myself :-) - for as I said, I was not always a "cat" person...

It was 1981 when I was first introduced to a "feline" Christmas. My husband, Terry, and I received a Blue Cream Point Himalayan kitten as a gift from his mother. I must admit I was not very enthusiastic about the gift.

Terry was a cat lover so I conceded and agreed to keep her. I even took an interest in the naming process and we named her Misty. She won me over and I fell in love.

The following Christmas, Terry gave me another kitty present - a lovable Flame Point Himalayan, Higgins. Higgins was followed by another Christmas gift from my mother-in-law, a precious rescue cat named Patches. Our kitty-kids were complete.

The gods of Christmas had been very generous :-).

The years passed. Misty out-lived both Higgins and Patches and filled our lives with companionship and joy for 20 years.

By October 2001, Misty had led a long, healthy life. She was a very old senior citizen and she had begun to lose weight. We accepted the fact that she was withering away and one day we would be without her. One day came on October 22, 2001 when she suddenly became ill and we rushed her to the vet. The prognosis was not good. We knew the time had come to let her go. We had Misty put to sleep.

It was one of the hardest days of my life and as much as I loved her, I was not going to ever have to go through that again. NO MORE PETS! THAT WAS FINAL… NO COMPROMISING!

You’ve heard that before… right?

One month later, Terry began to contact cat breeders. I wasn’t going to do any calling, after all “you can do all the calling you want to but we are not getting another cat.” And I thought I was safe - after all, Christmas was months away.

Eventually, Terry stumbled upon a website and saw a photo of the most beautiful Exotic kitten he had ever seen - and he could not resist calling.

Unbeknownst to us, the Christmas gods were once more at work - for that phone call would change our lives.

After talking to the cat breeder for over an hour, Terry “forced” me to speak with her too. I was still grieving over Misty and I could over hear Terry telling the breeder about how we had lost Misty. I was already a blubbering idiot before I took the phone. I knew I would sound like an idiot. But when I spoke to the breeder, she totally understood how I felt. I loved her immediately. She was one of the most polite, friendly, and knowledgeable people I had spoken to and to top it off she was sensitive so I wasn’t the slightest bit uncomfortable when we all cried about Misty.

As luck would have it, the breeder had two brown tabby and white Persian kittens. They were littermates. She lived on the other side of the country from us, but she would send us photos of them to look at so we could see them. I was still not convinced I wanted another cat but I was willing to look at the photos because the kittens did sound adorable.

Once we received the photos I was smitten with the two cutest kittens I had ever set eyes on. The female had huge round eyes and the cutest expression and the male had an adorable expression with a slightly crooked little nose right above his solid white mouth that gave him a rakish air.

The kitten photos all had amusing captions. I couldn't resist... so I told Terry that we could get one. HMMMM… but which one do we choose?

It took us all of five minutes to decide we couldn’t possibly separate the two of them and we wanted both:-))).

The most difficult part was waiting for them to arrive. They were not old enough to leave their mama yet, so we had to wait. So... in December of 2001 our Christmas gifts arrived. We named our “kids” Emma and Oliver and they became the loves of our lives. There was nothing better than watching them play, playing with them, watching them sleep, cuddling with them, and grooming them. It was unbelievable the amount of joy and fun they added to our lives.

After about six months, Terry was itching to get another cat. After-all, we had three before - Shouldn't we have three again? :-). And maybe this time we could have “something different”. How about an Exotic baby brother for Emma and Oliver?

I, of course, said “no way, two is enough”. After some thought I decided “what is the difference… what’s one more cat added to our household” and decided to surprise Terry with the gift of another kitten - for Christmas, of course :-).

I called our breeder to see if she still had the red tabby Exotic male that Terry had been admiring on her website and she did - so we proceeded with a plot to surprise Terry with a new kitten for Christmas. She was as excited about the plan and I was - and thought another kitten added to our mix would be a good idea.

And so it was that shortly after Christmas 2002 we were introduced to the third love of our lives, Chili.

It took about one week for Emma and Oliver to accept Chili and the three of them - christened CEO for the first letters of the names - have become the best of friends.

I don’t think it is at all a coincidence that we obtained all of our cats over the Christmas holiday. I consider it a gift - our gift of a new feline family and the gift of an angel and a new friend found in the breeder of our "babies".

Your cat can be a star!

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