December, the twelfth and last month of the year according to the Gregorian calendar. It was the tenth month in the early Roman calendar and takes its name from the Latin word decem, which means ten. It became the twelfth month in a later Roman calendar. In 46 B.C., the Roman statesman Julius Caesar added two days to December, which before then had only 29 days.
Winter begins in December in the northern half of the world. Some people call it "the frosty month." But winter does not begin until December 21 or 22, and most of December is usually warmer than other winter months. On the first day of winter, the sun reaches the solstice, when it appears to have gone farthest south. In the Northern Hemisphere, it is the shortest day of the year. But it is the longest day in the southern half of the world. The latter part of December has long been a holiday season. The Romans honoured Saturn, the god of agriculture, with a festival called Saturnalia. Today, Christmas is the chief holiday of the month in many countries. Christians celebrate it as the birthday of Jesus Christ. The Druids of northern Europe used mistletoe in a December festival. We still use mistletoe at Christmas.
December symbols: Its birth flower is the narcissus. December's birthstones are the turquoise, zircon, and tanzanite.
Heap on more wood! The wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We'll keep our Christmas merry still.
Sir Walter Scott
The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder sight than waning moon.
John Greenleaf Whittier
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
A Christmas tree is an invitation for disaster for any cat. Several scat mats may work in discouraging your cat from going near the tree, but this solution can be costly and there is no guarantee that the scat mats will work.
If you cannot put your christmas tree in a room that can be closed off to the cat, you will have to take several precautions.
There is no easy solution to keeping your cat away from a christmas tree, aside from spraying the end of the branches with anti-chew spray, you just have to be very watchful of your cat around this time of year.
Victorians & Cats
Victorians loved cats, and books about cats were popular Christmas presents. One of the most spectacular volumes of all time was "Painter Of Cat Life" by Henriette Ronner published in 1891 and filled with pictures by the talented Dutch artist. A few years later Lady Chance produced "A Book of Cats" - a collection of her own lovely grey wash drawings backed up with reminiscences of her pets; these included the story of William, who went with her on a bicycle tour of the Wye Valley, riding in a basket strapped to the handlebars. Edith Carrington's "The Cat - Her Place In Society" was published in 1896 by the Humanitarian League; the author tells how 'a poor little cat was found in Christmas week huddled against my door-step, beneath a blanket of snow'. Naturally the pathetic stray was taken in, and was soon confidently playing with the embroidered markers dangling from her benefactress's Bible. Edith Carrington's perfect description of stroking the little creature will surely find an echo in many memories:
"She is not satisfied till I have given her skull a gentle squeeze, eyes, ears, jaws and all, sufficiently strong to enable me to trace the whole of its anatomy. Then she bursts into a torrent of purring."
Quote of the month:
"I soon realized the name Pouncer in no way did justice to her aerial skills. by the end of the firat day, I had amended her name to Kamikazi." - Cleveland Amory
The nineteenth-century French feline lover, Théophile Gautier, had a cat called Madame Théophile. The cat loved to listen to singers as Gautier accompanied them on piano. However, she disliked the female singers reaching a high note. In obvious distress at this sound, she would put her paw up to the singer's face and pat her on the mouth, as if to seal her lips. One theory is that the pitch was too similar to that of the sound of a distressed kitten for the maternal cat!
The author Thomas Hardy adored cats and kept many of them throughout his life in rural Dorset, England. In the following poem, Hardy mourns the death of one of his cats but it appears that this was not a one-way feeling. In his last years, the writer had a beautiful blue Persian cat with amber eyes, called Cobby. When Hardy died, Cobby vanished forever, as if in mourning.
Poem - Last Words To A Dumb Friend
Pet was never mourned as you,
Purrer of the spotless hue,
Plumy tail, and wistful gaze
While you hunoured our queer ways,
Or outshrilled your morning call
Up the stairs and through the hall -
Foot suspended in its fall -
While, expectant, you would stand
Arched, to meet the stroking hand;
Till your way you chose to wend
Yonder, to your tragic end.
Never another pet for me!
Let your place all vacant be;
Better blankness day by day
Than companion torn away.
Better bid his memory fade,
Better blot each mark he made,
Selfishly escape distress
By contrived forgetfulness,
Then preserve his prints to made
Every morn and eve an ache.
From the chair whereon he sat
Sweep his fur, nor wince thereat;
Rake his little pathways out
Mid the bushes roundabout;
Smooth away his talon's mark
From the claw-worn pine-tree bark,
Where he climbed as dusk embrowned,
Waiting us who loitered round.
Strange it is this speechless thing,
Subject to our mastering,
Subject for his life and food
To our gift, and time, and mood;
Timid pensioners of us Powers,
His existence ruled by ours,
Should - by crossing at a breath
Into safe and shielded death,
By the merely taking hence
Of his insignificance -
Loom as largened to the sense,
Shape as part, above man's will,
Of the imperturbable.
As a prisoner, flight debarred,
Exercising in a yard,
Still retain I, troubled, shaken,
Mean estate, by him forsaken;
And this home, which scarcely took
Impress from his little look,
By his faring to the Dim
Grows all eloquent of him.
Housemate, I can think you still
Bounding to the window-sill,
Over which I vaguely see
your small mound beneath the tree,
Showing in the autumn shade
That you moulder where you played.
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
The proverbial cat!
"When the cat and mouse agree, the grocer is ruined." - Iranian Proverb
"Those who don't like cats won't get handsome mates." - Dutch Proverb
"The cat is a good friend, only she scratches." - Portuguese Proverb
"The cat sees through shut lids." - English Proverb
"A bashful cat makes a proud mouse!" - Scottish Proverb
"It is too much to expect of a cat that she should sit by the milk and not lap it." German Proverb
"The cat laps moonbeams in the bowl of water, thinking them to be milk" - Hindu Proverb
Did you know?
In France: It is believed that if you find one white hair on a black cat, Lady Luck will smile upon you. There is also a superstition that it is bad luck to cross a stream carrying a cat.
Charles I, king of England, owned a black cat that he felt brought him luck. He was so afraid of losing it that he had it guarded day and night. As it happened, the day after the cat died, he was arrested.
Early Christians believed that if a cat sat on a grave, the buried person's soul was in the devil's power.
In 16th century Italy, people believed that if a black cat lay on the bed of a sick man, he would die. However, they also believed that a cat will not remain in the house where someone is about to die - if the family cat refused to stay indoors, this was a bad omen.
A cat's bone structure is among its unique characteristics. Although man is more than 15 times the size of a cat, a cat has more bones in its body, about 244 compared with 206 in man.
Many of the cat's bones are in its tail, which is an indicator of a cat's mood. A cat carrying its tail high is usually displaying pride and contentment. An extended tail generally tells you the cat is stalking. A tail being thrust from side to side may warn you that the cat is angry or undecided.
A cat's hind legs are longer and stronger than the front legs, enabling him to jump with skill. Observe a cat and you will notice it calculates distance before jumping.
Another observation will show you that the cat walks or runs by moving the front and back legs on one side, and then the front and back legs on the other side. The camel and the giraffe are the only other animals that move in this way. Other four-legged animals move the left front leg at the same time as the right hind leg, and their right front leg with the left hind leg.
The cat can move silently on the thick pads that insulate its feet. Its claws are retractable, they can stretch out beyond the pads or disappear again simply by the contraction of certain muscles.
The cat's paw pads are extremely sensitive and are used to investigate the texture, size and shape of an unfamiliar object. A cat extends one paw to touch the object, at first, gently, then more firmly and then uses its nose for closer inspection. The sensitivity of the cat's paw pads may be the reason why so many cats dislike having them stroked.
A sleeping shape lies on the bed
A cat morose, at peace, well-fed.
Oh, puss,you sleeping mass of fur,
Give me your voice, and let me purr.
Nerissa Stephen Garnett (11 Years Old - 1968)
"It is needless to spend any time over her loving nature to man, how she flattereth by rubbing her skin against one's leg How she whurleth with her voice, having as many tunes at turnes, for she hath one voice to beg and to complain, another to testify her delight and pleasure, another among her own kind by flattering, by hissing, by puffing, by spitting, in so much that some have thought that they have a peculiar intelligible language among themsleves. Therefore how she playeth, leapeth, looketh, catcheth, tosseth, with her foot, riseth up to strings held over her head, sometimes creeping, sometimes lying back, playing with foot, apprehending greedily anything save the hand of a man, with divers (diverse) such gestical actions, it is needless to stand upon; in so much as Collins was wont to say, that being free from his studies and more urgent weighty affairs , he was not ashamed to play and sport himself with his cat, and verily it may be called an idle man's pastime."
From: The History of Four-Footed Beasts by Edward Topsell (1658)
The Rat's Strong Foe
I have (and long shall have) a white great nimble cat,
a king upon a mouse, a strong foe to a rat,
fine eares, long tail he hath, with Lion's curbed clawe,
which oft he lifteth up, and stayes his lifted pawe,
deepe musing to himselfe, which after-mewing showes,
till with lickt beard, his eye of fire espie his foes.
From: Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney (1598)
Recommended book: The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (A story of Discworld)
Author: Terry Pratchett
Imagine a million clever rats. Rats that don't run. Rats that fight...
Maurice a streetwise tomcat, has the perfect money-making scam. he's found a stupid looking kid who plays a pipe, and he has his very own plague of rats - rats who are strangely educated, so maurice can no longer think of them as "lunch". And everyone knows the stories about rats and pipers...
Terry Pratchett leads readers from tale to tail in a darkly imaginative and fiendishly entertaining story, the first for young readers set in the Discworld universe.
A wonderful and enjoyable book, also suitable for adults!
Hardback - 270 pages.
Published by: Doubleday, Transworld Publishers.
Transworld Publishers, 61-63 Uxbridge Road, London, W5 5SA, United Kingdom
Quote: "When we caress her, she stretches herself, and arches her back responsively; but that is because she feels an agreeable sensation, not because she takes a silly satisfaction, unlike the dog, in faithfully loving a thankless master." - François René de Chateaubriand