Gift-wrapped rewards for the peaceable kingdom

Santa came early and often to my little riverside cottage this year. For while I set tight controls on holiday shopping for the humans in my life, some creatures are too cute to be Scrooged.

Even if one of them is a bit long on fangs and short on appreciation.

The gift-giving started shortly before Thanksgiving with the addition of a three-tiered cat tower and several brightly colored parrot toys.

Squiggy, the ring-tailed, green-eyed moggy, was an outdoor kitty prior to coming to live with yours truly. She once roamed 10 acres of woodlands in her former Cave Junction existence, scooping up field mice and bopping them on the head, as the song goes.

But she suffered a serious health scare a couple of Christmases ago. My beau, The Englishman, was beside himself with worry. He asked whether she could come live an exclusively indoor life with me. Who can say no to a sick cat and a sad man?

Squiggy shares my 900-square-foot abode with my two rowdy parrots. Some days are better than others. But she's been very, very good about not eating my feathered friends. And Goose and Gaia have been very, very good about not flying into her mouth.

The reward for this peaceable kingdom? Goodies galore.

Gaia, the African grey, got a new rope perch. It's soft on the tootsies and fun for the beak. She's already munched it down to where it's dangling by just a few threads. Never mind that I also bought her other toys intended for parrot destruction — papery pinwheels and cottony shredders. It's much more fun to ruin her expensive perch and holler, "Bad Buggy Bugbutt!" — almost as much fun as tossing a soggy bit of peanut butter toast at a passing cat.

Goose, my little cockatiel, is slow to warm up to new toys. He thinks they're alive and stink-eyes the interlopers for weeks, shooing off the hapless toys with a head-banging chorus of "Dit! Dit! Dit! Dit!"

Goose was thrilled, however, when a friend dropped by last week bearing a package of birdie biscuits. "Hello! Hello Gooser birrrrrd," he trilled.

Squiggy took a few days to warm up to her cream-colored tower. But now its top tier is her favorite perch on those evenings when a feline just needs to cut loose. It's easy to see when cabin fever has set in. Her pointy ears go flat and out to the side. Her tail lashes from side to side. In a dead sprint, she races from bedroom to bedroom, behind the couch and back to the tower. She flashes in and out of the hidey hole section, then threads herself through the opening that leads to the top platform. After arriving at the penthouse platform, she suddenly rolls belly-up and gives me a slow enticing wink.

"Prrrrt," Squiggy meeps.

Aww. How cute is that? She has tamed the wild hair.

I scoop Squiggy off the tower and into my arms. The couch is perfect for a long winter's night of snuggling. She loves to twine all over my lap, chest and head. Eyes closed. Motor on. Kitty nirvana.

But this night I ignore her sidewinding tail to my peril. Her Majesty has not completed her Jungle Cat imitation. She chomps down once, and hard, right onto my innocent schnozz. Rudolph's red nose has nothing on mine this Christmas. So I'm thinking that next year a certain four-legged hairball with bad tuna breath is getting a lump of coal in her stocking.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

Share This Story