A toy cat’s not just for Chanu­cah, it’s for life

The Jewish Chronicle - - FEATURES - YADA YADA SI­MON ROUND

IT’S THAT TIME of year again — you know, the time when you dis­cover how com­mer­cially savvy very small chil­dren can be. I re­mem­ber a cou­ple of years ago ask­ing my then three-year-old daugh­ter, Lucy, what she wanted for Chanu­cah. She replied that she would look at the ad­verts on the telly to see what looked most in­ter­est­ing.

Ever since then, she has been a huge fan of TV ad­ver­tis­ing. I have there­fore been ex­pect­ing a flood of de­mands now that the fes­tive blitz is al­most in full force. But when it came, her re­quest sur­prised me.

“Daddy?”, she asked last week. “Can I have a cat for Christ­mas?”

This was alarm­ing on so many dif­fer­ent lev­els that for a mo­ment I felt rather dizzy.

I sat her down. “Lucy, you know we are Jewish and that Jewish peo­ple don’t re­ally have Christ­mas. We have Chanu­cah in­stead. Chanu­cah is where we light the can­dles and eat dough­nuts. It’s bet­ter than Christ­mas.” “OK, can I have a cat for Chanu­cah?” “Lucy, a cat isn’t just for Chanu­cah, it’s for life. You have to look af­ter cats care­fully. You have to make sure they have enough to eat. You have to pay the vet ex­tor­tion­ate fees. You have to find some­body to look af­ter the cat when we go on hol­i­day. You have to deal with any furniture the cat might dam­age. You have to dis­pose of any mice or other ex­am­ples of wildlife that the cat may bring into your house for snack­ing pur­poses. You have to cope with the fact that cats are ac­tu­ally fierce, car­niv­o­rous killers pos­ing as cud­dly house­hold pets. Then, there is the fact that cats have fleas, that cats have to be toi­let trained and that cats eat smelly food.”

“Daddy?” asked Lucy. “What does car­niv­o­rous mean?” “It means things that eat meat.” “Oh. So, can I have a cat for Christ­mas or not?”

Be­ing Jewish, I am ob­vi­ously deeply un­com­fort­able about hav­ing a pet at all. There is a slid­ing scale. Live­stock in the gar­den has been pro­foundly unJewish since the shtetl. Dogs, par­tic­u­larly hunt­ing ones, are a no-no, al­though you do see the odd shitsu around Hamp­stead Gar­den Sub­urb. Then you have more Jewishly ac­cept­able pets like bud­gies and gold­fish. Cats are per­ceived to be cute and non-agri­cul­tural enough to be coun­te­nanced by Jewish fam­i­lies. This, how­ever, leaves me with one prob­lem. While I des­per­ately want Lucy to be happy, I just don’t fancy the idea of hav­ing a cat.

Lucy is clearly sym­pa­thetic be­cause she has come up with a com­pro­mise so­lu­tion. She has seen a toy cat ad­ver­tised on TV that moves and me­ows like a real cat. Per­fect, ex­cept that it costs three times as much as we were in­tend­ing to spend.

I came up with some al­ter­na­tive sug­ges­tions. “Per­haps we can just get your face painted as a cat for Chanu­cah or maybe dec­o­rate a dough­nut with a cat face. I know, how about a cat DVD?”

Like all clever con­sumers, Lucy chooses this mo­ment to up the ante.

“Can we have a Christ­mas tree then?” “No.” “Well how about a snow­man out­side the house?” “Er, I don’t think so.” “Well how about a Fa­ther Christ­mas for my room and a few dec­o­ra­tions? ”

To cut a long story short, there is now a newly de­liv­ered toy cat in the loft which me­ows when­ever we move the box, and a rather large, hand­drawn pic­ture of a rein­deer on Lucy’s wall. Roll on Jan­uary.

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