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