The goal here was simple: Make sure the cat doesn't eat the needles off of the Christmas tree.

My daughter and I peered from behind the coffee table and waited.

"Now?" she asked in a whisper.

"Not yet," I replied.

The goal here was simple: Make sure the cat doesn't eat the needles off of the Christmas tree.

"If he does," I told her minutes earlier, "we're going to spray him with this water bottle."

We're here because I'm stubborn, and so is the cat. I like having a real tree. And he likes to eat the needles, which often means a trip to the vet. So, as tradition dictates, every year the tree goes up, the water bottle comes out. A well-aimed shot will scare him off.

Each holiday, my wife and I discuss whether or not to get a real tree. Not to be sappy, but I pine for them. I enjoy the adventure of going to get it and the smell. She does, too. She just doesn't want the cat to get sick.

So the compromise is to make sure the cat stops being a cat for a few weeks.

We made the trip recently on an unusually warm day. In a field of white pines, the ones with the sharpest, most gnarly needles, my wife spotted the perfect one immediately. The smell was fantastic, and we reasoned that maybe getting one with sharp needles will keep all of the little hands and paws off of it. Plus, we have never found the perfect tree so quick. Usually it takes several hours of walking until none of us want to be there anymore. We strapped it to the car, brought it home, and I enlisted my 5-year-old to keep an eye on the cat.

A day later, she alerted me that something was up. And we found ourselves on a covert mission to save Christmas.

The cat took a few laps around the tree before stepping inside. He smelled the water and rubbed his face on the tree.

"Now?" my daughter asked again.

"No, only if he starts eating it," I replied. "Our goal here is to save the cat from himself, not just to shoot him with water."

She tilted her head from side-to-side. "Tomato, potato," she said.

The cat batted at an ornament until it fell off.

A moment later, the tree started to shake, and the jingle bells started to jingle. She looked at me eagerly, and I gave the OK. With that she jumped up and sent a few wayward streams of water in the direction of the cat. She hit the window, the wall and the tree but not the cat. Before he could take another bite, I hit him with a shot right on his fuzzy head. And he scurried off, maintaining his cool but throwing me the stink eye in the process.

The thing I love most about Christmas are the traditions.

David Manley is an editor at The Canton Repository. Share your stories with him at david.manley@cantonrep.com. On Twitter: @DaveManley.