ME TO BITSY: “What do you want for Christmas?”

Bitsy: “Meow.”

Me to Pip: “What do you want?”

Pip stares at me with big yellow eyes and heads for the door.

Actually, our cats already got a Christmas present this year.

It was from my secret Santa at the office: two toy mice, round, multi-colored, with bells attached, and a box of catnip with a purple plastic vessel shaped like a heart with tiny holes in it. You’re supposed to place the catnip in the heart and then the cats play with it.

My secret Santa is astute about my likes, dislikes.

Christmas is an exciting time for our felines — Pip, a black cat with no tail, and his sister, Bitsy, a mini-coon. They know the holiday season has arrived when we haul the tree into the house and set it in the corner.

They circle the wagons, waiting for what comes next, which is that they acquire a whole new watering hole, complete with the scent of the outdoors, to patronize.

They also get a fluffy, comfy white bed to sleep in for a couple of weeks, right under the tree.

It’s warm and cozy there, a nice change from their usual habitats.

In the middle of the night, and only during the holidays, we hear the ping, ping, ping of tiny feet on piano keys.

That’s because our tree is situated next to the piano, which serves as the cats’ boardwalk to all those shiny, funny-shaped hanging things they get to bat around (I place the less precious ornaments next to the piano).

Occasionally, we wake in the wee hours of the morning to the sound of glass shattering to the floor and then, if we stir, the thundering of paws down a hallway.

But it’s all OK — it’s part of Christmas, which brings change and warmth and color into the house, not to mention enticing aromas from cookies and other treats baking in the oven.

The cats sense our excitement and like to share in it. They lie on wrapping paper, scatter ribbons on the floor and scrutinize every move of the scissors, ultimately sabotaging the final step — the tying on of bows.

“Bitsy!” I scold. “Go away!”

The more I chastise, the more she interferes, just like a good cat.

Then there are the human visitors who come only once a year and liven up the scene.

Our felines, very social creatures from never having met a mean person, greet them with curiosity and a “prrrumph!”

They stay with our guests until they leave, not wanting to miss out on anything.

They also stick by my side as I write Christmas cards late into the night, their eyes mere slits as they’re too tired too play.

As snow falls against the living room window during these cold December days, it’s awfully nice to have Pip and Bitsy perched on the wide sill, standing watch.

They may be tiny warriors, but they’re ferocious in their loyalty.

And there’re no better Christmas companions on earth.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter more than 26 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]