Biscuit-brained editor’s note: I can’t keep up with you, cats. I write these bonkers blogs well in advance, thinking I’m being diligent, thinking I’m providing for our readers in the likely event I am kidnapped by pirates, thinking with my heart that can’t stop overflowing.
And then the cats get adopted and adopted and adopted. Including Kiko.
I wrote the following back in golden October, scheduled it for February thinking that Kiko would keep us company for awhile, and then remembered that I am a moron. A marvelous moron with maple syrup where brains belong. I regret nothing. XO, AH
Persons equipped with brains far larger and lovelier than mine have decreed: cats do not value carbs.
A cat missing a significant part of his brain parries: pardonez moi?
Kiko came to Tabby’s Place courtesy of the best beings in Beirut (namely, Animals Lebanon, the breathtaking rescue group with whom we work). He came to clown; he came crammed with cheer; he came with a chomped cerebellum; he came with the wrong name.
Kiko, on our first acquaintance, was known as Keto.
I assume this has a far friendlier meaning across the Atlantic, but here in New Jersey, “Keto” means one thing: militant avoidance of carbohydrates.
Such a name simply could not stand.
Neither could Kiko, not exactly. But neither that, nor the offensive absence of cheesecake in the Tabby’s Place Community Room, was about to keep him from getting his kicks.
Before we step into Kiko’s rhythm, we need to board the way-back machine to the womb. Sometime after Kiko’s mama and Kiko’s papa danced to “Strangers in the Night,” you might say that something went terribly wrong. More than likely, Mrs. Kiko was infected with panleukopenia, a mean virus with major munchies for rapidly dividing cells.
That’s bad news for rapidly growing selves, especially tiny elves like developing kittens.
With no taste for tiramisu or Tostitos, panleuk pulled up to the banquet of Baby Cat, going full Cookie Monster on Kiko’s growing cerebellum.
The bad news: I am making revolting metaphors that you will not soon forget. The slightly less bad news: this meant Kiko would be born missing part of the part of his brain responsible for “meaningful movement” and coordination.
The good news: Kiko would survive. The more-than-slightly gooder news: Kiko would assume full responsibility for a meaningful life.
Described, with a dollop of guilt, as “the cute disease,” cerebellar hypolasia (CH) causes a cat to wobble and toddle and bibble about like a penguin after too many pancakes. (Guilt: we do not wish any hardship, be it ever so painless and precious as bibbling, upon any cat. Just a dollop: CH does not progress, nor depress.)
Depending on the severity of their condition, CH cats may have just a slight shimmy (e.g. “I just met Jimmy Fallon in person, and I am forever thunderstruck by his majesty”) or jazz about like jellyfish (e.g. “I can’t walk, but I can break-dance”), or anywhere in between.
Between you and me and Kiko, they’re emperors of adorable…but that’s the least interesting thing about them.
That’s the toot about this cat: his “disability” is just a crumb on the thousand-layer cake called Kiko.
You can’t ignore the fact that his four legs are not on speaking terms. It’s unavoidable that, a moment into meeting you, he will fall and flop and flail. To watch him in the litter box is to witness a form of modern dance too edgy for Cirque du Soleil.
But within five minutes of feasting on Kiko’s friendship, you forget.
You forget that he is “strange.”
You forget that he can’t walk.
You forget that there’s anything in this entire world he can’t do, can’t conquer, can’t command with the sheer force of his merriment and his magic and his massive, malted Mallomar of a heart.
And if Kiko kicks into his happiest high-gear — the only setting he knows — you just might forget that flailing isn’t failing even outside the kingdom of cats.
Kiko came a very long way to love us, and even if we never return his affections with Devil Dogs and Ding Dongs, the awkward angel will bake up tilty bliss-songs for all the days we share. Flopping and feasting, he is the anti-dieter when it comes to delight, the glee-glutton who sees pies piled high where others taste tragedy.
You can’t blame the others, at least not at first. Visitors with big hearts regularly wince at Kiko’s kicking and flicking, asking, “is he…okay? Is that a good life for a cat?”
And then Kiko answers them.
By adoring them.
By adoring himself.
By adoring the sun that stipples his stripes, and the volunteer that sings to him in Spanish, and the staff who scoop him out of the litter box/mosh pit, and the mercy that makes him the happiest cat at Tabby’s Place.
By adoring even the hours when he hits the ground hard, litter stuck to his forehead, toy mouse out of reach, rigatoni dreams deferred another day.
By adoring the fall and the rising in equal measure.
It’s enough to make a girl fear flailing just a little less.
It’s enough to make you think that life in all its layers just might be cake.
It’s enough. It’s so much more than “enough.” And so are you, and Kiko, and even me.
With or without carbs.
And now — surprising exactly no one — with his forever family. Bon voyage, beautiful boy!