Cats: not one of them is faking it, and every single one of them is making it.
Us, we’re a bit different. But we can still learn.
There is a sturdy old wisdom to that adage, of course: “fake it ’til you make it.”
Real science, complete with beakers and blood tests and persons far smarter than me, has proven that smiling at your own face in the mirror, even if you feel like a canyon of excrement, will change your mood against your own will.
Festooning yourself with confidence you can’t yet feel, listening to loud Motown music on the way to a Big Meeting, and carrying yourself like a gilded Valkyrie when you feel like a jam-faced toddler: these are all legitimate ways to make it through scary days.
Cats, gracious overlords that they are, would not fault us any of these strategies.
They just don’t need them.
I’ve often tried to imagine the human equivalent of a Tabby’s Place room shift. Not unlike a vibe shift, this is the kind of cultural event worthy of long-form articles in The Atlantic, thoughtful podcasts with special guest Cornel West, and the kind of analysis that fights off paralysis.
Specifically: it is the moving of one cat, an open universe unto herself, from one room — known! familiar! a jumping jar of fireflies who all know your name! — to an entirely different room.
The cat doesn’t know that she’s just going down the hall. It could be the distance from Ringoes to Uttar Pradesh. The culture shock is intercontinental.
Whether or not you enjoyed your pickle-headed neighbors, you knew them, knew what made their eyes light up in joy or fear, knew when they liked to play their oboe or broil herring or converse ardently about politics at the mailboxes.
And then, without permission or perceptible purpose, you were moved to an orange-and-blue insane chamber where you had to share your food and your toilets and your last scraps of sanity with fifteen brand new neighbors.
This is the actual experience of cats at Tabby’s Place. It’s enough to make you want to go along to get along, fake familiarity with your new world, hobble your dance to match the step of your strange new neighbors.
If you’re a human, maybe.
But I have yet to witness a single feline specimen stuffing her stuff — her particular brand of neon or nerdy or gnarly — into a backpack of Careful.
This is not to say they all handle their moves “gracefully.” There are the blanket-burrowers. There are the growl-gurglers. There are the biters and bawlers, hunger-strikers and huddle-hunks. There are the cats who turn into electrical storms, igniting reality itself with the sizzle of their stress.
There is Willem, an extreme elder who waves like a willow at the faintest breeze. Such a delicate ball of brown-tabby thread might be expected to come unraveled when he came into his kingdom of Suite FIV. But he did no such thing. The wobbling willow with the inner oak made himself entirely at home, and he’s been making a home in his heart for everyone who meets him.
There is Catalina, the living embodiment of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, chunkage incarnate, ladled into Suite A and all its unique lunacies. The first thing she did was fling off her backpack, all the better to leap onto the back of this plump, peculiar new life like a dragon mid-air. Where human hearts might be taken aback, Catalina has taken her big move by storm. She is arguably the single most authentic, fake-proof creature who ever clog-danced across the earth.
There is even Alex: so odd. So anxious. So agitated. So adept at spiking everyone else’s agita, and the punch of life itself, with his claws and his concerns. It would be hollow to praise him for a “smooth transition,” when Alex is natural, chunky peanut butter, so turgid it bends your strongest fork trying to stir his chaos to creamy calm. Yet the cat who wears the whirlwind like a cape is perhaps our best example of the moment-makers who couldn’t be fakers if they tried.
Which they don’t.
Not a cat alive expends one orzo of effort trying to be anything other than what she is. Because every single one is precisely enough.
To be continued…