Twenty-nine out of thirty Awesome Humans have a ready answer to the following question.
What makes your cat truly special?
To be precise, those twenty-nine AH’s have at least twenty-nine ready answers — each. Well, he sleeps with his paws covering his face, because he’s so cute even he can’t stand it. And he knows when I’m sick, and he licks my face, and his toes look like little cannellini beans. Also, he does interpretive dance to Wiz Khalifa’s greatest hits.* Etcetera etcetera ad infinitum.
Yet if we crawl outside our own gooey, grateful hearts and listen to ourselves, how special are those specialties (with the possible exception of the last one)? Do they really make our cats so unique? Are they the only cats who do those deliciously, ridiculously marvelous things?
Are they really that…well…special?
Consider Meatball, one of Tabby’s Place’s newest residents. With apologies to Adam, Meatball has become the foremost affection hound of Suite C. Squeak the door open, and a cloud of crazy black-and-white will tumble towards you, enthusiasm turned up to 95%. Enter the room and you’ll get the other 5%, as Meatball smothers you with affection grander and gooier than an extra cheese pizza. Our romeo dodged death by diabetes and despair in a shelter, but he’s forgotten all that in the interest of emulating Fabio. Meatball wants to love you as your one-and-only spicy soulmate.
If ever a cat radiated spectacular specialness, it was Meatball.
Consider this. He’s diabetic, but so are Fiona and Wilford Brimley. He’s got a wonderfully wild shock of hair, but so do Deanna and Robert Pattinson. He acts as though he’s just imbibed a gallon of Love Potion #9, but so do Hobbes and Bill Clinton. He may introduce himself to you by saying, “You can call me ‘Meat,'” but so would Meat Loaf.
None of his specialties are all that special, taken singly and scientifically.
But being special isn’t really a matter of scrutiny and analysis and double-entry spreadsheets. If it were, we’d all be in danger of fading into the boring background like the human equivalent of unflavored flan.** In our quiet, honest moments, we’ve all nursed these fears.
You know the feeling. One day you’re bouncing along in your Beetle, singing along to public radio and feeling massively cutting-edge because you like <insert Obscure Hipster Band here>, and you get Obscure Hipster Band, and most peons have never even heard of OHB. Then you go home and turn on the TV…and OHB is entertaining the masses on the Today Show and shilling for adult undergarments.*** Your Obscure Hipster Band. How special are you now?
Or maybe you pride yourself on riding your unicycle. This is not an activity in which most other humans outside of circus employment engage, and so you feel secure in this beachhead of specialness. Then a troupe of unicycle-riding cool kids with shinier hair than you moves into town, and then everyone is riding unicycles. Everyone. All the people. And suddenly you’re just another someone.
I’ll never forget the moment in high school when my very best friend, a Drew Carey lookalike we’ll call Clod, waxed philosophical and pierced my heart in a single sentence: “You know, it’s good to have a lot of friends, Flangela. I think of you and Flavian and Fillmore as pretty much interchangeable in my life.”
Fourteen-year-old boys are rarely a reliable source of soul-peace. Still, Clod put into words the fear that dogs us all…that, for all our dancing high upon our toes, we are unspecial. Repeatable. Interchangeable. Just one more cannellini bean in the can.
We — felines and cats and capybaras — are never the only ones to do what we do, at first blush. The props upholding our identities are too wobbly to hold us. But there’s something in us, stubborn and wild, that refuses to accept that we are ordinary.
Our wildness rebels rightly. And, as always, the cats instinctively get it…and remind us.
When you visit Meatball, he will not evaluate you in the light of other humans. You will not see the spreadsheet churning in his head: Let’s see, this one pets me with her left hand first and calls me Meat-a-Ball. That’s like 30% of other humans, while 22% call me Mr. Meat. No. You will simply receive a reaction, baldly overjoyed, that sings: YOU! ARE HERE! IT’S YOU! YOU! I LOVE YOU! YOU ARE YOU AND YOU ARE HERE FOR ME!
Our traits and our tales may look common on paper, but someone calls them splendorous. Your every turn, your every prayer, your every purr and tummy-rub, is celebrated and bound up in a story that is yours alone. The things that you think make you quirky may be a breath away from banal, but your fire and your soul are unrepeatable. Only you can do what you do in your particular key. We may try to pin down our worth like so many lifeless butterflies in a shadowbox, but the thing about your essence and Meatball’s and mine is that it soars.
Meatball may bear much in common with others, but he is a one-of-a-kind piece from his Creator. Our job is to love him as only we can do….Obscure Hipster Soundtrack optional.
*If you have a cat who actually does this, please contact me immediately, if not sooner.
**Which would be an outstanding name for a band.
***Please don’t break my heart, Shovels and Rope. But if you must, at least make Matt Lauer dance like a great big doofus.