There comes a time, in the life of every cat tree, when the time has come.
The time…when time is up.
Until NASA invents a space-age vomit repellant, no cat tree at Tabby’s Place is immortal. The cat tree in our Lobby has taken a special beating from multiple incontinent paraplegics, a blind old man with a forgetful bladder, and a host of other rapscallions.
And so it came to pass, in the summer of the year 2013, that the Lobby cat tree could bear no more.
We should have known, when we chopped it down took it to the dumpster, that the death of the Lobby tree would cause no small amount of consternation among the cats. There was itching. There was agitating. There was pacing (especially by the blind old man with the forgetful bladder).
There was real, bona fide grief.
By the cats’ lights, this was an event etched into history. A year from now, the cats will stand around the Lobby with candles, singing It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday. Ten years from now, newspapers will do special full-color inserts commemorating the Lobby tree. And a hundred years from now, guys with names like Eusebius will earn their PhDs with theses on why the death of the Lobby tree was so important. (True story: there are no fewer than two historians named Eusebius. Eusebius + Eusebius = Eusebii. Yes, I just said that.)
The morning of the tree’s removal, there was woe. Levi paced. Sabrina made her eyes bigger than her actual face and ran from all beings. Gunther‘s ears became feral. Tinkerbell walked low to the ground like she was suddenly back in ‘Nam.
The cats who’d loved the tree were bereft. Even the cats who’d never seemed to notice the tree noticed its absence.
It was enough to make me want to pole-vault into the dumpster and pull that shredded, splattered tree out and restore it. What had we done?
Levi’s expression said it all. I’ll tell you what you’ve done. You’ve broken the universe, that’s what you’ve done.
He was right.
But a funny thing happened on the way to that afternoon. After about three hours of woe, cats started settling into a new reality. Tinkerbell discovered the striped donut bed on our merchandise table. Sabrina marveled at a triangular hidey-hole-cave. Levi was lured to a corner, with a lovingly-stacked set of blankets that patched the universe back together.
Woe to wonder. Chaos to peace. Grief to ZZZs.
An amazing recovery, really. Consider: for a long line of yesterdays, the Lobby cats needed their tree. The tree was comfort. Constancy. And a good place to snooze if you’re reassured by the scent of your own odors and vapors. (“Ahhhh, I’ve peed here before.”)
And then it was gone.
If you’d told Levi or Sabrina last week that, in a few days, you’d be removing their tree, they would not have understood. Remove it? Why? Humans do a lot of dumb things, but…?
They wouldn’t have understood, and they wouldn’t have been ready. A whole week of dread would have enveloped the lobby as the cats were forced to deal with a woe that wasn’t happening yet.
But cats don’t pre-suffer their problems– one of their many advantages over our bumbling species. When the time came, they dealt. On the day of reckoning, they had the grace they needed to deal.
Once again, we’d be wise to be a little more feline ourselves. How we twist and turn and itch and agitate over the trouble we’re not experiencing yet. What will happen if I lose my job and don’t have the money for glitter? What if I don’t find a husband before I get so old that all my hair and teeth and toenails fall out? What if I fail to cement my legacy of awesome?
What if we just…trust?
Maybe our tree will end up in the dumpster next week. Maybe our toenails will fall out.
Then again, maybe a tree of life will spring up where we thought we had nothing. Maybe our hair will grow in as white as magical snow. Maybe our dream man doesn’t like toenails anyway. Maybe…the best is yet to come.
Dare we believe that we’ll have the grace to thrive through it all when we need it — not too early, not too late, but right on time?
Dare with me, dreamers. Two out of two Eusebii agree: the cats will lead us to deep contentment yet again.