2016 was a doer of some dastardly deeds. The New Year is still nearly formless and void.
But a very good spirit is hovering over the waters here.
It is the spirit…of birthday cake.
Cats are not accustomed to inconveniencing themselves. Conveniently for us, they are always open to a birthday party. This is kind of them, really. Otherwise, we’d run the risk of hurting their feelings by feting them all on January 1st.
But since they’re all a little mad here, every unbirthday is welcome to become a birthday at Tabby’s Place. And so it happens that, as each new year is born, every single one of our cats celebrates his or her birthday.
It is, of course, entirely possible that every single one of our cats was genuinely born on January 1st. It is also possible that Elvis and Tupac are alive and well and playing canasta in Albuquerque.
So, for the sake of human simplicity, January becomes the biggest month-long birthday bonanza in all the land.
As we party hearty, let’s take a moment to moon over those marvels who are another year older…and perhaps an awful lot older than you may have thought:
Ali: The shy, saucer-eyed snowball of Adoption Room #3 is presently the oldest cat at Tabby’s Place. At eighteen, she’s the last of our residents born in the last millennium. Ali may seem serious and circumspect, but that’s just her Gen-X angst oozing out around the edges. Ali listens to Pearl Jam and pulls her flannel shirt up over her head when she’s feeling too many feelings, then rises again to dance to Blind Melon and read back issues of Sassy. She pretends and postures that she can teach these youthful millennials — which, in her suite, means the likes of Henrietta and Impy — a thing or two about how much reality bites. But the truth is, it doesn’t, at all, and neither does Ali. A lot has gone down since 1998, but it’s only gotten better for our eighteen-year-old.
Bacon: At the other age extreme of Adoption Room #3 is Bacon. He may look ragged and funny, but our seizure survivor is only three years old. At least, that’s the excuse he’s using for his juvenile behavior with his neighbors. By “juvenile,” I mean “juvenile delinquent” — or, more to the point, “juvenile detention center.” Once a weary, beleaguered boy, Bacon is feeling fabulously these days, and beating the blubber out of his dinosaur neighbors.
Bucca (pictured in thumbnail, as first among equals): Scratch that. I did not, most decidedly did not, mean that cats over age 15 are dinosaurs. They are divine. They are delightful. They are everything we collectively aspire to be. At least, they are that and more insofar as they emulate one Bucca Rosenberg. Yes, kittens, her gloriousness is sixteen, going on seventeen. Bucca scales the file cabinets like an airborne ballerina, poetry in motion to the soundtrack of Bea Arthur meows. If this is sixteen, sixteen is everything.
Cypress: The question mark in Cypress’ crooked tail has always asked many questions, but the most burning one this year is this: when did Cypress hit the big 1-2? You shall be pardoned if, like many of us, you still think of Cypress as a sweet young thing. “Mature” though she may be, Cy is young in at least one way. When it comes to accepting human affection, Cypress is brand new. It’s only been the past year or so that we — all of us, all humans, all the time — have been able to touch and rub and regale Cypress with love. Somewhere, her long-since-adopted kittens are shouting, “see, Mom? We toldja they was nice!”
Jingles: Thirteen was not my personal favorite year of life. Perhaps you’d just as soon forget it, too. Jingles may be spared the indignities of eighth-grade politics, but he’s as bashful as anyone in the heart of “the awkward phase.” Jingles seems to think nobody wants to party with him at the dinner dance. Jingles isn’t yet sure how to inhabit his all-growed-up big body. Jingles is shy and dorky…and perfect precisely the way he is. And, with the adolescent-boy bravado that even the biggest geeks retain, Jingles will work up his courage, again and again and again, to ask you, “Do you like me? Yes/Maybe/No – Circle One”. Which is to say, he will load all his hopes and heft into your lap for all the love he craves.
Mary: Now she is six. This works out to somewhere in the neighborhood of forty in human years, but Mary would just as soon stay in kindergarten. A shag carpet of a cat with one less tail but one hundred times more personality than the average creature, Mary is the living embodiment of the word “romp.” She would have been adopted approximately 40,000 times by now if not for her inability to control what comes out of her rump, and when and where, but that’s no concern of hers. Fun is calling.
Sherbet: There is no universe in which a cat of thirteen can be considered “young.” But that’s the only word that comes to mind when you realize Sherbet is “only” thirteen.
Nineteen or twenty would be credible for this weathered face and weary golden body. Perhaps it’s his years on the streets; maybe it’s just the rapid-speed aging that occurs when one must
live with serve as vassal to Piper. Either way, Sherbet has learned the secret of contentment, and there’s no stress shaking his craggy face.
Trey: The Tabby’s Place lobby has exactly one young cat, and Trey isn’t her. But springing between pillars like Angel (~14) and new old soul Mimi (~140), Trey seems positively sprightly. There’s no less elastic in his legs due to that annoying bandage. If anything, his many months back in our Hospital, spent being wrapped and treated and washed and worried over for outrageous injuries earned outdoors, have only made him more kinetic now that he’s free.
And so the birthday party spins on. We may all be a little less new than we once were, but the year and the day and the hope are all fresh. Let’s go in the grace of cats young and old, kittens. This is our time, and we are in the very best of company.