Many people would benefit from your freaking out right now.
The cats are not among those people.
There’s no denying that we live in frayed days. Every era has its catastrophes and convulsions, but 2016 has seemed particularly fragile, fractious and mean. From an excruciating election, to torment and tear gas in the streets, to the end of Brangelina, it may feel like the foundations are crumbling. What can we do?
Seek higher ground, that’s what.
In the case of cats, that’s advice to be taken literally.
The Tabby’s Place cats had their own soul-rattling recently, courtesy of our least favorite fungus. One of Mario‘s final foes was a stealthy case of ringworm. Where ringworm appears, a bleach bonanza must follow. Since Mario was a Community Cat who made full use of our open-door policy, this meant a down-to-the-grout cleaning of both the Lobby and the Community Room.
Scorched earth. Cascades of Clorox. All Community Cats out.
For two solid hours, every last Community Cat was confined to a crate. While staff and volunteers bleached their way to anti-fungal glory, our Lobby and Community Room residents were forced to wait.
As you may recall, the cats chosen to live in these areas fall into one or more of three categories: frail, fractious or fixin’ to diiiiiiiie. This meant that our most fragile (e.g. Lars, Tinkerbell, Lucille) and our most imperious (e.g. Jackie, Sally, Ella) were whacked out of their element for two full hours. I’m quite certain that several of them contacted Amnesty International from their crates to report us for war crimes.
But the most terrible tumult hadn’t even begun.
No sooner had we returned the cats to their kingdom than they collectively, simultaneously made a catastrophic discovery.
It was worse than waking up on November 9th to hear that <Insert Your Feared Candidate Here> won.
It was worse than walking out your front door to find that the ice cream man was holding the entire town hostage.
It was worse than a global shortage of La Croix hipster seltzer.
It was worse than finding out that Mumford and Sons were breaking up forever. (OK, now I’m just being ridiculous.)
It was this: all the cat trees were gone.
Not so much as a stump remained. No carpeted castle was left standing. Even that awkward taco-shaped apparatus that nobody ever used would look awfully cozy right now…but it was gone.
The trees would not survive the bleach, and so the trees went the way of Crystal Pepsi and David Spade’s career.
The cats’ response was swift.
Hildegarde‘s eyes grew satellite-large as she sat, mewing, mid-Community Room. “I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees!” she cried.
Toya minced through the Lobby with dainty terror, unable to disappear, all tortie-camo-cool, into a hidey hole…for no hidey holes remained.
A few wise creatures made the best of the nightmare. Bereft of trees, Angel accepted the couch. Snoozing just inches from Boots, she was willing to be the change she wanted to see in the world. Peace was possible.
But as with humans, so with cats, a few let fear turn to anger, and anger to rage.
With her sanity-saving vertical spaces gone, Ella flew into a frenzy. No trees? No problem! This just meant Bucca had to die.
Sally stopped sleeping entirely, devoting every one of her 890,000 pounds to unleashing all the powers of hell on all the creatures of earth.
We tried to reassure them. But once fear takes the reins, we’re off to the races on the four actual horsemen of the actual Apocalypse. There was screaming. There was fur-pulling. There were triple-black-belt beatdowns.
And then — o mirabile dictu! — Crystal Pepsi came back. David Spade came back.
The trees grew back.
Which is to say, we heaved them all into the ringworm abyss and bought new ones, better ones, glorious ones that made the cats dance on the graves of their bleach-slain predecessors. These trees were a rich mahogany, all plush and posh and tall enough to hold five cats each.
Toya hidey-holed. Hildegarde ascended. Ella vaulted up and down and up and down with delight. Bucca was permitted to live. Sally returned to her default state of only 83% evil.
Calm and common ground were restored, thanks to the return of higher ground. Fear and wrath were never necessary after all.
But let’s not be too hard on the cats for overreacting; don’t we do the same? We hear bad news; we get scared; and we scramble to feel safe any way we can.
Fearful beings are more likely to blame and scapegoat. Fearful creatures cling to easy answers and point to other creatures’ issues. Good heavens, fearful beasts like us are even more likely to shop. (True fact. They’ve found shown that, after viewing upsetting news stories, people are far likelier to respond to advertising. “Me scared. Me buy Dustbuster. World under control again.” As I said; there are people who would benefit from your fear.)
But if we can see the trees over the ridge, we need not wear the fear.
So let’s stitch each other back together in these threadbare times. The good that’s gone to the dumpster will be restored, renewed, made mahogany-rich. The bad that remains won’t always be the tallest truth in the neighborhood.
The wisest and best among us will be Angel-like, making peace in the meantime. Even before all is made right, we’ll know the good and grow the good. We’ll sleep next to Boots. We’ll be grateful for the mercy that thrives. And there are so many splendors even in a scorched-earth season: Ron the kitten, and Kid President, and the new Avett Brothers album, and Tiny Toast, and you, and me, and us.
There is so much good, kittens. So keep looking up until there’s ground beneath your feet. Greater heights await us all — together.