Here’s a pleasant thought: you are older than you’ve ever been.
And now you’re even older.*
Two factors have me angsting about age this week:
- The Rio Olympics are afoot.
- We are in the gooey glorious heart of Kitten Season.
It was another Olympics that first made me realize that I was already too old for something. I couldn’t have been more than fourteen, but watching tiny superhumans defy gravity on uneven bars, it occurred to me, At this point, it’s too late for me to become an elite gymnast.
I was OK with that.
But it’s one thing to reckon with forks untaken when you’re fourteen, and another when you’re thirty-five or fifty or ninety-nine. Even the most relentlessly positive among us sometimes hear those ugly voices saying you misssssssssed your chaaaaaaaaance! (We also hear Bob Costa’s voice saying helpful things like, “Isn’t it inspiring that, at age 37, that volleyball player can still jump?” Yes, Bob, she must have taken extra Geritol this morning.)
It’s no coincidence that those voices stink of sulfur and crawl on their bellies.
It’s also no coincidence that cats don’t hear those voices. Ever.
Kitten Season means many things: cuteness and squealing and humans spontaneously combusting into piles of glitter from joy overload. (It’s an honorable way to go.) But one of the things Kitten Season brings is pandemic blindness to older cats.
Over and over and over again, we see it: the nicest person/couple/nomadic horde will walk into Tabby’s Place, fully intending to adopt an adult cat. They’ll meet a full crew team of adult cats, love many of them, almost choose their choice…
…and then they’ll glance in the direction of Adoption Room #2.
And just like that, it’s over.
I don’t blame the adopters. In another lifetime, I’d surely have been just as vulnerable to kittenosis. And certainly, our wee perfect puffballs need homes just as much as their elders.
I just feel for the adult cats.
Fortunately, they don’t feel for themselves…at all.
Melodramatic anthropomorphism to the contrary, cats do not pine for their missed chances. Just this summer, I brought a delightful pack of people, seeking a “middle-aged cat,” into Suite C. Chianti made his best-ever pitch: rubbing, rolling, jiggling that bountiful belly like he was born to be bootylicious. He did not nip; he did not hide; he did not hiss at other cats; he did nothing but exude perfect sweetness.
They were, as you would be, smitten. They started picturing him on their furniture, on their laps, in their forevers. Talk was talked of extra-large litter boxes to be bought and new names to be bestowed. Chianti was all splendor-eyed, undoubtedly aware that he was unquestionably adored.
But as swiftly as it began, it was all over. One person in the pack asked, “just for fun, do you guys happen to have any, you know, baby kittens?”
And we did.
And now they do.
After all that, Chianti did not stick the landing. In my head I heard Bob Costas again, “ahhh, the pommel horse, where many dreams have gone to die.”
Chianti was pommelled, alright — by kittens.
Chianti, getting older, getting a little more ragged, missed another chance.
An hour later, I went back to console Chianti, only to be re-re-re-re-re-reminded that cats don’t do despair. He gave the same glorious lovefest-of-a-lifetime to me, making it clear he does such things without expectation.
Chianti’s ship? Still out there.
Chianti’s chances at happiness? Still 100%.
Chianti’s age? Exactly right for exactly this juncture in his exactly-on-time life.
Or how about Kaycee, that perfectly beautiful, perfectly petrified specimen in Suite Special (Emotional) Needs? When she was a kitten herself, all eyes were on her. But she was the kitten left standing when the music stopped; the shyest of her summer, she was skipped for little socialites. Now Kaycee’s out of kittenhood, still shy…too late?
Not a chance.
Just last week, I received an email from a couple who has been watching Kaycee from afar for six months. They knew she was shy; they knew she was a grown girl; they knew they couldn’t forget her face.
They don’t know if they’re ready yet. But they know that when they are, if Kaycee can wait for them, Kaycee will be their one. The girl’s still got it.
And so, amici of all ages, do you. It’s not too late for us. If you want to, you can still excel at jai alai, or 19th century Russian Literature, or Battleship, even if you have to lead the Old Decrepit Division (ODD).
You can even still become an elite gymnast.
You’re readier than you’ve ever been. And now you’re even readier.
*And if you know where that’s from, I love you and we should immediately be best friends, if we aren’t already.