Tabby’s Place is a cat sanctuary.
It is our mission to rescue cats from hopeless situations.
We care for them. We nurture them. We are providing a service for them.
But let’s not kid ourselves about who’s really helping who.
This came up recently as I watched Jane changing Olive‘s diaper. This is a twice-daily task that would terrify your average Viking. At the first sign of diaper duty, Olive goes from “sweet sprite” to “roaring rabid rage-beast.” But I don’t need to tell you that; whether you’re reading this from Ringoes, NJ or Rabat, Morocco, you hear Olive’s protests.
We assume, dunderheads that we are, that Olive rages because she’s uncomfortable. Surely she makes those call-the-exorcist screams out of itchiness or pain.
But after Jane overcame Olive’s wails to diaper that diva, it occurred to me: maybe Olive is simply offended. And why? Not because she has any human sort of decorum — cats are nothing if not shameless. No: Olive is aghast that we would dare to do such a stupid thing as put little pants on her when she’s here for our sake anyway.
Think about it. It’s as though you went in to give a free acoustic guitar performance to a room full of music-deprived toddlers…and they started throwing blocks at you!
Or you picked up your Uber fare…and he started painting the inside of your car!
Yes, perhaps Olive is right to be offended. She’s definitely right that she is the benefactor here, and we the uber-lucky beneficiaries of her largesse. She is here to entertain, adore and most importantly educate us about all that is Good and Right. (Good: Cats without little pants. Right: Cats not being forced to wear little pants.)
This is just as true of every cat in “our care.” Sure, we can console ourselves with the idea that we’re the Wonderful People doing Good Things by feeding these poor, pitiful creatures. The cats are big enough to let us have that fantasy.
Nice human, sighs imperious Abby as we coo and cradle her. Oh yes, tell me I’m pretty, you are too kind. Yes, yes. It takes all of her imperial energy not to roll her tiny blue eyes and hang her Muppety head as we make much of our own mercies.
But, just like the good mom who lets her five-year-old believe she’s “helping” by making breakfast, waiting to sweep up the 10,000 escaped Cheerios ’til the little one’s not looking, Abby lets us believe we’re the bless-ers in this exchange. My stars, the cat even lets me call her Abby The Mop, in public, without judgment. Candidate for sainthood, much?
Or what about Macaroon, that Mt. Rushmore-sized block of black fur who loves to get down with her bad self? If you want to feel like a Fabulous Human in one easy step, bring Mac her meal at 4pm. Our largest cat will give you the full Mac Attack, all obese excitement and lumbering love. You wouldn’t get a giddier greeting if you were Santa Claus, Jimmy Fallon and the President on a three-man bobsled.
You’ve just made one twenty-three-pound cat’s day.
But you know and I know: really, she’s just made yours.
So keep serving those cats, amici. And go on feeling good about it — I do, too. Let’s just remember: we’re really the receivers here.
And we wouldn’t have it any other way.