At 13 years old, my gray tabby, Bubba Lee Kinsey, is well into his senior years. In human birthdays, he’d be 68, making him roughly the same age as my parents. Fortunately, Bubba is aging gracefully -ÔÇô I might be biased, but he’s about the most stunning silver senior I’ve ever seen. He also approaches life with the curiosity, enthusiasm, and occasional recklessness of a cat half his age — and he can show me a thing or two about how to embrace getting older. Here are five things Bubba has taught me about aging gracefully and looking good while doing it.
When it comes to table scraps, I have spoiled my cat. For years, it was just me and Bubba Lee Kinsey, so I shared everything with him. If I was eating a granola bar, he got a bite. He always licked the milk from my cereal bowls. I even made the mistake of introducing him to Twizzlers, which are pretty much his favorite candy. The one thing that was missing from our shared meals: meat. For a long time I was a vegetarian, meaning the closest Bubba got to eating animal flesh was vegan "chicken" strips.
But I recently moved in with my boyfriend, an obligate carnivore, and he introduced Bubba Lee Kinsey to bacon. BUBBA. LOVES. BACON. He instantly devours any crispy pig strip that is tossed his way ÔÇô- and he protects these morsels with a ferocity I’ve never seen. He actually hissed at Phoenix and swatted at her face when she tried to steal his treat. I’m trying to approach my goals the way Bubba approaches bacon: with fearless, passionate, single-minded intensity.
Now that I’m in my 30s, I’ve started purchasing products with words like "restore," "rejuvenate," and "defy" on the package. I have three different kinds of eye cream. I worry about getting enough sleep not only because I’ll be tired the next day, but also because I’ll resemble a “Walking Dead” extra if I don’t.
Then there’s Bubba Lee Kinsey, who looks as youthful and radiant as most young cats. His eyes are bright and clear, and his coat shines. His secret? Several times a day, he washes his face with his own saliva smeared on the back of his hand — er, paw. I’m starting to think he might be on to something.
The other day I watched Bubba Lee Kinsey attempt to jump from the floor to the couch. This is a routine procedure, a jump he has completed successfully thousands of times. Unfortunately, Bubba is not as spry as he used to be, and sometimes his ambitions exceed his ability. Let’s just say he miscalculated the distance, and instead of lounging on the couch, he ended up sprawling on the floor.
And how did he handle it? Did he dwell on his misfortune, lament the plight of the aged, and wallow in self-pity? Did he point fingers of blame at humans for making the couch so tall? Hell no! He shrugged it off with the twitch of an ear and the flick of a tail and stalked into the kitchen, as if to say, "I meant to do that."
For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety. My brain, an epic dick and notorious rabble rouser, will take a single worrisome or unpleasant thought and turn it over and over for hours, exploring every miserable facet or less-than-desirable outcome. Soon these mildly unsettling thoughts become as multilayered and endless as those giant jawbreakers. At this point, I’m often deeply unhappy, and I just want to feel different.
Bubba Lee Kinsey, it seems, has found a simple three-step solution to this dilemma: 1) Locate sun puddle. 2) Curl up in sun puddle and fall asleep. 3) Don’t move until tomorrow. After luxuriously napping for 18 hours straight, I’m almost guaranteed to wake up with a slightly different outlook, or at the very least a crick in my neck that will give me something entirely new and interesting to worry about.
After we moved, watching Bubba successfully navigate the new house in less than a day was weirdly inspiring. He sniffed out new corners. He jumped on unfamiliar countertops. He located a pair of shoes he’d never seen, then quickly and thoroughly rubbed his face all over them. (In addition to being brave, Bubba is also gross.)
Following Bubba’s example, I shouldn’t hesitate to do scary things like go to grad school, teach workout classes, play sports, and tell people I love them. As Bubba demonstrates every day when he strides through the new, unfamiliar cat door in the kitchen, taking risks builds confidence, which leads to growth.
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About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.