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Cats have tipping points, too, especially when it comes to the care of their owners. I found this out last weekend when I faced my own “tipping point” or, perhaps better described as a total melt down. I was doing that thankless job — well I guess the cats thank me in their way — of cleaning out the litter. Not the mere scooping-the-poop, but the whole shebang of throwing out the whole mess, washing the box, putting down clean newspapers — they now, thanks to Margaret, get the New York Times to peruse while they do their business — and sweeping all those little bits that get carried out of the box and all over the upstairs floor. (I draw the line at vacuuming the stairs where I’m sure there’s probably 40 pounds of the stuff nestled in the carpet.)

So, there I was, doing my cat-ownership duty. I had swept the floors, laid down clean newspapers, then, when it came time to dump the old to make room for the new, I realized that the bag I had wasn’t big enough. So I dumped the whole thing in a box because I knew I had the almost-empty litter bag waiting. Smart thinking, eh? I washed the box, and added the new litter, freeing up that big bag. I fitted the bag over the mouth of the box so I could just upturn it and then, easy-schmeazy, all that stinky litter would just go into the bag, no mess. Except, the bag slipped and the whole pile of smelly litter landed on the just-swept floor. It was a good thing my sister, Mary, wasn’t around, because I used her-most-hated-word a lot. “F…, F…,  F…, F…,” I shouted. The cats came upstairs to see what was the fuss, looked at me and decided it was not a good idea to hang around any longer. There was nothing to be done, but sweep the floor again, mop it, curse my fate and get on with things.

After I had everything tidy yet again, I decided to clean out the cupboard a little too. I saw the brush with the dryer lint clinging to it and thought, “I should throw that away.” I do get in these moods sometimes but you would have thought after the fiasco with the litter I would have left well enough alone. But, no, not this Capricorn girl, no siree, I had to tempt fate yet again. I took the brush removed the lint and as I put it back on the shelf, I must have tipped it somehow and the whole thing came tumbling down. Perfectly clean towels landed smack-dab-in-the-middle of the litter, a jug full of soap smashed down and broke into a hundred little pieces and the corner of the shelf punctured the new 40 pound bag of litter causing a little waterfall of litter to trickle down to the now clean floor. I had used all my curses up so there was nothing to do but cry, put the towels in the washing machine, fix the shelf and cancel my lunch date. There was no way I could face a friend because all I’d talk about was this.

Being the wise creatures they are, the cats stayed well away from me that afternoon since, I’m sure they thought, and they’d be right, that I blamed this on them for no other reason than that I’d never been in that predicament if their box didn’t need cleaning out. I also think they stayed clear because my outburst really, in all truth, was far beyond what the episode called for. When that happened, I realized how much stress, anger, anxiety, and sadness I’d been carrying around in my 70 year-old-body and that was not due to them or spilled litter. Most of that mess came from thinking about what’s happening south of the border and that, for sure, isn’t the cats’ fault.

But I think they have been more aware of my dark mood than even I was. I have moped around here for a month now, not talking to them about what’s bothering me but I think they knew something was up because every  time I listened to the news a black cloud would slip over my head for the rest of the day but, thankfully, not at meal times. But they haven’t said anything directly to me. Rose has been talking in her sleep a lot more so maybe that’s what she’s doing and Nick spends the entire day curled up like a little bundle under the afghan on the bed and won’t come out until his sister demands that he get the hell downstairs so she can eat supper. Cat tolerance has reigned.

The cracking point of their sympathy came when, after that horrible-terrible-cat littering day, I accepted the invitation of my friend, Merrill, to go and see Kedi, that delightful film about the cats in Istanbul and the folks who take care of them. It was when I came home and started talking about these super cats and how clever and independent they were. That was it. They started a duet of charges against me and a litany of all the patience and love they had shown me these past few weeks. Didn’t that count for anything? Was I ready to toss them back in that alley in Chinatown and hope someone took care of them so they, too, could become film stars? It was ugly. There was nothing to be done but go to the drawer and take out the Temptations and hope they forgave me — until the next time I messed up.