I recently acquired a cat. Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (aka Barnaby) came to live with me several weeks ago after a brief sojourn at the local humane society. {By the way, Barnaby was previously known as Egypt, but really . . . Egypt? No way!}

He looked perfectly normal-sized to me (a life-long dog lover), but the ladies at the humane society referred to him as “large”. So when I took him to the vet for his “adoptee check-up” and Kelly, the delightful vet-tech, immediately commented on Barnaby’s size, I wasn’t completely surprised. But when he dropped the f-word a few times, I was a bit taken back. I mean, my cat may be a big guy, but fat

Kelly had me place Barnaby on the scale, where he dutifully sat just long enough for his weight to register on the screen. The number displayed meant nothing more than that number to me until Kelly put it into perspective. But perhaps after seeing my winces earlier, he didn’t drop the f-bomb again.

“Barnaby is . . . well, he’s plush. He’s not quite obese. But he’s . . . plush.” Barnaby wasn’t at all offended. He continued to nonchalantly gaze out the window from his seat atop a carpet-covered cat condo. I, on the other hand, was concerned. Plush-on-the-verge-of-obese isn’t healthy. Not for humans and not for animals. 

Kelly explained, and a few minutes later the vet confirmed, a few things about plush cats and we came up with an action plan. I think there are some important life lessons in this experience and in Barnaby’s action plan.

1. Words matter. Yes, the f-word may have been accurate, but plush is much less hurtful. Takeaway: I need to be more deliberate, more intentional, not only about what I say, but how I say it.

2. Knowledge is a good thing. Had I not taken Barnaby to the vet and learned about his plushness, its harmful consequences, and a plan for addressing it, he would likely have experienced serious health issues and, eventually, premature death. Takeaway: Educate myself on issues before taking action.

3. Shakespeare was at least sometimes right when he said (Romeo and Juliet), “Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.” Unlike dogs, in order for cats to lose weight safely, they must do it slowly. Slowly as in perhaps only 1 lb. a year!! Wow!! Takeaway: Don’t dilly-dally when faced with a task, but adopt a pace that allows for the job to be completed correctly and safely. 

But my biggest takeaway is the reminder that, like Barnaby, we’re all works in progress. It’s important when dealing with both ourselves and others that we balance accountability with grace & mercy.

[On a side note: as you consider the pictures included in this post, remember that everyone that has seen pictures of Barnaby and then seen him “in person” has commented on how the photos do not truly reflect his size. Time and again, people’s response to him is, “Wow, he’s a really big cat!” Some have even said, “He’s huge!”]