The Cat Tree Test: A Simple Hack for Relationships

Picture yourself trying to put an IKEA desk together. You’ve got the pieces out of the box, the interlocking screws scattered across the floor blending into the carpet, an L-shaped metal object that you think is named, Allen, and instructions that mix English and Swedish together like some linguistic soup. 

Stressful, right?

Now imagine yourself putting this desk together but with help from your ever-so-eager partner. 

The arguments unfold about what desk piece goes where, what letter set of screws gets put into the legs, the different interpretations of the directions, and god damnit, someone lost Allen!

Sound like a nightmare?

This heated battle of the builders is what I wanted to avoid like the plague when Kacey and I first started dating.

So when she asked me if I wanted to help her put a rather large cat tree together, boy was I a smidge nervous. I knew she was a wildly capable and independent woman, but she wanted me to help her build this feline jungle gym for, Nemo, her 25lb Maine Coon. 

This was it. Our first potential IKEA nightmare-fueled moment.

This moment of truth was what we later called The Cat Tree Test

The Cat Tree Test

Similar to building IKEA furniture, a cat tree has labeled pieces, an assortment of screws, and instructions that can sometimes look like theoretical algebra. 

Arriving at this real-world relationship test, Kacey and I went full steam ahead. We sat down on the living room floor, wielded our sharpest pair of scissors, and slashed open the box holding Nemo’s future cat tree haven.

I immediately reached for the instructions. 

Now contrary to your stereotypical man, being that most operate on the fuck it, I’ll slap this thing together with a little elbow grease and some duct tape, I’m the complete opposite. 

I’ll read the directions front to back giving myself a quick and dirty education on what’s about to be built. Now, normally, I’m a jump-off-a-cliff with no parachute kind of guy. But for some reason, instructions just speak to me, begging me to read them.

Kacey, on the other hand, was already getting her hands dirty, diving head first, and separating the pieces and screws in a very organized fashion.

While I’m paralyzed from overanalyzing the instructions on how to build the perfect cat tree, Kacey was already starting the assembly. More or less nudging me to get my head out of my ass and start helping. 

This process worked like a well-oiled machine. 

We each grabbed a platform and started screwing in the correct posts. A goes to B, B goes to C, and so on.

About halfway through this methodical and alphabetized process of our jungle gym project, we had a problem. My heart dropped.

A scratching post, one of the pieces that I had religiously been double-checking, was screwed into the wrong platform. By none other than myself.

I had failed. Not only had I failed my ABCs, but I had also failed Kacey.

I braced my body for that IKEA moment of nightmares that I feared was going to strike me down where I sat.

But it never happened. There was no argument, no heated exchange of words. Not even a long sigh of annoyance.

We both just went into problem-solving mode and worked together to find the elusive post that brought on my failure.

We took apart the platform, screwed the correct post in, and finished the rest of the cat tree with ease. 

The Not So Purrrfect Result

Taking a step back, we put our arms around each other and stood there admiring what we had built. It wasn’t quite Rome, but this was the start.

We called Nemo over to come and see his new jungle gym paradise. 

Our jaws dropped. 

Nemo pitter-pattered on over and he legitimately looked like a hairy, less scaly version, of Godzilla compared to this cat tree.

A beige colored kitten sized cat tree
Looking at this picture, you’d think it would fit an adult-sized cat.

Son of a bitch.

Although the cat tree was a failure in being Nemo’s new casa del gato, it was ultimately still a success. This moment showed Kacey and me a number of things that we could do together:

  • Communicate
  • Problem-solve
  • Laugh at our mistakes
  • Buy and assemble some new IKEA furniture

These were all traits we both were searching for in a relationship. Through the now infamous Cat Tree Test, we happily found them. I mean, being able to buy and assemble new IKEA furniture was never something we were inherently shooting for. A welcome bonus nonetheless.

What is your version of the Cat Tree Test?

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