Tao of Kitty

Bougainvillea from Thanksgiving in Tucson. No need for autumnal tradition there.

Every day my cat Isabel waits for her chance to go outside. It’s her very favorite part of the day. She loves to stalk the birds, roll in the dirt sit in the sun. With these short days, she has to wait longer and longer to go out, because I won’t let her until the sun is high enough that there are unlikely to be coyotes hiding in the shadows.

Fifteen minutes ago, just after 7, three coyotes trotted by. Well after sunrise, but the shadows are still long. Isabel wanders into my office, mewing with charm, coaxing me to let her out.

Not yet.

Because it’s colder now, and sometimes blustery, she doesn’t stay out long. She’s spoilt with me working at home. Ten minutes after I let her out, she’s outside my office window, asking to come in. I don’t mind – it gets me out of my chair, after all. I’ve threatened to tweet every time I let her in and out, with cheerful encouragement to bring it on.

And they say Twitter has no real substance.

Every morning, though, Isabel seems to head out with supreme confidence and joy. Sometimes a cold gust will hit her and she’ll crouch down, flattening her ears. Other mornings are still and she’ll venture out with tail high, but come in sooner to warm up.

I wonder what she understands of the seasons. Does she have a sense that we’re just heading into winter and that there will be a long cycle of cold before her hot summer days return? Perhaps every day is new and immediate for her. She could be expecting to walk into flowers and heat any day now.

It’s likely more that she has no expectations. If animals live in the moment, then things are what they are. Yet, I know she misses us when we’re gone and she remembers good hunting spots. I watch her making the rounds of places she’s caught mice and gophers in the past. From the moment the alarm goes off, she’s prancing around, excited to start her day. I believe she understands past and future.

Some people say you should never let cats outside at all. That if you never do, they can’t miss what they’ve never experienced. I’m not sure I believe this. The world is the natural habitat for all of us. We retreat to shelter, for warmth, for safety, but that’s not where any of us belongs, cloistered for our entire lives.

So, I wait for the sun to get bright enough – not yet, and it’s almost eight now – and I watch her go embrace the world for what it is.

I try to do the same.

3 Replies to “Tao of Kitty”

  1. When we adopted cats from the shelter, we had to swear on our lives we'd never let them out. We kept that promise, but it always made part of me sad. Made me feel like their lives became all about what they were for me (an object of affection) rather than what they were intrinsically–beautiful animals, connected to the earth in their own way. I still haven't quite come to terms with it.

  2. We rescued a cat last year and after spending nearly a $1000 on getting her back in good health, I refuse to let her outside. She has gotten out on her own a couple of times, only so far as our closed-in porch and each time she looks around like "Holy crap, it's a lot bigger than it looks!" So she runs back inside.

    My old cat knows the seasons. She waits with anticipation for the birds to nest because every year without fail, they come for her. And she makes sure they meet their furry doom.

  3. Linda – you put that very well. Yes, I think that keeping the cats in serves my desire to keep them safe, for my emotional well-being, while getting to go outside is what gives them a rich and full life.

    That's a great story, Danica. I think our cats know the seasons, too. It would be interesting to try to test this theory…

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