Sunday, February 17, 2008

team gato and the great outdoors

For weeks, it went like this:

A few minutes before I leave for work, I pick a cat—OC or T-Mec—and hold the front door open a crack so he or she can get out without letting the other out.

Chosen cat says, “Outdoors! Awesome! I’ve been hearing about this place.” Sniffs patch of weeds under outside stairs for approximately two minutes.

Puts paws up on wrought iron fence separating yard from yard next door and says, “Hey, doesn’t Ferdinand usually leap through this fence and have all sorts of adventures?”

I say, “Yes, but Ferdinand is much skinnier than you and has been going outside for years. I realize these things may be related, and that’s part of the reason I’m letting you go outside. But my worrywart heart can’t make the leap all at once.”

Cat slinks around the backyard, admiring such sights as:

  • plastic tarps shielding our weirdly banked house from the rain
  • unopened can of Tsingtao
  • decomposing lemons from the next door neighbor’s tree
  • upstairs neighbor’s front porch, which means I have to climb up their stairs to retrieve cat, feeling creepy.

I pick up annoyed cat and carry him/her inside, as cat squirms and yells, “Put me down, lady! Let me have some dignity already!”


Last Monday, it went like this:

As soon as I wake up, I let both OC and T-Mec outside.

I close the door and stay inside.

I open the door obsessively every three minutes to see if they’re ready to come in yet.

After 15 excruciating minutes, OC is ready to come in. “It was nice out there,” he says, trying to look cool instead of slightly rattled by his brush with independence. “But, um, I have a lot of stuff to get done inside today. Like that armchair. It doesn’t have nearly enough orange hair on it.”

I force myself to eat a bowl of cereal and banish mental images of T-Mec confronting large, fast trucks.

After 37 minutes, T-Mec is ready to come in. “I’m back for now,” she says, “but you’ll be waiting by the door to let me out again in five minutes, right?”

I skip into the bedroom, where AK is still sleeping. For weeks, I’ve felt like a control freak and an impatient meanie. My interactions with my cats have been vivid tableaus of all my worst traits. But now I shout, “Baby, I did it! I loved something and I set it free! And it came back to me!”

So does this mean they’re mine to keep? In a more convenient world, yes. In this world, there are big, fast trucks and stray cats and dogs and so many differing ideas about what constitutes acceptable risk.

But there is also MaxCat Gourmet Classics in Oceanfish Formula, and if all else fails, that will bring a loved one home.


Claire said...

Did AK say the next step was to love something and let it sleep? ;)

I had a roommate with indoor cats years ago. They were always trying to get out, and when they managed it, they just hunkered down on the welcome mat.

jenny said...

Cats are all talk. I used to have a cat that would cry and cry and cry to get out, and then just sit underneath our pine tree for hours.

My cats don't have enough street smarts to go outside, although they would totally look cute wearing newsboy caps and leaning up against a garbage can. Maybe they can play dice with your cats sometime?

Cheryl said...

C: As a matter of fact, AK did say that. How did you guess?

J: I'm a firm believer that everyone looks better in a newsboy cap, especially Christian Bale.

Team Gato is down for a game of dice next time they're in the Chicago area, which they plan to conquer as soon as they've mastered the yard next door.

Jesi said...

my kitties are indoor/outdoor kitties but i didn't do that by choice. they grew up outdoors, because they had been dumped. so i think they have a special relationship with the great outdoors. when i first let camille out i followed her around like a worried mother and she would look back at me and hiss and growl, as if saying please mom go away, i'm a big girl.

now i feel pretty good that my girls will be safe. they aren't allowed to stay out all night though. and there is a chance something could happen, and i know i will be incredibly sad and people will say i told you so, etc. but i feel at least they got to do what they wanted and were happy.

Claire said...

Great minds that love sleep think alike.

Jamie said...

They are already looking so outdoorsy, especially T-Mec with her bumbershoot.

Cheryl said...

Jesi: That's my thinking too. And how could you not let your cats outside? You live in the feline Melrose place!

Jamie: So a bumbershoot is an umbrella? I had no idea. It makes a good name for a Seattle festival....

jesirose said...

...Another Jesi? I've never found one must email me.