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.
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.