Let me tell you about our indoor cat.
We have a cat. We keep her captive and refer to her as our ‘indoor cat.’ Indoors, she is confident yet aloof. That is, until the front-door opens – then you see her become curious yet unsure and timid, even fearful. She becomes overwhelmed by the foreign sights, the intensity of the sounds and the variety of scents that bombard her at once. One evening, our cat must have scurried out while we had the front-door open (or at least that’s what we think happened). I didn’t realize she was missing even when I didn’t see her take her usual position at the foot of the bed at night. It wasn’t until I was ready to feed her the following morning that I realized she was not responding to my calls. We searched every corner and came up empty-handed. We opened every closet and cupboard (even the most unlikely ones) just in case she had slipped into one and was stuck. Nope. She was nowhere to be found. Next, we took the search outdoors. I was already thinking about which photo to put on the “Lost Cat” posters and what to write. I was tempted to search wide but my son had a feeling that she would not be too far if indeed she was outside. He was right. She had wedged herself into a corner just under the stairs leading to the front-door and she likely stayed there all night. It took a bit of coaxing to get her out out but we eventually did and she was fine.
This indoor cat of ours. We watch her and are in awe of every little move she makes (it doesn’t matter that she’s stretched like that a million times or that she always covers her eyes with her paws when cat-napping – none of it has become ‘ordinary’ to us). We love her. We clean up after her. We feed her. We play with her. We snuggle with her. We care for her and we worry about her when she does something out-of-the-ordinary, like when she went missing.
This indoor cat of ours. We figure she is dependent on us. Her previous family developed allergies and out she went. Prior to that, she was found on the street and was taken in by an animal shelter so, little is known about what she experienced as a kitten or where she was born. We have allergies too, but she is innocent of the allergic reaction she causes in us. If anything, we are to blame for allowing ourselves to either become allergic (not much choice there) or committing to her care knowing full-well that it would come with some hardship.
This indoor cat of ours. We chose to take her in. If we had not done so, her previous owner was ready to “surrender” her to a shelter where, unfortunately due to the large number of cats already in shelters and due to her advanced age, she most likely would have been put down.
These cats of ours. We make decisions regarding their lives. We fix them to control their population. We euthanize them when there are too many. Who are we to claim they are “ours”? Who are we to control them and not ourselves? They seem to us to be unaware of our meddling with their lives but will there come a time when they will be able to say something about it all?
This indoor cat. Now she is here, with us. We made the choice to take her in despite our allergies. To surrender her now – is this a game? No, for us, it is a commitment. We made the choice to take her in and restrict her indoors so we really can not claim that she had much say in it; even when the door is open, she doesn’t stray far but does that say something about her wanting to stay or her not wanting to venture into possibly ‘worse’ terrain? Either way, there she is – curled up near the fire on the corner of the same rug you and I share.
This indoor cat. We choose what to feed her. We’ve been told she will live longer if she is fed well so, her food comes pre-packaged, supposedly scientifically perfected to meet all her nutritional needs. Unfortunately, every single brand makes the same claim. Since it is a matter of health, we choose very carefully. We have committed ourselves to taking care of her (and not just in a mediocre way but as perfectly as we possibly can). Despite the claim that all her nutritional needs will be met, she has become sick from her ‘perfect’ food… can any brand claim to be the One? They can only claim to strive to perfect their brands but that struggle must continue as long as they are around – never Perfect, always perfecting.
This indoor cat. Over time, we’ve learned to listen to her and understand what it is she may be saying. Yes, indeed, she does communicate with us to let us know certain things. No, we don’t sit down to discuss philosophy or the news (she doesn’t mind if we do but has nothing to say… hmmm) but we do discuss more than just the empty food bowl and the full litter box.
This indoor cat. For the most part, she does not complain. If she is hurting, we are not informed in a straight manner – she does not come up to us and start meowing about her ailment. Who is she complaining to? All we are privy to is what we notice and usually after-the-fact – she may be sneezing, itching, hiding a lot or drinking more water than usual but, by the time we notice it, she may have been doing so for a while! Remember – she is an indoor cat. More than likely, whatever is causing her to sneeze, itch, hide or drink more, etc. is linked to something inside the house – something we are or are not doing. Something in a domain we like to think we have full control over. Do we really?
We make choices that affect the health of the cat. We are always looking out for what we believe is best for her, what ‘experts’ say is best for her. We modify what we can, within our capacity, to make her comfortable. Sometimes it is just a matter of changing her diet and sometimes it is just a matter of playing a little more. Sometimes it requires medications. Whatever it is, we’ve committed ourselves to caring for her as best we can. Our choices have an impact on her health and wellbeing and, relatively speaking, she has very little say in it – or so it seems, for the time-being.
We are constantly trying to familiarize ourselves with her and perfect our care for her. It is an incomplete, always ‘can-do-more’ job that requires some degree of patience and understanding, and rewards us with increased patience, understanding and compassion. We learn so much from such a simple interaction, just from listening through the indoor cat. We gain so much from such simple measures – a lot in return for a little love.