I feel sorry for my cats sometimes. People tell me I do a good job of seeing to their food and water, their shelter and comfort. I try to spend time with them, though it’s never enough, and make them feel loved and wanted. But I feel sorry for their restricted little world. It’s limited to the two floors of my house, and what they can see from the windows.
My three cats (plus one) must know every inch of the house by now, at least every inch they can get to, and what they observe beyond the glass panes or, in the summer, wire screens of the windows must seem very exciting and stimulating.
I could never let my cats outdoors. Some people do, and they don’t worry about their pets less than I, but I wouldn’t have a moment’s peace with them outside. Tungsten is too little, Josie too fat, Tucker too passive and Renn too timid. I’m sure something bad would happen to them. So I keep them indoors.
But what adventures they see outside. Tungsten is not overly impressed with the exterior world. She is definitely an indoor cat, if only because she is above worldly concerns such as, well, the world. The other three observe the passing parade of life whenever they can. Sometimes, it’s a conscious decision. One will sit down and watch. Automobiles driving by, people walking, animals, especially animals, stimulate their interest. But on those days, the cat will lie on a cat-tree platform and simply watch. What do they think about? Do they wish for freedom? Are they glad they are inside? Do these thoughts even come to mind?
Other times, a cat will be lying about, relaxing. His gaze is on nothing in particular. A car goes by; it’s nothing important. A dog on a leash is just another dog on a leash. Then, a bird, or perhaps another cat, or even a falling leaf: this will become the most exciting thing he has ever seen.
Then there are the days when a predator’s instinct, deep down, even in the depths of chubbiness that is Josie, will be woken by a bluejay or a finch, hopping across the lawn. The cat will chatter, whimper or whine, depending on the personality. The expressions seem to declare, “Oh, if only I were out there, what short work I would make of you.” Then the scene closes, the bird flies off. The cat’s eyes wander away to see what else he can intimidate.
Other cats crossing my pets’ property come in for special attention. Renn once saw a neighbour’s cat cross the back lawn. The stranger saw Renn. They stared at each other. My big boy didn’t move, didn’t try to get out, but if he had, there may have been words exchanged, perhaps blows. The first week Tungsten was with me, she heard someone in the corridor outside the apartment where we then lived. She quickly started rubbing her face against every corner she could find. This was her home now. Interlopers stay away. It’s not so very different now, when this cat or that is observed on our land.
But when the outdoors comes inside, when a stranger calls at the house, a repairman, a deliveryman, then I see what might happen in another situation. Renn used to run and hide, so did Tucker. How would they behave in the ‘wild’? There, a stranger isn’t just a benign visitor; he may be a danger. The boys wouldn’t want to face it, Josie - my unofficial greeter - would be too trusting, and Tungsten would be apathetic.
No, my cats will stay inside, where it’s dull but safe. They will watch the outdoors, see the passing years and miss out on a great deal. How is that different than our lives? We watch so much in which we can’t participate. There will always be something we can’t have or won’t do. But we enjoy what we can. We take pleasure in what is in our grasp, in what can be.
So it is with my cats. They see what is outside, but they don’t linger on the impossible. Anyway, perhaps it’s dinner-time, or a treat is in the offing. A friend has come in to the room and will scratch that spot just behind the ears that feels so good. It’s cold out, and a soft couch is just over there. A few minutes of getting into just the right position and they’re asleep. If they dream of running free outdoors, that doesn’t stop them from purring when they wake again indoors.