We had a cat when my son was small; Colette, though we later discovered she was a he, Cole, but that was a close friend’s name, so Colette it remained, though more often than not he was simply, “Hey kitty, come here Kitty.”
He was the Snoopy of cats; there simply weren’t any felines cooler than Colette “Joe Cool” the Cat. Even Pete the Cat would acknowledge this truism. Living on four acres surrounded by dozens of more acres of woods, he was an indoor/outdoor cat in the best sense. He’d go out in the morning to explore, return for food and to sleep, go out again, but mostly no further than the perimeter of the property immediately around the house and be in at night.
To come in he’d jump onto the the front porch rail, turn, then leap onto the door or window screen, hanging by his claws, head turned, looking out of the corner of his eyes, and meow. He’d hang until he saw one of us get up or come into the room and head for the back door, at which point he would push off, land on the deck, and run around to the open door.
I just did what he wanted, that’s all. Sometimes if it was early morning he’d leap from the end of the logs running up the corner of the home until he reached the porch roof which happens to run just under my bedroom window. He’d sit outside my window looking in and mouth “meow” until I got out of bed and he watched me get to the door, at which point I could hear him leap from log-ending to log-ending to the rail to the deck and by then I made it to the back door for the squire.
Once I sat in the living room and looked out to see him leap to the rail, turn and get ready to leap to the top of the screen door to hang there and look in, but I had taken the screen door off and before I could stop him he leaped. I watched like he was in slow motion, then I heard him smack the front door, his claws flailed wildly as he slid down to the ground, and he took off for the woods on the far side of the property. I didn’t see him for three days. When he returned he stood against the front wall looking in the window until I opened the back door. As he turned into the house he looked up at me like he was thinking, Asshole.
He used to sleep in the crook of my arm on the couch when I watched movies. When Michael and I were outside in the pool or playing horseshoes or whatever we were doing, he’d come with us and stretch out right across whatever it was we were doing. He just needed sunglasses and a guitar to be completely cool.
I grew up a dog person, but Colette won me over.
It’s going to be 27 degrees tonight here on the Chesapeake. A friend in Syracuse tells me it is single digits, and out in Indiana, in the teens. Worse, the snow has covered all the wild food sources for even the wild animals. In Florida it is so cold that lizards were freezing and falling from trees. True story.
Last night an estimated seventy million homeless cats wandered woods, dumpsters, alleys, sewers, and warm car engines to find warmth, food, and sleep. Only two percent of those cats are fixed, so the problem is growing exponentially. If a pet cat gets lost, only two percent find their way back home, either through their own internal radar or monitoring. Just five percent of the entire stray population will end up adopted. And a lack of space and supplies results in the euthanizing of about three million cats every year. And of the cats that wander aimlessly, they kill an estimated one to three billion birds annually. In fact, over the years, cats have contributed to the extinction of sixty-three species.
I was in Utah last week and one afternoon went to Furever Friends Animal Oasis and, well, sat down. A half dozen kittens quickly came over and found in me a comfortable place to rest their heads. They covered my lap, my arms, my legs, they purred, meowed, and licked my salty skin. The grey one asked quite politely if I would be willing to take her home and whenever I started to apologize to them they meowed and purred louder like a kid who doesn’t want to hear an answer so he sticks his fingers in his ears and says, “nah nah nah nah” over and over. That’s them, to me, that day.
“Please take us home with you,” said the adorable grey kitty.
“I can’t I’m sorry…”
“Meow meow meow”
“...because I don’t have the…”
Honestly, I did not want to leave the place. I looked around at this massive complex truly thinking “Hell, I could build one of these on my property.” Except this one has a team of volunteers, a vet who runs the place and does operations, and a steady stream of donations (never enough, no, never enough).
I stood wishing I could stay but more wishing everyone could see this, meet these beautiful friends, and understand that according to one study, cat owners are thirty percent less likely to not have a heart attack, have lower stress levels across the board than any other pet owner because of the increased personal contact, and forty-one percent of cat owners are reported to sleep better (though I don’t believe the study was conducted on those who have four cats living with them). And as for allergies, according to Marshall Plaut, M.D., chief of the allergic mechanisms section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “High pet exposure early in life appears to protect against not only pet allergy but also other types of common allergies, such as allergy to dust mites, ragweed, and grass.”
but whatever; we adopt a kitten because it is cute, friendly, curls up on the couch with us while we’re watching bird shows, and makes us smile. These shelters need help to protect the cats which are otherwise abandoned, born feral, or run away. The benefits to the kittens are quite obvious; the benefits to the planet less clear, but the benefits to us are incalculable.
There has always been a clear abyss between humans and the lives in the animal world outside. Domestication started roughly ten thousand years ago with goats and sheep, followed some time later by horses, oxen, and cattle. But none of them–truly, none–curl up on your lap while you’re watching Netflix. Cats and dogs followed with cats noted to have been domesticated about 7500 BC, though revered in Egypt for a few thousand years before then.
It is not known when they began wearing stupid looking outfits and appearing in Youtube videos.
Nature is outside, home inside. Plants may come closest to bringing the world around us inside, providing life and something organic to our life within walls, but cats bridge the abyss, they are independent enough to be left alone, to wander at will, to search the woods and climb trees, to hunt, to battle if forced to; and yet they can come close to humans in affection, caring, in sensing when someone is down, is alone. The natural world is alive and well and stretching her back in that spot in the sun in the middle of the living room rug, bringing thousands of years of the untamable wilderness into our laps.
You want to help this feline world? Seriously, it takes very little to make a huge difference. Contact whatever humane society or refuge is near and see what they need, spend some time helping them, or just donate a few dollars for food.
Here’s one example that needs help: https://www.fureveroasis.com/
Feel free to do what you can–or, swing by and pick up a few kittens. The grey one is mine.