This is a story I submitted to iBrattleboro a couple years ago and it got a thousand or so views which is pretty good. And since the cat in question, Friskey, is turning 14 today, i thought it might be appropriate to resubmit it
When we got Friskey from the Windham County Humane Society as a 3 month old back in July of ’99, she was to be an indoor cat.
Cats who go out live an average of 4 years; cats who stay in live 16. Not much wiggle room for debate there.
Somewhere along the way, things got fuzzy (sorry, a little cat humor there).
She went from this:
It happened more or less by chance.
From day one she’s hung around the door trying to get out.
She’d sit at the window and other cats would come and get nose to nose with her through the glass. My sister-in-law, the vet said they were trying to figure out what sex she is. Being spayed, she has no gender odor.
Clearly, she was interested in the world outside the house.
One winter night, her first year, the family went out for a short walk. It was about -3, or something. On impulse, I grabbed Friskey and held her under my coat with only her nose sticking out.
She was still as stone for the whole walk, but when we got back home, she exploded around the house. She scrabbled madly on the hardwood. She upset the 3×5 rugs (a habit we’ve come to call carpet tumble syndrome) and made strange noises while we whooped at her.
Nothing more happened right away.
When it did it was because of another of Friskey’s peculiarities: she liked her pet carrier box from the start, so we never stowed it away. It’s out where she can get in it from time to time.
So one warm, rainy day that first spring (2000) I closed her in her box and set her on the front porch looking out. Every now and then I’d poke my head out to see if she was OK and having fun. When she started meowing,
I brought her back in.
The experiment worked.
She still does that to this day.
We’ve (she and the family) have worked out a system that seems mutually acceptable. Her box is permanently stationed down by the backdoor. When she wants to go out in her box, she gets in and scrabbles – scratches at the vent holes of her box, making a nice loud popping sound.
Now a days I set the kitchen timer – especially on these cold nights so I don’t forget her. If it’s really cold, 10 minutes. If it’s 40-50 Fahrenheit, 20-30 minutes. When I stick my head out she either scrabbles or not. If she scrabbles, I bring her in, if not she stays out – unless it’s my bedtime, in which case I bring
At this point, you’re probably looking back at the picture of her in the grass and saying, “there’s no box there.”
We added a wrinkle.
About 2002 or 03, Santa brought Friskey a harness and tether. She loved it so much she spent every minute of daylight she was allowed sitting on a blanket in the snow.
The signal for going out on the string is simply sitting by the door and meowing when anyone looks in her direction.
If it’s a nice morning or afternoon, no problem. She gets harnessed up and out we go.
Sometimes she acts like she wants to go out when there’s nasty weather outside. On those occasions we do what I call the kitty cat weather report. I scoop her up and we stand out in the weather for a half minute or so. If she’s still doing the “wanna go OUT!” act, she gets harnessed up and goes out in whatever it is (not often if raining).
This cat probably wants to come in – or move to a new spot. When she is bored, or cold or tired and wants to come in she
moves as close to the house as the string will allow and looks at the house intently.
Generally, now that she’s older and wiser she does not go out at all (box or string) for about 2 – 3 months in the winter, depending on the weather and her mood – it’s all up to her.
When the weather is really nice (June and July, mostly), she’ll be out from as early as she can get out (6:30
– 7) till dark.
What does she do out there?
Well, outdoors is a completely different soundscape from the house, obviously.
There’s only a few sounds in the house that are of interest: family members arriving home, cans being opened, etc.
Outside the sounds are all around and many are strange and mysterious. We like to watch her ears. At times they’ll be twitching this way and that, often independently of one another.
Sometimes the sounds are ominous. A few years back, our neighbors was cutting down a tree in the backyard woods just as I was about to stake Friskey out. The cut tree got hung up in another tree and there was much
crashing and waving about of trees. Even though it was 150’ away or so it made a profound impression on Friskey. She wanted to return to safety immediately and to this day if those neighbors are doing anything outdoors with power equipment she’s outtathere!
She hates windy days. We speculate that it creates a white noise situation and the constant roaring overloads her “circuits”. Once or twice it has gotten so bad that she has a panic attack and we have to bring her in right away.
On the plus side, she can hear a mole or vole digging through the turf from across the yard.
Last December after the ground had started to freeze (enough that I could not set the stake securely) she wanted to go out even though it was about 25 or 28 – very chilly. So I put her on the string and walked behind
her, probably saying things like, “it is way cold out here cat. What could you possibly want out here?”
Well, she found something. All of a sudden she burst from 15’ over to my left to 15’ over to my right and started bapping at patch of grass with her paw. I was skeptical, but she kept at for some minutes till finally she withdrew he paw with a jerk as a little brown body flew up into the air. She’d found a little vole. It quickly burrowed back into the grass as we watched and off it went. At that point Friskey had had enough and we went back into the warm.
I read with sadness (Gone kitty, Gone I believe the piece was called) an iBrattleboro story of an outdoor cat who was in trouble with the neighbors.
I don’t think Friskey’s story will help with any situation like that involving an older cat and we’re very lucky to have a nice, protected yard to put her in. However, if you do have a younger cat or kitten, you might try some of the things we have been able to do with Friskey.