My cat Buddy, always an indoor cat, recently discovered the wonder of his own feline power: He can break through window screens and escape to enjoy the great outdoors. He did it twice this week. My response (thus far) has been to make sure any window is open just a crack. His response in turn, has been to let me know he regards me as a jailer, or at the very least, as a bad parent, meowing and clawing at the window panes intermittently throughout the day.
Not that I’d ever anthropomorphize, but our conversation the last few days has been something like this:
Buddy: Hey Dad, I want to go out, OK?
Me: No, it’s not okay. You’re an indoor cat. You’re staying here with me.
Buddy: C’mon, Dad! I’ve already shown you I’m responsible. I don’t go too far away, and I always come back home.
Me: I understand and appreciate that. But it’s because I love you. You’re my little Buddy-cat, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.
Buddy: You should talk! You leave home every day! Sometimes several times!
Me: That’s different. I’m a human being. I have to go to work to make the money to pay for things like our apartment and your cat food. But you’re a cat. Outdoor cats generally die much younger than indoor cats. And they’re more likely to get hurt in fights with dogs and other cats, and to have problems with fleas, parasites, and illnesses.
Buddy: But I can take care of myself! Remember when I ate the cockroach? I didn’t get sick at all! And I practice martial arts every day with Talbot. Sometimes I even beat him and he’s almost twice my size!
Me: Are your claws going to save you from the 18-wheelers on Hampton Blvd.?
Buddy: Do you think I’m stupid? There’s nothing on the other side of Hampton worth checking out anyway.
Me: So you’re not missing much if you stay here with Talbot and me.
Buddy: Yes I am! Freedom! Walking in the grass, on the sidewalk! Chasing birds, and hearing their songs so much clearer! Scratching trees instead of your mattress! Breathing fresh air! Sunbathing on the lawn! It feels so good! And I don’t have to worry about missing the stupid tiny litterbox that you always forget to clean!
Buddy: But the cat next door goes out!
Me: If the cat next door jumped off a cliff, would you?
Buddy: I’m not stupid! Why don’t you trust me?
Me: It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that it’s a mean world out there.
Buddy: Look, I can take care of myself. I know what streets to cross and how to avoid traffic. I can win or escape any fight. And that birth-control talk you gave me when you took me to the vet that time…
Me: I remember.
Buddy: Yeah, I remember, too, thanks for nothing! Let’s just say the effects are still with me, and I won’t be getting any she-cats in trouble. I’m old enough, I’ve got my shots, and my tags are RIGHT here! C’mon, let me go out! Please!
Me: Buddy, I love you, but my answer’s still “no.” C’mon, who wants a belly rub?
Buddy: I want to go out! I hate you! You never care about what’s important to ME!
Actually that was the translation … we usually talk in Esperanto. But seriously, the reason I’m posting this is I’m beginning to see his POV. I was raised by over-protective parents, and I’m fully aware that over-parenting can be just as destructive as under-parenting. Is it better for a cat to live 15 -18 years pampered, fat and cramped, or maybe a few years less, but fully enjoying everything the world has to offer in the few blocks of his territory?
I wonder how this relates to other aspects of my life, and the world in general… I haven’t been skydiving yet. Maybe it’s time. And maybe when I’m old and doctors are pressuring me for an iffy operation that might give me a “few more years” of a lesser quality, maybe I should say, “F-k you! I think I’d rather die in my own bed.” Everywhere, understandably humans try to extend life, and increase “security” as much as possible. But nothing in the world guarantees or can guarantee long life or security. Does our drive for them stem partly, maybe even largely, from our insecurity?
I’m almost at the point of opening the door and telling him the feline Esperanto equivalent of “Okay, son, here are the keys… Don’t stay out too late.” What are your thoughts?