Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Short, Passionate Life, aka What Price Safety?

This is our black and white kitty. Doesn't he look intimidating?

He's a naughty kitty. He's also very brave and very, very lucky: When he was a small kitten, he battled a coyote in our back yard until the dog and I got out there to rescue him. He's dodged the neighbor's dog on more than one occasion. Last week, he was two steps away from being trounced by a deer until I broke up the stand-off. And a few weeks before that, a neighbor reported that he'd seen our cat racing away from a coyote--in broad daylight. 

Most of my cats have not attracted this sort of attention from the local wildlife. Most of my cats have qualified for Feline-AARP membership by the time they died. 

But my black and white kitties don't do so well. The first one met up with a car. The second black and white cat flew out the door late one night when I had the dog out for, you know, late night dog issues. He never came back. And you know about the current black and white. Lucky, so far.

But lucky only takes you so far. So when a neighbor called to tell me that a pack of coyotes was hanging out behind her house, I hauled Mr. Naughty Cat inside. He's been inside now for two days.

He's going nuts. He's banging on the windows. He's yowling at the doors. He's following us around, winding around our legs, tangling himself in our feet. If we even think about heading to a door, he's there first. "Let MEEEOOOWWWT,  let MEEEEOOOWWWWT."

I'm just trying to keep him safe. He, however, spits at the idea of safety. Safety is for wimps, for sissies, for Persians whose noses are too squashed to smell danger and battle it. Bring on the danger!

For me, raising kids is kind of like this whole cat thing. You spend all your time trying to keep them safe and healthy, and they just want to get out there and taunt the coyotes. "Bring on the danger!" they cry. "And, hey, Mom, could you make me a sandwich?"

Anyway, the question of the day is: Do we want our kitties to have a long, sheltered, indoor life with lots of safety, or do we want our kitties to have a (possibly) short but exhilarating life spent catching rodents, stalking dragonflies, sleeping in the catnip patch, and dodging coyotes? Please feel free to substitute "children," "ferrets," "chickens" or whatever you please for "kitties." 

What's your vote? And please, no lectures about the dangers of cats being outdoors--I know all the research, I know all the compelling arguments for keeping them inside. Our family reality is that the cats go in and out as they please. Bring on the danger!


  1. It's the quality of the years in a life that makes it worth living, not the quantity. I'd rather live a shorter life in tune with my own being than live twice as long in a prison cell away from my own nature.

    Your cat should wake up every day thanking you for a passionate life well lived.

  2. Yes, well, it's the "wake up every day" part that has me fretting.

  3. I agree with the person above.Seeing as Leo is MY
    cat as well as Mrs. Ditter's, I want him around for a long time. But I would rather have him live happily for a short time th unhappily for a long time

  4. I definitely err on the 'outside as much as possible' side of the debate for both cats and kids. But then, we don't have coyotes in our neighbourhood! We did lose all our chickens to the psycho-fox-from-hell last winter though. I hope that they were happier with their short free-range lives than they would have been with a few more years in a barn. I wish I knew for sure though!

  5. Anon Oct. 21 & Anon Oct 22, above: Yeah, the world in general seems to agree with the "short but passionate life" theory. But as Oct 22 writes, you never know for sure what the animal itself would choose, and being in charge of that decision can be worry-making!

  6. Let him out...our feline bravely battled coyotes, racoons, moles for most of his life and is now, at the ripe-old age of (almost) 18, happily content to just stay inside and reminisce about the adventure filled life he led. No regrets.

  7. No regrets for you and your brave feline, Carrie, but I gotta tell you, my heart still breaks every time I think of my kitty who raced outside that night and never came back. For all I know, he's the Head Feline at a cat resort right now, but my selfish self wishes he had never left.