You know the sayings.
The hardest part of loving someone is letting them go.
If you love someone, let them go
If they come back to you…
Well, you know the rest of it, I’m sure.
Our latest baby, our darling kitten, all of one month old with us, and something less than ten weeks old in this world, has decided it is time to put our love to the test.
Her home is the cozy little cardboard carton in the beautiful ivory tower of our verandah. Ivory tower? Well, for a cat, maybe. It’s a luxurious abode, I assume, for a cat. There’s a plentiful supply of milk and chicken. There’s a litter box. There are toys – mainly things that roll but also one that hangs. There are chairs, often turned upside down (to keep them clean and dry) to jump over or hide under. There’s entertainment, in the form of four humans, two big, two small. Everything a cat could wish for, in fact. And also it’s a balcony – large enough, open, and yet still safe. There’s only one way in and out of this balcony/tower and that’s by this wonderful set of metal steps (see below; the ladder is gone, now). (Ok, there’s also a door into the house, but she’s not usually allowed to use that. Besides, what use is a door that only leads inside? Any self-respecting kitty needs a door that leads outside, right?)
I was coaching kitty to get used to the metal steps. She doesn’t like them, and I suspect it’s because of the gaps between the metal slats. Our kitty is not very good at a number of things (if you bring a bowl of food out, she often doesn’t know where you’ve kept it unless you keep it right under her nose; she also can’t tell by smell which bowl is food and which is water; dogs can tell from a mile off), but she’s extremely adept at depth perception. Occasionally, she makes a mistake and lands somewhere in a jumble of limbs with a confused look on her face exactly like the look you see in comic strips, but for the most part, when it comes to depth perception and estimating distance, she’s an expert. So she sees these steps that are a good 10-12 feet above the ground, with only thin strips of metal separated by empty space and she sees us walk on that and thinks, I suppose, these people must be crazy. Half their weight is on that empty space 12 feet up from the ground!
So anyway, I was coaching her to use the steps, by placing her a few steps up or a few steps down and letting her find her way back. I was also getting her used to the great outdoors by carrying her down the steps and letting her loose in the garden. And then, on the weekend, we were all busy working in the garden downstairs and at one point we had returned kitty to her ivory tower upstairs, which was not to her liking at all. She went from one end of the balcony to the other, looking desperately for a way down. She even squeezed through a gap in the balcony railing and went and perched on those cement beams above the front verandah and looked hopefully for a way down from there – but to no avail.
By the time I was baking my gluten-free chocolate cake on Sunday morning, she’d had enough. She worked her way down all 20 metal-strip spiral steps and turned up meowing at the back door! Well done, girl! I’d expected it would take her another week or so to get there.
Anyway, once she’d figured out how to get down, there was no stopping her. Three times that day we returned her to her home – so that she could get some rest, that’s all – and every time she found her way back down in remarkably short order. She did nap once or twice, in the safety and comfort of her private haven, but as soon as she was done with that, she was back downstairs, prowling around, investigating her new, enlarged domain, checking out routes to the larger outdoors, and fighting imaginary battles with hapless dried leaves. She even went so far as to try to climb the saplings we’d planted and eat the leaves of the hedge plants.
Amit is worried. We now have the equivalent of an adolescent daughter on our hands. This one is pre-pubescent (as far as we know) but just as likely to get into trouble, albeit of other sorts. She still doesn’t know how to climb a tree, but if she has unfettered access to our garden, it means that she can also venture beyond the walls anytime she wants. It also means that if one careless fellow leaves the gate open, the street dogs will have carte blanche to come on in and make a quick snack of her, if she can’t run and climb fast enough. True she has discovered those cement beams above the front porch and I’m fairly certain no street dog can follow her there. But the question remains: can she get there before she gets eaten?
It’s a worrying thought, but we can’t do much about it. There are too many ways for her to get out of her ivory tower. There’s that mango tree, for instance. And as she grows, she will likely discover new routes that we haven’t even thought of. Cats will be free. What’s more, I believe, they should be free. Someone was telling me about a pet cat – a Persian – who, if the door to the outdoors is left open, stays indoors and looks outside at the trees and the sun and all with a puzzled and somewhat worried expression. Well, that’s not what I’d want for any pet of mine. Sandy needs to be on first name terms, in fact on intimate terms, with all the elements of nature and if survival depends on her being street smart and fleet of foot, then those are the skills she needs to develop. As her loving parents, we need to provide board, lodging, a safe haven when she needs it, and aside from that, we need to stand back and let her go. She’s growing wings, figuratively speaking, and we have to let her fly.
Thank god it’s just the cat and not yet the kids.