Sasha and Sophie are house cats. They are not allowed to go out. Not without me, that is.
Unfortunately, going out with me involves wearing a harness with a leash attached. Cats don’t take kindly to being harnessed, and Sophie — the younger of the two — still will not submit to it. Out come her claws as she struggles, and back into the drawer goes her harness. Another time perhaps. But Sasha, now five years old, has learned the rare appearance of the harness means something exceptionally good is going to happen. She will get to explore the great Outdoors.
Our cats are not entirely housebound. There’s a wire-fenced deck off the kitchen, from which they can smell foliage, hear birdcalls, spy on squirrels scampering through the underbrush in the rear of the condo. But there’s no grass under the paws, no growing leaves to munch, no trees on which to scrape the claws. And Sasha certainly appreciates the difference.
We don’t go out together often, Sasha and I. Not in winter, when it’s too cold for both of us. Not in summer, when it’s too hot for me, since I can’t crawl underneath the low spreading leaves of a grove of trees where it’s cool and shady. But there’s still spring and fall.
However, walking a cat is not like walking a dog. You go where the cat wants to go, not vice-versa. It takes a long time, it’s tedious, and sometimes it’s hard to get her back in the house when I’ve had enough. Not that we go very far. Usually she just slowly circles the five-unit structure in which our condo is located, investigating every ground planting in the front, and making a few careful forays into the uncleared and dedicated forest land behind.
Exciting though it may be for her, it’s boring for me. Especially as there’s really nowhere to sit down while she explores. But she makes me feel so guilty when I go out without her — and don’t think she doesn’t try to second guess which door I’ll be using so as to run out with me when I leave — that once in a while I carve out an hour of the afternoon just for her.
Then she can poke around to her heart’s content. Although it makes Bill nervous when he sees me do it, I do let go of the leash if she ventures where I can’t or don’t care to follow. The harness is red, so it’s easy to spot, even at a distance. And she doesn’t go far. When I call, she even waits for me to catch up. That way I have both hands free to try to take her picture. Or should I say pictures? I have to snap six for every one that’s usable.
Occasionally, someone walks by pushing a baby carriage and does a second take at the sight of a cat on a leash. But if Sasha’s off the leash, they do a second take at the sight of me, lounging against a tree or sitting on a rock in a residential neighborhood as if I had nothing else to do.
But I am doing something. I’m enjoying her appreciation of the big wide world.
Eventually, though, even she gets tired. When we pass the deck chair on the front walk, she settles down for a rest. Soon I’ll be able to pick her up without her fussing, and carry her into the house.