Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cat Whiskers and Tales

Trying to teach a 13-year-old cat new tricks takes a lot of patience. I got it in my head this winter that I should try taking Ginger outdoors for walks when it warms up – in an effort to help her shed the extra pounds she put on since fall. When I adopted her in August, I received a harness along with her things from the previous owner, so I assumed that she was used to taking walks, or at least had gotten out once in a while. In fact, I also heard that she used to be an outdoor/indoor cat and that's why she still had her claws. All of that information sounded like the perfect recipe for taking her out-of-doors for exploration around the city neighborhood.

Yesterday the temps reached the 40s, so I got Ginger into her harness and attached the leash. Mind you, this took probably 20 minutes, coaxing her, chasing her and giving her treats so she’d let me put the thing on her. You’d think I was torturing her. When I had finally strapped her in, she glued herself to the wall in a bundle of fur, refusing to budge. Apparently, she thinks the harness is a strait jacket and her limbs are paralyzed in it. I decided to just pick her up and take her outside. 

We went down the stairs, opened the front door and stepped out into the fresh air and sunshine. Oh did it feel great! But Ginger leaned back against me, her eyes wide, her heart beating hard against my hand and her nostrils flaring in and out with all the smells. She shivered, whether it was from fear or cold, I would guess the former. In an instant, I had become, not her torturer, but her fortress of safety, from whose arms she could dare to peak out at the world. I didn’t have to worry about having her on a harness and leash – she wasn’t going to be doing any leaping out of my arms. Finally, I set her down beside me on the front steps, praising her for being such a brave girl. But she instantly turned back to me, putting her paws on my knee and then on my shoulder, begging to come “up” again. And then, when that wasn't good enough, she turned back to the door, reared up on her hind legs and heaved herself, arms and paws, against the door, letting out a whelping “meoooooowww.”

Ah, well. Maybe she just needs a few more times of "getting outside of her skin" to acquire a new habit and pastime, as I need to re-acquire that little, old writing habit of discipline. Putting on that old habit again scratches on the skin, like a rough wool robe, but once I've worn it a few times again, it will get easier to put on, just a part of me, grounding in a way. As for Ginger, I will extend her mercy and wait for spring and warmer days before teaching her those lessons.

In the meantime, she's sharing some sage life advice with me: 

Don't be embarrassed to take long and frequent naps. They're good for you.

Foster curiosity. It keeps life interesting!

Love one another.

Hm, what's this? "Shorter Christian Prayer..."

You weren't praying it, Mom, so I thought I would!

Resting in the spirit
(Honestly, I did not stage these pictures. I found Ginger curled up with this Liturgy of the Hours prayer book on the day I pulled it out to remind myself to get back into that habit.)

Obviously, I couldn't do it without her. 


  1. She reminds me a lot of our first-ever cat, Alex. I had been a dog person before we acquired Alex so tried taking him on walks with a leash. Well, it never did "take." I realized then that dogs and cats really are different! I loved reading about how Ginger found safe harbor in you. I've been in a similar place with both pets and people. One minute, I'm the world's worst mother as the mom of teens. The next...a safe haven. We are vessels. :)

  2. Hey! Unfortunately, my latest attempts to put the harness and leash on Ginger have only stressed her out, and so while the weather is warmer (she doesn't know what she's missing!), I have kind of given up on the "walking my cat" notion, realizing like Roxane says, dogs and cats are so different!

    I like your blog, Katherine. I am new to Lobsters, but it sounds like fun!