Last week Pete and I joined fellow Community Agricutural Alliance members for a summer picnic at the Rockin' Bar Ranch, owned by Doc and Marsha Daughenbagh. Sitting with a young family, new to Routt County, the conversation over our picnic dinner turned to whether or not it was safe for cats to be outdoors in rural areas. The young family had just moved from the city and were now deep into country life with gardens and laying hens. Two women who overheard the converstion quickly jumped in to say that it wasn't a good idea to let cats outside, that there were too many predators: from hawks to coyotes to foxes.
I listened quietly all the while thinking for ten years my Kitty has gone out every night in the good weather months and comes back every morning. Somehow she knows when I arrive in the kitchen and she promptly scratches at the door. Like a dance, I let her in and feed her breakfast.
The conversation did remind me, however, of an essay I wrote several years ago titled, "My Street Smart Homebody," published by Cats and Kittens magazine. In the essay I wrote about Kitty disappearing for a few days and wondering if a coyote had gotten her and had I been an irresponsible owner? The story had a good ending: Kitty returned and promptly went to her cat bed and fell asleep as if nothing were amiss. All her life she's been street smart out on the ranch and a creature of comfort when she's in the house.
I often hear the cautionary statements I heard over our summer picnic and wonder if I would give the same advice. I've decided that I really can't. I may very well have a special forces cat that no predator will mess with. I may also have a cat that has superior intelligence. While I don't know the truth of either of these possibilities, I do know for a fact that Kitty takes great, great joy in being outdoors and I could not in good faith keep her indoors away from her travels, hunts, cool shade, and soothing sunshine. In her eleventh summer she remains my "Street Smart Homebody."