The outdoor cat. A free spirit.
Beamer is an indoor cat now. So is Scout.
There is a difference between our cat who used to roam outdoors and our cat who has never had that freedom.
Two levels of awareness.
Beamer would sometimes be out for hours, napping on the deck, slinking between bushes.
Sometimes he'd be gone for days – hunting and killing birds, rabbits, mice; visiting other homes; fighting other cats.
He chose to sleep in window wells, sometimes, even on the coldest January nights.
After his excursions, he would sleep for days on our bed, cuddling and enjoying free store-bought cat food.
With time, he'd leave again.
Beamer knew to look both ways before crossing the street. He knew when to fight other animals and when to flee. He knew if he showed up at the back door we would always let him in.
Is that love? To allow a suburban cat that type of freedom?
I don't know.
Is it love to keep a cat indoors at all times?
I don't know.
I keep my cats indoors today, out of love.
They are safe indoors – safe from traffic on 32nd, safe from our neighbors' dogs, safe from animal control.
Yet, what if Beamer and Scout were two of the millions that end up in U.S. shelters?
What if they, although healthy, were facing potential death due to a “lack of homes”?
What if someone wanted to give these two cats – Beamer and Scout – a life with the freedom to go outdoors?
I know what I would want, if I were a cat.
I would choose life, even if that life meant more of a “risky” life.
My cat Beamer is an animal who could've been killed dozens of times – by the cold, by trucks, by a dog attack. His lifestyle was a gamble, and I did worry.
But cats can be, in many ways, free spirits.
A free spirit is able to come and go, to make choices, to think through and navigate his environment.
A free spirit has the ability to make mistakes. Sometimes he learns from these mistakes. Sometimes he succumbs to them.
Is that so cruel?