My wife, Mary Ann, is one of the most nurturing individuals you will ever have the pleasure to meet. She is also a passionate advocate for animals. More specifically, one might refer to her as “one of those cat ladies.” I personally would not do that as the result would be that I would spend my evenings in solitary. (Of course, she would spend the night-time with our cats, proving my point. Yet, I think the irony would be wasted on her.)
We had three cats.
Sadly, “K.C.,” the elderly matriarch passed away early this year, leaving the two identical ginger cats, “Tiger” and “Motor.” (Let’s be clear; I did not choose their names, okay?) These “orange boys” are “inside cats,” because our vet said that the best way to ensure your kitties lead a long, healthy, purr-fect life is to not them prowl the streets. As nimble and agile as felines might be, they don’t understand the concept of automobiles.
Within our fenced backyard dwells a third, Birman, cat. She (we think she’s a “she” but we’re not sure) unexpectedly appeared six years ago, and although she has departed for short periods, she always returns. Exhibiting no fear of us, she’s incredibly affectionate, so we think she was abandoned. Due to her silky, strikingly beautiful, long, silver, and black fur, we call her “Smokey.” (I wanted “Velvet” but was over-ruled.)
Since K.C. passed, my wife has wanted to integrate Smokey with the orange boys, especially as the weather turns harsh. Last weekend, she was finally able to convince Smokey to come inside. To help her feel safe (as well as let the other animals acclimate) Smokey stayed in an unused upstairs bedroom, replete with bed, food, water, litter box, and a screened — but slightly open — window, allowing her the ability to survey the neighborhood from on high. After Smokey was given the good-health go-ahead by the vet, we would begin the process of assimilation.
Until the appointment, my wife checked on her regularly, refreshed her needs, and — in general — kept her company. All was proceeding according to plan until yesterday morning. Upon entering Smokey’s room, she discovered a Smokey-sized hole torn in our screen. During the previous night, Smokey pulled a Steve McQueen and escaped back to the “wild,” only to return to our backyard later in the day as smug as if nothing had happened. She was as affectionate as ever, and despite rejecting the four-star hospitality we had so graciously provided, was only interested in her standard nightly canned food repast.
“Why would Smokey prefer to live in the rain and cold instead of in a warm house?” my wife wondered.
“It doesn’t make sense to me,” I granted. “However, if you look at it from her point of view, outside is all she knows. Frosty nights and wet grounds might not be pleasant, and she’d probably even enjoy being inside once she got used to it, but sometimes you stay with the discomfort you know rather than take the time to learn about something better.”
I’m not a cat; that’s probably evident. But, at least in that respect, humans are not that far removed. How often do we pass up the option for “better,” obstinately remaining with “same?” Even after accepting things can be better, we still have to shake up long-held behaviors, and usually, we decide it’s not worth the effort. So, on we plod…
With enough tuna to keep her belly full, and a warm fireplace by which she can lay, Smokey might have made the switch. We, on the other hand, can be a lot more stubborn.
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