Wednesday, December 30, 2009


It's a shame that cats aren't welcome to roam freely in Toronto anymore. Back in the day, when I had a half-hour walk to school, I used to have a route with stops, like a bus, except I stopped to say hello to cats. Young cats on the prowl, old cats napping in a puddle of sun. They were all reliable friends to me, back in the days when I was lonely and in need of friendship.

These days it's a lot less common to see a cat outside, at least in any upscale neighbourhood. I understand why. Gardeners don't take kindly to cats crapping in their flowerbeds. People who put out bird feeders don't want to see their wee birdie friends massacred. Not to mention that cat owners don't want to see their pets run over by local traffic. So the cats stay cooped up inside, for the most part, and lose their minds.

My first cat was an outdoor cat. She would go out to survey the neighbourhood even on the coldest winter nights. She had her territory to explore and defend. She was also mentally the healthiest cat I've ever known.

All the indoor cats that I've met and cared for, much as I've loved them, have been neurotic, restless, and destructive. They go looking for trouble when they're bored, uprooting houseplants; chewing and clawing their humans' valued possessions; and eating things that aren't meant to be eaten. Instead of maturing into lithe, self-possessed mini-kings of the jungle, they grow up to be fat, whiny babies.

Take Shadow, for example, cat of my first serious boyfriend. That big, dumb lug would eat anything he could fit in his loud mouth. Don't get me wrong - I loved that silly furball. He was very affectionate, generous with the purring. But he didn't have an ounce of sense.

One of his weaknesses was curling ribbon. You couldn't leave an inch of the stuff anywhere around him, or he'd gulp it down like a long spaghetti noodle as soon as your back was turned.

One time, just before Christmas, I used my key to let myself into my boyfriend's apartment. I noticed two things. 1) Shadow did not show up immediately to greet me, as usual. 2) The apartment didn't smell very nice.

I called for Shadow. I heard him answer, a little whimper from a corner somewhere. Then I hear his paws on the hardwood, approaching, gaining speed, and finally running past me in a panic. I could see why. "Something" was chasing him. That something was attached to his derriere. The faster he ran, the faster he heard it coming behind him. Terrifying to his tiny, primitive brain.

After some chasing of my own, I finally pinned him down for an examination. The problem: a length of gold curling ribbon, still curly and bouncing, was hanging from his anus. It was itself "decorated". With poop. In between the poop bits, the gold ribbon glinted in the light. It was... mesmerizing.

That was memorable, but Shadow hadn't shown us everything yet. Several years later, when he was well into his senior years, he fell ill. He prowled the apartment for days, howling, refusing food, straining in the litter box unsuccessfully. At this point he was living with my boyfriend's mother. She made a vet appointment, but the problem resolved itself.

Shadow pooped an entire Bounce scented dryer sheet into the litterbox.

That's impressive in itself, but really. Think of it. How did he manage to eat that sonofagun in the first place? How would you like to gulp down an entire twin-size bedsheet, soaked in cologne? Let alone pass it through your gut, and then your butt. No wonder he was crying.

In the end Shadow passed away of natural causes. His cast-iron digestive tract survived all the punishment that he dished out.

There have been other dumb cats in my life, but Shadow is king in my books. God rest his stupid, snuggly soul. I miss him tremendously, and if I could have him back, even if it meant more chewed gifts and poop cleanups, I'd do it all over again.


savia said...

I usually agree with you, Red, but on the matter of whether cats should roam around outside, I'm going to have to politely disagree.

Just last week, I found a cat in the middle of the street, with massive internal injuries after being hit by a car. Two other passersby and I picked him off the road and held him as he died over the next 20 minutes.

It was a horrible, horrible death and I wish that cat owners who let their pets roam around would experience what I experienced that night, because they would never do it again.

There are also the issues of cats roaming around that are not fixed and contribute to the feral cat overpopulation problems in the city (Toronto actually has a large amount of feral cats - they tend to come out at night). And issues of cats being attacked by dogs, abused by some messed up people, and cats in the country becoming coyote food.

I have four indoor cats, and they're all well-adjusted, happy guys. Maybe the ones you've met have some other issues?

savia said...

Here's a link to a recent documentary done on the feral cat problem in Toronto. It was on Global this fall and totally made me cry: Cat City Documentary.

darcknyt said...

Wow, how could anyone NOT want a cat after reading this? ;)

Sparkling Red said...

Savia: I definitely agree with all the points you make. I believe that in the balance it's better for cats to stay indoors, which is why I kept my own two as indoor cats for many years. My point was more that in an ideal world cats would have the advantages of the outdoors without having to worry about being run over or creating an overpopulation of strays. But it's not an ideal world. So the kitties must stay in.

I'm glad that you have well-adjusted indoor cats. You could sell a book on the subject, because all the ones I know (and I know a lot) are completely neurotic.

darcknyt: I didn't even mention the joys of the litterbox and shedding! ;-)

whatigotsofar said...

Hey, you want cats? Outdoor cats? I got 'em. I got four. Take any, take all. They all good.

DarcsFalcon said...

Well, clearly this is something you feel strongly about. I can only relate a story.

I had taken my cat to the vet, and while in the waiting room there was another woman there with her cat. She was talking to the vet about letting her cat roam around outside and the vet said to her, "An outdoor cat is a dead cat - if you love your cat, you'll keep it inside." He was not one to mince words! He also ripped into her for wanting her cat to have kittens "for the experience."

One of my cats once pulled a stunt like your Shadow. She had gotten hold of the tinsel on the tree, and didn't care for that long sparkly string coming out of her behind. She had a 'tude though, and pretty much tried to act like "I meant to do that." My glitter kitty. :)

LL Cool Joe said...

We had 2 Burmese cats that lived indoors their whole lives. When we moved to this house we decided to let them run free. One of them got run over (by my partner!) immediately.

We also have the tinsel poop routine with one of ours too. Nice.

I agree with you though, our cats were bored and caused loads of damage in the home. A free cat is a happy cat, until it gets killed.

Sparkling Red said...

WIGSF: I'll trade them to you for one allergic husband. Wait - will they make me dinner? If not, I might have to reconsider my offer.

DarcsFalcon: I've witnessed the agony of a friend who had just found her cat dead in the road. That was an awful night. I've also known many an outdoor cat to live a full, long life. It could go either way. As long as the cat is "fixed", has a flea collar and a microchip, I still think it could be OK for cats to have their freedom.

LL Cool Joe: Oh wow, that must've been awful. I can't imagine how I'd feel if I was directly responsible for the death of a pet. I doubt I'd ever get fully over it.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

I've never owned a cat, but truthfully does anyone? I've known a few over the years though and they are nice. I however prefer the total dedication and worship of dogs.

powdergirl said...

Thats one hell of a cat you had there, of course you'd have him back if you could!

I guess since cats no longer roam free in the streets of the Big Smoke, its a good thing all us bloggers are still allowed to roam free in Blogtown.

Y'know, in case you need a freind on the way to the bus stop : )

Jameil said...

Lololol. I'm sorry. Did you say an in tact dryer sheet??? I'm gonna have to say I'm glad cats don't roam, too because they scare the crap out of me when they sneak up or are just sitting on my porch and i didn't leave the light on. i like cats but some of them aren't very nice.

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: I love everything about dogs except their stinky breath and sticky saliva. If I could get a dog with the mouth of a cat, and the ability to purr, that would be the perfect pet for me.

Powdergirl: If I find you sitting on a stoop in the sun, I'll be sure to stop and give you a scritchy-scratch behind your ears. :-)

Jameil: It's true, some cats aren't nice. At least they seem less likely to go on the attack than dogs are. And they're small, so if you needed to fight a cat, it'd be easier than fighting an average-sized dog. I'm just sayin'...

G said...

I found with my previous cat Spike and my current one Holly, one never really owns a cat.

They own you, and occasionally, bring you along for the ride.

Ily said...

Shadow sounds perfect! I've been talking about getting another cat (I prefer indoor/outdoor ones) and I've always wanted a BIG, FAT orange kitty, like Morris of the old cat commercials, only I'd call him/her Marmalade. (I have it all planned out, only no one in my family wants another pet). :(

Happy New Year, my friend! Missed you!

Sparkling Red said...

G: I agree. Cats effectively own their humans. I recall one possessive male cat I used to share my apartment with. If I came home too late, this cat would meet me at the door and totally yell at me. Like "Where the hell have you been, do you have any idea what time it is?" I do not kid. If he could have, he would have grounded me.

Sparkling Red said...

Ily: Big, fat cats make for good hugging. Although I must add, because I'm afraid of coming under fire for that comment, that I would never make a cat fat on purpose because I know it's not healthy for them. That being said, if a fat cat is already there and wanting attention, I am very inclined to give it lots of squeezes.

Jenski, PhD said...

Hahaha! Our (outdoor) cats would eat the plastic tinsel on the Christmas tree and my mom would have to, um, grab it with a papertowel when it started coming out the other end. A dryer sheet though? That's impressive.