Hobbes, my five year old silver and white tabby, has always been an indoor cat. I rescued him from the pound at one and nursed him back from kennel cough. Being the protective parent I am, I always wanted him within sight or ear-shot of his red belled collar. It was never a mystery to me if he wanted to go outside but when he would. Who knows what goes on our there in the ‘wild’ or where he might wander. With the bugs and all out there I thought it best he stay indoors. Not to mention the dramatically increased risk there would be of some neighborhood indiscretion. But he made his intentions quite clear as he spent most days perched at the windowsill and still others delivering a ten-minute protest at the door.
But I never had him want for anything. From the beginning he had a basket full of toys, two litters boxes and three water bowls to choose from. I brushed him once a day and gave him loads of love and attention. We had morning play and learn sessions replete with treats even when he didn’t sit or talk - an ‘A’ for effort and a treat for trying. He seemed to have everything he needed but still, whining protests and staring hours out the window abounded. Perhaps, I worried, he was born to be an outside cat.
By three he had mostly adjusted to the indoor life and saved his energy for crying only on the clearest of days. The staring waned only a bit and he added to his routine by darting from window to window, following that very thing he’d been watching for so long. I called it his ‘perimeter prowl’ as he covered every edge of the house daily. On most days in North Carolina, when the sun shines brightly in, Hobbes tracked it through the house and basked in its glory and in every windowed room from sunrise to sunset. On those rare days when I decided to enjoy the same sun outside, my heart would ache at the sight of him looking on longingly. One warm spring day I gave into his beady eyes and persistent cry. I walked outside carrying Hobbes to allow him the pleasure of his long-sought outside air. I even put his paws in the grass. I never let go. Not once. Sure, he had his proper treatment for fleas and worms and was all up to date on his shots, but why risk it. Yet each time I took him to experience the outdoors and upon entering, he only wanted more. More crying, more begging, more staring longingly. The greedy little thing had the life every cat dreamt of and it was unsettling to watch him despondent.
Not long after Hobbes turned four an usual thing happened. I came home one night after a long day away and found a dead mouse on the carpet of my bedroom floor. Hobbes stood proudly behind it. After the anxiety of having a mouse in my house ripped through my body, I moved close to be sure it was dead. It was. As I turned to go for the dustpan in the kitchen, Hobbes flashed out in front of me and cut me off in the hallway. He meowed and weaved around my legs tripping me up until I stopped. He led me back to the mouse and went behind it again. He lay down with it just under his white furry chin and between his front paws and looked up at me. “Yes, I see Hobbes. You killed a mouse. Nice going,” I said. He replied with a long howling meow. As I turned to try again for the dustpan, the situation repeated itself exactly. He cut me off. I turned. He led. I followed. He bragged. Finally, I realized he wasn’t going to let me go anywhere until I showed him some real appreciation – which I did. Words of encouragement, gratitude for cleaning this place up, dozens of back strokes and head scratches. He soaked it all up and still wasn’t satisfied.
After that stalking his mood lifted. He was adamant about either going outside or using my home as his hunting grounds. Each night he presented me with a new gift. Spiders, bugs, that paperclip I dropped between the dresser and the wall. And each time he was given ample attention for his hunting efforts. I was creating a monster. The night the cockroach hit the floor I decided I should do something (besides admit I needed to call an exterminator). Coincidentally, the next evening Hobbes accidentally escaped outside. Four hours he cruised the pine-straw drag. When I found him outside, he was waiting for me, collar gone and a dead bird at his feet. I imagine that after his initial steps with a jingle at each one, Hobbes thought it decidedly un-catlike to wear a bell while hunting. So he removed it to maintain optimum stealth mode activity. After I checked him for ticks I gave him his due credit but begged him to stay inside, as “it’s dangerous out there”. He strutted off and I knew he would never return to the indoor life. He had found his element and was a happier, more fulfilled kitty thereafter. So unless it’s raining, Hobbes hunts from 7:00 to 8:30 and always returns with an offering. His final count of things hunted so far is eight birds, twelve mice, countless bugs and one squirrel (though I’m almost positive he found it dead, drug it to the stoop and took the credit). As for his quality of life, he still enjoys the pampering and his regular heavenly indoor routine but he’s blissful, returning to the door bearing gifts and being allowed the chance to do what he was born (and loves) to do: HUNT.