On Being an Outdoor Cat

I easily get claustrophobic, but it goes beyond crowded elevators or airplanes. I get claustrophobic in office cubicles or conference rooms with no windows. For most of my adult life I’ve held an office job, but I yearn to be outdoors more often. If my desk sits somewhere in a building where I can’t see outside, I get a little stir crazy. I would take breaks to go and linger by a window to get a glimpse of sky.

This sort of claustrophobia can get particularly bad in the last long, dreary stretch of winter, much like what we’re experiencing right now in Chicago. I currently work from home, and my desk faces two large sets of windows, which makes my inner “outdoor cat” happy. I can see the backyard while I work and watch the squirrels run along the top of the fence.

This winter, Seasonal Affective Disorder has been lurking nearby in the shadows, threatening to capture me. I wish I could fly somewhere sunny and beautiful, but I can’t right now. Instead, I try to find little ways to make myself happy. If it’s nice out (in my very Chicagoan definition, sunny and above 17 degrees), I take my dog out for a walk during my lunch break. We’ll stroll through our neighborhood and admire the beautiful old houses, then visit the local park. Just seeing trees and expanses of sky immediately lifts my spirits and reinvigorates me for an afternoon of work.

When it’s too cold, icy, or rainy, I’ll spend lunch reading hiking blogs or checking out the Instagram accounts of national parks. I let myself daydream about visiting those places someday, or even dare to think about tackling the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, or Appalachian Trail myself. Granted, this would require saving up thousands of dollars and taking about 6 months off of work, so it’s more of a very, very longtime goal far off in my future.

I’m hoping for an early spring and that the worst of the cold and gray is behind us. Until then, like any other outdoor cat, I’ll curl up near a window in a nice warm sunbeam and daydream about leaving the house again soon.

Adventures in Moving

This weekend, my dude and I finally said goodbye to our 2-bedroom that we’ve called home together for the last 6 years. We were ready for more space, a yard for our dog to play in, and a new neighborhood.

I always thought that moving was the worst, but it’s not. Moving during a torrential downpour is the worst.

The day had started out hot and sunny, and our movers showed up early, giving our big day a huge jumpstart. We thought we’d be in great shape, get everything done before the evening when we could kick back in our new living room and enjoy a glass of wine with our feet up.

The day’s complications started soon after the move began when I had to take one of our two cats, Ginger Spice, to the vet for an impromptu appointment; she was peeing wherever she pleased, like me in college. Then, after every single item we owned had been stacked inside a truck, the sky started turning an ominous dark gray. We drove to the new house watching the clouds nervously. As we parked on our new street and raced up the front path, rain became to pour. At the front door, Kurt couldn’t get the keys to work, so we sprinted like mad around to the back through the side gate. I didn’t get carried over the threshold of our first house; instead, I got soaking wet while holding a bag of hot dogs and standing behind my husband as he swore at a doorknob.

After finally getting inside through the kitchen, we went out to meet the movers at the garage. By this point, the sky had opened up into a full-blown thunderstorm. Rain flooded up over the curbs and turned streets into rivers. I had just enough time to scarf down a hot dog and then I had to head back out into the storm to pick up the cat from the vet before they closed.

I navigated the car through the pounding rain, windshield wipers swishing at the highest possible speed. I don’t know what it is, because sometimes the simplest chore like carrying groceries up three flights of stairs makes me just want to give up on life, but something about an extreme situation stirs something inside that urges me to rise to the challenge. Maybe it was my childhood spent devouring Laura Ingalls Wilder books about brutal winters and fording rushing rivers in an ox-wagon, but when Mother Nature rears up, I feel inspired to lean forward and shoulder my way through. So I gritted my teeth, braced myself, and steered that Subaru Forester through driving rain so I could pick up my cat and pay a big fat vet bill, just like the pioneers did.

After I had picked up Ginger and secured the drugged-up cat in the backseat, I swung back by the old apartment to pick up the second cat, Esteban, still quivering in fear behind the washing machine from the commotion of the movers. I pried him out but quickly realized that the movers had taken the second cat carrier to the new house, so I turned the Ginger loose in the car and used her carrier to haul Esteban out of the house. The rain had finally slowed to a light drizzle. Esteban yowled and hissed in protest from inside the carrier. Ginger, high as a kite from the vet appointment, wandered freely around the car, peering out windows and attempting to climb me. With a flame-point Siamese sitting in my lap while driving, I was now less brave pioneer and more Gabor sister.

Finally, we reached the new house. The sky had brightened and the movers were just finishing up unloading the truck. Kurt helped me carry the cats inside. When the movers pulled away in their empty trunk, we settled on the couch, our sole piece of furniture available to sit on, surrounded by piles of soggy cardboard boxes. Finally, we were home. And our house is a very very fine house indeed. Just watch out for those two cats in the yard, because one of them is high on drugs.