Sunday, July 7, 2013

Unschooling my cat, part 2: Letting go

My cat continues to remind me of unschooling lessons I had supposedly already learned.

We made the decision when Rigby was young (she's going on 2 now) that she would be an indoor cat. Indoor cats are safer, live longer, and have lower veterinary bills, and they tend to be cleaner and free(er) of fleas. It was a very sensible decision with her and our best interests at heart, and when she was a kitten, it worked beautifully.

But there developed a problem: Rigby loves the outdoors.

She began to cry to go out, sitting at our sliding glass door for hours--really--yowling like the Siamese she is for her freedom. She'd take periodic breaks from the yowling to come over and bite my ankles to make sure she had my attention. On the occasions when we would give in and take her outside, usually on a leash which she tolerated sort of as a fair trade for some outside time, she would romp and run and chase bugs and look like, well, a cat. A happy cat.

She loves it. LOVES it. Loves it. It is her favorite thing.

Like good unschooling parents, we've paid attention. We remembered that our comfort level is not the most important thing, and that being uncomfortable isn't fatal. We began to prepare for Rigby to be an indoor/outdoor cat, with some safeguards to make us feel better about the whole thing but primarily focused on this clearly communicated preference of our youngest, furriest daughter. We took her to get the feline Leukemia vaccine we had previously declined. We bought her a collar with a tag so kind people can help her find her way home should she wander. And we kitty-proofed the yard as much as it is possible to do, so that mostly she will remain in our yard.

Then we opened the door and let her out.

I wish you could see the changes in her. Outside, she moves with obvious pleasure around our yard, satisfaction in every step and radiating a clear sense that she is in her place. If you're out there with her (which she loves), she comes over to rub against you and head-butt and let you know how pleased she is with life in general. She climbs trees and stalks everything that moves and hides from loud noises. If I kick the soccer ball, she will sometimes chase it, and she has taken to sitting near me when I hula hoop, apparently not concerned by the fact that I drop the hoop nearly as often as not.

She has struck up a fascinating and hugely entertaining friendship with Roxie, the dog next door. They peek at each other through the knotholes and gaps in the fence, sticking paws or noses through, swat at each other, and then race together down the fenceline to the next peekhole to do it again there.

Inside, she's calmer, more affectionate, and just happier. I don't know how to explain it, but we can all see it.

We have seen the law of diminishing marginal utility very much in practice. She used to be desperate to go outside. Now, she still loves it, but if we leave the door open for her, she's in as much as out.

And she just thinks we are pretty darn cool. As I write this post, she is wandering the yard apparently giving me no notice. But when I went inside a moment ago, she immediately came to the door to call me back. Like most unschooled "kids," she enjoys being with her parents! :-)


suepatterson said...

Adorable! I love it! :)

Cap'n Franko said...

I still hate that stupid cat.