Motivating Factors

Samson the cat is over 15, no spring chicken in cat years. But he is still spry and active. He manages to jump on the counter when we are not looking and likes to follow along when we walk the dogs. He’s not as fat as he once was and in older cats a little chub is a good thing, but he’s also not too thin so all in all it’s good. Samson has always been a lover of the world. We had a cat before Sam who was a fighter and we were forever taking him to the vet to be stitched up. Not Sam though – he is a friend to all which can be a little nervous making if you don’t have 100% faith in the goodness of people or fairness of nature.

Many a day we have come home to find Sam lying in the front yard next to a doe, who has presumably just filled her belly with my flora. And there was the skunk that lived in the drain pipe – the two of them would hang out together and cruise around the block. It sounds improbable I know but there are witnesses. Everybody and everything is Samson’s BFF. Boundaries are not really his thing and so when the neighbor left his door open on a warm evening Sam just popped in and up on the couch to be pet. While the other animals don’t really like when work is being done on the house for Sam it is an opportunity to make a new friend and potentially get an extra scratch behind the ears. In 15 years I don’t think it ever occurred to him to be concerned for his safety other than that situation with the new cat tree, which may still be dangerous – best to avoid it all together (aside here, nothing scary about the cat tree, we just added a soft pillow on the top and it might be made out of invisible hot lava – hard to say).

So for many years Samson more or less did what he pleased, when he pleased. We created boundaries of course but if you have a cat or have ever had cats you understand that you discipline them and restrict them at the peril of your belongings. So we more or less let him do what he wanted, and knowing that he was a gentle soul we didn’t worry too much. Sure when the raccoons would be fighting at night we would run out to bring him in, but we would find him lying on his favorite perch watching the action and in no danger. If it was a warm night and we forced him in he would stand at the door screaming for hours, and thus none of us were happy. So we would worry a little and let him stay out because, we believed our job was to care and to steward not necessarily to control. And this is how things were for many years: predictable, consistent, comfortable.

We live in an area with a great deal of wildlife. Not just your typical skunk and raccoon, but also the aforementioned deer, turkey, fox, coyote and not so far away mountain lions. We have seen all except the lion and there is some debate in the house about the coolness of actually seeing a mountain lion. About six months ago we were sitting about on a warm weekend evening when the neighbor called. We exchanged the usual pleasantries and this and that about the day when he mentioned that, “oh by the way I just saw Samson being chased up the street by a coyote.” I hung up on the neighbor, rude I know and bolted down the stairs and out the front door. Sam was bolting up the driveway as I ran down and I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw him run like that.

Since then we have been more diligent about bringing the cats in at dusk. Mostly they stay in the front yard all the time anyway but we have seen the coyote on the front steps so it’s better to be cautious. They are both old. And the girl cat doesn’t mind since she is happy to be is a cozy spot napping about 22 hours a day at this point anyway. We thought at first that Sam might object but as it turns out he is very happy to come in as the sun goes down, something he would never have done in years past. There are no more complaints about being inside at night, and on the rare occasions we forget to go out and grab them we find him sitting on the front porch waiting for us when we do go down. Apparently something trying to eat you is a great motivator for behavioral change. Probably not shocking to anyone.

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