A couple of weeks ago I had a terrible nightmare: I was going back to Italy with my cat Grigiotta, and the airline would not allow her on the plane with me. They put her in a sort of warehouse, and when I went to see her, there were lots of cages, all open, and the place was full of gray cats of all sizes, I could not recognize her. This nightmare made me realize that I was worrying about my cat a lot, and that it was time to talk about it. Luckily since I started this post, something has changed.
Grigiotta insisted to be adopted in October 2011, the same month my beloved dog Mitch died. She did not leave me many choices: she would physically push herself into the house whenever I opened the door, and if I kicked her out, she would cry hopelessly. I was very sad and missed Mitch a lot, and she was adorable, look at her when she first appeared at my house:
She spent the months from October 2011 to April 2012 literally on my lap. If I had to stand up to go to the toilet, she protested. She loved me so much she would sometimes put her paw on my face and talk. I have always been passionate about dogs and never very warm towards cat, but I literally fell in love with her.
She became more and more independent and in the last months we spent in the Peace Forest she was out most of the time. The place was great for cats (and humans): lots of trees, flowers, roofs, mice, birds, horses and hens, and of space. She would come home just to eat and we were lucky if she spent more than five minutes at home.
I left her with my neighbors during summer. When I came back from Italy, I went to live straight in a new apartment, in a completely different neighborhood. The flat is on the second floor of building with no garden, and my main source of anguish, before I went to fetch Grigiotta after summer, was how would she cope moving from a wild life in the open, to a domestic one in a cold flat.
Believe me, I was full of questions. I genuinely worried about her happiness. I wondered whether it was fair to take her away from a life made of nature and freedom, to one that would see her blocked inside, watching the world from a window.
The argument that convinced me and calmed me – temporarily at least – was that I would take care of her much better than anyone else. I would keep away flees, worms, give her vaccinations and treat her if she ever fell ill.
Grigiotta adapted well to the apartment, or at least this is what I wanted to believe. In fact, while days went by, she became more nervous, she meowed constantly, and spent long moments looking out of the window.
My doubts and anguish resumed: what should I do? Is it right to lock an animal inside just because YOU love it and want it to be with YOU? If I really cared about my cat, shouldn’t I look for a solution that would allow her to go back to enjoy a life in the open, and freedom of movement?
People suggested to let her go out, in the neighborhood – I was afraid to lose her. That it would be too complicated to come back to the second floor on her own. That she would be hit by a car, a motorbike.
Then another question came: what shall I do with her when I go away from here? What if my husband at that point is in a country where cats can’t be taken (though I know very few of them), and worse still, where will she stay when I go to visit my children in their respective countries? Or if I spend a period of time at my mom’s, who by the way has her own cat?
Torn between the pain of seeing her suffering inside the apartment and the uncertainty of the future, I started having nightmares like the one described above.
So I decided: she is an expat cat (not yet, but she will become one), and she must learn to adapt to situations. I started taking her out with a leash (I won’t go into details about how I felt when I hit the street with a lovely fatty grey cat and her green leash, and me accompanying and talking to her).
After a few days I estimated that she should be able to come back on her own. So I let her go. I put her a collar with a little bell and a tag with my number on it, and opened the door.
It took Grigiotta two days before going out in the street on her own, and five before coming all the way back to our door. The first few days she would get to the ground floor and start meowing like crazy. Now she goes out and comes back when she feels like it, and I can see she enjoys staying inside much more than before. So this problem is solved.
Her future: I realized another important thing, which is that she loves me a lot. She is as crazy for me as I am for her. I had not put this element into my reflection, but now I do. She will probably be stressed by my moving around and she having to stay with friends or wherever I’ll put her when I go where she can’t come, but I will go back to her, and one day we’ll probably settle down together in a place where we’ll stay for long. Besides, she has been so smart as to break my husband’s heart, too, so that I can now count on him – I know that – in helping me with the cat.
The only nightmare now is when I hear her purring in the middle of the night, and not letting me go back to sleep until I give her enough attention – at that point I am completely awake. But I forgive her – what else could I do???