The other evening, Summer and I were at the pet store, shopping for cat litter. Well, I was doing the shopping, and Summer was along because she needed an outing. I had her on the leash and as we turned a corner, we ran into a woman with a small dog. The dog seemed friendly and the woman assured me he was well behaved, so we let him and Summer check each other out. Summer is dog neutral – she judges them on who they are, not what species they are – and she had a nice time visiting, at least until the dog wouldn’t stop sniffing her rear end, as dogs tend to do. Summer is not a whappy or a hissy cat, but after about the third time, I could tell she was really wishing he would stop, so I politely picked her up and we finished our shopping trip.
Summer is the most even-tempered cat I’ve ever had, but I know she has her limits. It’s up to me to gauge what they are before she feels a need to act out, or before she becomes traumatized. It is also up to me to know when a situation is safe for her, and when it isn’t when we are out together. Often, I have to rely on my gut level feelings, but there are also times when I feel like the worst kind of helicopter parent, checking her already-secure harness over and over again to make sure she can’t slip out of it and snatching her away from any plant I can’t immediately identify.
Whenever I take Summer out, it is a fine balance between allowing her to explore and have fun, and keeping her out of danger’s way. A few weeks ago, there was a house fire a couple blocks from our home, and my fiancé and I went down to see what had happened. I could tell Summer was disappointed about being left behind, so I wound up taking her too, in the sling. Fortunately, the fire was mostly knocked down by then because otherwise I would have worried about her inhaling the smoke. On the way back, I put the leash on her and let her walk home with us, but I also kept an eye out for any dogs. I always do that when we are out walking. Summer may not mind dogs, but when she is outside and vulnerable, as far as I am concerned, all dogs hate cats until proven otherwise.
Even if we are just sitting in the front yard, I’m cautious. She is always on leash, even if we are not going anywhere, and I never sit outside with her at dusk or in the evening – our neighborhood has coyotes that have become increasingly more aggressive with our severe drought conditions. They are most active at dusk and at night and even though she is never more than a few feet away, I don’t want to risk her being snatched while I’m looking at Facebook on my iPhone.
My biggest concerns when I am out with Summer is that something will harm her, or that she will be traumatized by something that happens and I won’t be able to take her out anymore. Do I get paranoid sometimes? Probably. Definitely. But having this friendly, outgoing little cat is a gift, and I don’t take that lightly.