In a past couple of posts, I’ve mentioned that Binga has been outside wearing a harness and leash. Binga also happens to be 15-and-a-half years old. I tried putting a harness and leash on her when she was a kitten, and while she didn’t really mind it, she didn’t seem particularly comfortable or happy either, so I didn’t pursue it with her. But nearly a decade and a half later, after seeing Summer walking on a leash and going outside, she’s decided she wants a part of the action. As a tortoiseshell cat with a double dose of that infamous “tortitude,” she hates being left out of anything.
Like humans, cats can get old and set in their ways … or not. People who are constantly open to new things, who embrace new experiences, technological advances, and who are always looking to expand their horizons stay more active and engaged than people who limit themselves to past experiences. Both cats and people also respond to the environment in which they live. My fiancé and I have a life that is anything but traditional and routine — and it wasn’t that long ago that Summer, with her curious, friendly nature, was added to the family. So maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised that day, when I snapped Binga into a harness and she acted like it was the most natural thing in the world. It wasn’t even like teaching an old cat new tricks. It was more like giving an old cat a chance to have more fun … and who wouldn’t want that?
I think cats have so much more potential than we humans often give them credit for, and Binga’s excursions outside are just more proof of that. I also think we limit cats (and often ourselves) by our assumptions and prejudices. If we believe our cats can’t or won’t do something, our cats sense that and respond accordingly. If you are nervous about getting your cat into the carrier for a veterinary visit, the cat feeds on that and becomes skittish or aggressive. If you believe your older cat is just going to sleep all day and be less active, you’re less likely to give him anything to stimulate his curiosity — and it becomes a reality. The more you don’t want your cat to jump on the kitchen counter, the more likely she will do it … because cats are contrary like that.
I’ve noticed that the less expectations I set on my cats and the more opportunities I give them, the wider their horizons are. If you are willing to set your own ideas aside and allow your cat to set her own limits, the more expansive and wonderful her life (and yours) will be.