They Grow Up So Fast

There are certain milestone moments in the history of any household that, while representing small triumphs, are also tinged with a bit of sadness. Baby’s first steps. The first visit from the Tooth Fairy. High school graduation. Each represents a passage from a comfortable and familiar phase of life into something new and unknown. An opportunity to spread your wings and explore new horizons, but also a sign that something good has been lost. Such are the vicissitudes of a life well-lived. My friends, my little slice of heaven has experienced such a moment.

Isaac the cat has started going outside.

That’s him at around six months. He’s four years old now. He’s been an indoor cat for his entire life. For the first two years I lived in an apartment and couldn’t really let him go outside. After a while, alas, he started getting curious. He would sit by the door, meowing forlornly, occasionally standing up on his hind legs and stretching out his little paw to smack the doorknob ineffectually (they don’t have opposable thumbs, you know). So I would let him out for short periods of time, with me never too far away. That seemed to satisfy his wanderlust.

I moved into a house about a year and a half ago. Now I have a nice big yard for him to patrol. I am also the last house on a dead end street, which means there’s very little traffic to worry about. Still, I decided I would not encourage him to go outside, since it is rather dangerous out there for a cat and I was just as happy to have him patrolling my living room, where it is safe. On the other hand, I was not going to treat him like a prisoner. If he ever showed a clear interest in going outside I decided I would let him do so.

For a while that didn’t happen. Quite the opposite. Any time I opened the door he couldn’t run away fast enough. But last week he suddently got over it. I was sitting on my deck reading a book, enjoying the nice weather, when Isaac showed up in the window behind me. He uttered his insistent, I want something!, meow, and started pawing at the screen. I walked over to the door and Isaac met me there, still meowing. As soon as I opened the door he bolted out. Sigh.

His sister, Emily, was less impressed with the great outdoors. After seeing Isaac take his chances she reluctantly poked her head outside. She made it as far as my porch, sat there for thirty seconds, then wanted to go back in.

Anyway, Isaac has now been asking to go outside fairly regularly, and I have been letting him, so far for short periods of time. I guess I’m going to have look into flea and tick repellants, and perhaps get him a collar. A lot of my friends have cats, and most of them let their cats outside, so I guess I shouldn’t worry. But I have visions of him making himself sick eating the wrong mushroom, or bolting out into the road while chasing a squirrel, or just flat getting lost and never seeing him again. But what can you do? They grow up so fast…


  1. #1 drdave
    May 29, 2008

    Just wait until he jumps up on your bed at 3 AM demanding to go out. Then in. Then out.

    Our Smokie cat (she adopted us), is definitely an outdoor cat, and makes her preferences known.


  2. #2 Joe Shelby
    May 29, 2008

    be sure to keep up to date on distemper and feline leukemia vaccines/boosters. the ‘burg’s got a large free-cat population out there and who knows what they’re carrying.

    also have your vet keep an eye out for ear mites. both of my cats from the valley had them as kittens.

  3. #3 Nancy Lopez
    May 29, 2008

    We have a family of feral cats we watch over and take care of. We were able to adopt one of the two kittens that showed up last autumn. (We had them all fixed to make sure the feral population didn’t continue to grow.) Our indoor adopted cat can go in and out of the backyard, while the feral cats hang out around our front yard. His brother looks exactly like your Isaac, gray with a bit of white on his neck. Our guy, named Pokie, has opened the front door. He figured out right away that it takes two paws turning the knob back and forth. He just hasn’t figured out how to unlock the screen door, which is even hard for me to unlock. 😉 I recommend you check out Simon on YouTube here:

  4. #4 Susan B.
    May 29, 2008

    Just don’t let him get pushy. Our cat has a tendency to wait by the door and force himself outside before we can stop him–usually we can catch him just fine, but at night it’s impossible to see a black cat. Worse, he’s been known to do the same in my parents’ motorhome.

    Have you seen this?

  5. #5 FastLane
    May 30, 2008

    Jason, I strongly recommend reconsidering your position. Depending on where you live, your cat may be doing a significant bit of damage to the ecosystem.

    I know it sounds a bit wierd, but you’re a scientist, do some research on how cats affect songbird (migratory songbirds especially) population.

    Beautiful cat by the way.


  6. #6 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 30, 2008


    I think Isaac would reply that those miserable songbirds are damaging the ecosystem simply by invading his territory. He’s doing the world a favor by slaughtering them horribly.

    You may not have to worry. The first time I let him out he was sitting on the edge of my porch. A bunny came hopping along, stopping just a few feet from Isaac. Isaac looked at him for a moment, then lost interest and went back to grooming himself. Looks like years of indoor living have dulled his instincts.

  7. #7 Leni
    June 1, 2008

    Cats who didn’t learn to hunt from their mothers don’t usually turn out to be very good hunters, so far as I know.

    Still, if you get him a collar you could get one with a little bell. Just to be safe. Aside from being amusingly undignified, it notifies potential victims of the impending attack.

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