My cats are outliers. I’m not sure if I have created their strange habits or if they were born with an out of the ordinariness.
They take long walks with me.
Smithon watching Luce far ahead on the trail.
When I say long, as of today, I mean about a mile out and a mile back. As I write this, I am preparing to push them and see how far we all get. Cats and overland travel don’t seem to go together. Its one thing for a cat to follow you as you putter in the garden. Or to pace outside the chicken coop. But to follow you on a brisk walk down the bike trail, with purpose, for as far as you yourself are traveling, that is quite another thing.
It seems to me that they are under the impression that they are a part of the pack. If I stop, they lay on the trail and bask in the cold sun until I move ahead. Sometimes one will accept a hand up and let me cradle her as I walk. But mostly, they seem to like the traveling comradery. They even seem to enjoy racing into the underbrush to escape the dog as she goes into fake attack mode.
Whitsett preparing to lead her cat-oriented tour of The Ruins Project.
These little lionesses of the homestead have spent so much time over at The Ruins Project that I joke that they could give their own cat- oriented tours.
Whitsett and Smithton, named for the little coal patch villages that we live in and near, are littermates. I expect cats to be cats, which means I encourage their hunting of moles and mice around the property. They earn their keep. The murder and torture of songbirds is a sad accompaniment to the feline hunting patterns. But I feel strongly about letting domestic animals do what they are meant to do. Cats are happy when they are hunting.
Whitsett, always the Watchwoman Above, next to my “Color Study” (2018)
Whitsett will lead your eye up to the sky as she always finds the highest ground. Her caterwauling as she walks the ramparts of concrete is becoming a very familiar sound.
Smithton goes a different route and, as is her nature, huddles into small, safe spaces to watch the activity.
The Ruins is a playground for animals as well as artists.
Smithton cozy in her cubby hole between Deb Englebaugh’s “Ragged ole’ Flag” (2018) and “Untitled” (2017)
I am reminded of a line from one of my favorite writers, Michel de Montaigne, who asked, “am I playing with my cat or is my cat playing with me?”. So, in the spirit of that 15th century Frenchman, maybe I should re-frame my question. Why do I find myself walking with my cats? Insert crazy cat lady joke here. Or, instead of looking for any deeper meaning, maybe I should just let the cats encourage me to walk more. This bit of writing has already led us out for two brisk jaunts today.
But back to the traveling aspect.
Why do my cats take walks? I think it feels natural to them. They spend their waking days in the studio, sleeping hard. So even though they are outdoor cats, they are highly socialized by all the ins and outs and comings and goings of a working studio. I remember them doing this overland travel-walking the day after their spay surgeries this fall. Their little underbellies were just freshly sewn up but they insisted on plodding along behind me. I happily report their full recovery from that change in status.
We are all of us, the better for it.
Cats who take walks