Will is an indoor cat, but he has always made it clear, in his polite
fashion, that he would be willing to accept any chance of an outing that
might be on offer. So I eventually got him a harness and leash, and
though initial trials were not a success, I finally persuaded him that
the harness was not truly more weight than he could carry and he
actually could move with it on. Once he figured out that having the
harness on meant he was going out, he became much more willing to bear
up, and the past two summers he's had some enjoyable "walks".
I put "walks" in quotes because most of the time he has no interest in
getting much exercise, or getting more than a few feet from the house.
Typically, he begins by finding some grass to chew; then he checks the
visitor logs at the corners of the building and the low-hanging branches
of nearby bushes; and then he'll find a spot in the shade where he can
just hang and watch the world. Every few minutes he'll get up and move
in un-hurried fashion to a new vantage point, and somewhere along the
line he'll seek out a warm and sandy spot to have a good roll. But
that's usually the most energy he expends.
I support him vocally in all these activities in the daft-sounding way
that one employs when accompanying a two-year-old on his rambles. "Did
you find some nice grass? Okay, you chomp it good." "Gonna roll the
kitty? That's it, roll the kitty. Yes, yes, I see how cute you are
when you roll the kitty." And on the rare occasion that he actually
does kick up his heels in a kittenish gambol or dart after a wind-blown
leaf, I'll cheer him on with, "Run-run-run, kitty! Run-run-run!"
He's shown so little inclination to run -- and importantly, no
inclination to run toward the road -- that this year I took to letting
him off the leash sometimes. That way he can explore underneath bushes
and pass through porch railings without causing me any grief with the
lead. I even take off his harness so he can better enjoy rolling in the
sand or grass. I have to put the harness back on when it's time to go
back in, though, because he won't go in on his own and requires to be
carried -- and he's never liked to be picked up and held. With the
harness on, I can hold him much more loosely, without fear of his
jumping out of my arms, and that makes the trip easier on both of us.
When the heat finally subsided toward the end of August this year, his
perimeter began to extend a bit. Of course, it made him a little
nervous, exploring beyond his comfort zone, and it didn't help that some
of those days were quite windy. So there were a couple times he
suddenly found it necessary, in response to some perceived evil in the
waving grass, to seek the comfort of the back steps in undignified
haste. I would laughingly call my "Run-run-run, kitty!" as I trailed
There came a day when we were well out beyond the vegetable patch --
some 65 yards from the house -- when walk time was over. There was no
wind, and he'd worked up the courage to wander more than twice as far as
ever before. While I was sorting out his harness, I explained to him
that it was time to go in. Then, thinking of the long carry ahead of
us, I leaned down and jokingly suggested, "Why don't you run-run-run
right back to the house?" To my jaw-dropping amazement, he proceeded to
do exactly that!
And, WOW! My 17-year-old asthmatic gentlecat can't have lost a
scintilla of his youthful speed. At about the third jump, I saw it dawn
on him that if he was running it must be because there was something
mighty dangerous behind him. He took a wide-eyed look back over his
shoulder, and though I'm sure he actually saw nothing more scary than my
slightly gaping face, he cut in the afterburners and traversed the
remainder of the sixty-five yards in the guise of a periliminal golden
Now, _I_ don't run-run-run any more, so by the time I caught up with him
he was just lying relaxed in the shade beside the front steps with a
cheeky, what-took-you look on his face -- and not breathing all that
I'll never know, of course, whether he actually understood my
"run-run-run" and decided it suited his fancy to take the suggestion.
He's never again done so -- but as we all know, the fact that he doesn't
choose to run when I urge it doesn't mean he doesn't understand.