Thursday, May 28, 2009

The call of the wild

I started reading a new book over the weekend, "Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals" by Dr. Temple Grandin. Since I'm all about creating the best life for the animals who live here, I'm fascinated by what she has to say. In this book, she writes about the emotional needs of dogs, cats, horses, cattle, pigs, and chickens. Her perspective is unique in that she has autism. Her life is highly sensory-based, and she thinks in pictures rather than words. She believes animals and autistic people are very much alike in this way. Her insights on animal behavior have me looking at everyone in my four-legged family differently, trying to determine if they are living their best lives.

Take Snapper, for instance. He started out as a barn cat when he joined the family 10 years ago. But then winter came, and I caved and let him in the house. He was an indoor/outdoor cat until we moved to the 7MSN, where I decided it would be too dangerous for him to roam. He always wants to get out of the house and hang out in the garage, and I've been questioning whether he'd be happier returning to his outdoor existence. On Saturday, I decided to open the door and let him decide.

He snared his first lizard within a minute and seemed dazzled by all the new sights and smells.

He has Smooch's number in the house, and it was no different on the porch. When Smooch got too close, out came the claws and the hierarchy was firmly established.

I was getting the impression, though, that he wasn't feeling too secure in his new environment.

And after an hour, he was sitting at the door waiting to go back inside.

Since his first outing, I've encouraged him a few times to go outside and play, but he doesn't want any part of it. Maybe if I put his favorite overstuffed chair on the front porch, he'd reconsider, or maybe the best life for him really is indoors. We'll have to wait and see.

Meantime, if you're a reader of this blog, more than likely you're an animal lover. Google Temple Grandin or pick up one of her books. I think you'll be intrigued by a lot of what she has to say.


  1. I've struggled with this issue, too, but because I've always lived in places where going outside would be dangerous for my cats (either from traffic or packs of feral dogs), I've always kept them inside. They certainly live longer when they're indoor cats, and are probably healthier, too.

    In Snapper's case, it seems like he just wants to be ABLE to go out - doesn't look like he wants to roam too far and will be content to hang on the porch (loved the shot of those little pink toes of his). Maybe you could let him decide and just let him in and out as he requests. This is, after all, our sacred duty where the Cat Nation is concerned - we live to serve their whims.

  2. Love your blog...we just lost one of our kitties to the "outside" thing. Been gone a week--wish we'd never started the whole outdoor thing. She has a microchip, but there's no neighbors nearby and she never wandered and loved to climb. So my guess is a raccoon, or of course, the coyote. Soooo sad.

  3. Very interesting about Snapper. He does seem quite content in the first few pictures, but the look on his face in the first picture, where he is by the door, seems to say it all. It's like, "Open the door, pleeeeze!"

    I will have to google Temple Grandin ... her books sound interesting.

  4. That sounds like a great book, I'll have to check it out.

    I struggle with the outside thing with my cat. After losing too many of my childhood cats to "the outside" I made the decision to make Boomer an indoor only cat. Almost 16 years later, she is still healthy and happy, but I know that keeping her inside has been for my sake, even though she's always acted afraid of "outside" when I've taken her out. It's a tough choice.

  5. Even before you mentioned her name I knew you would be talking about Temple. I read something about her...hmmm, can't remember where but had forgotten her name. Her autism is what made her so perceptive and her writing so awesome. Geesh, I wish I could remember where I read about her....maybe on a horse website or something. Anyway, need to get one of her books.

    The indoor/outdoor cat thing. When we moved to our farm 20 years ago the farm "came" with at least an extra 6-8 cats that were left behind. They were all neutered so that was cool. I fretted about each and every one of them as they walked out into the woods for the last time, never to return. I lost even more of the barn cats that were born and raised on the place. They just didn't come home one day. Finally I talked to my vet. She is a cat lover and said studies had been done that showed indoor cats live, on average, 2-3 times longer than outdoor cats. It is easier of course if they have never known the outdoors. So, now, I have vowed that I will have longer lived cats and they will live indoors.

    Kind of like a seat belt. Not too comfy but it sure changes the outcome of an accident.

  6. As always, wonderful pictorial and story

  7. Your photos are always so beautiful.
    I think I've heard a little about the autism and animals connection.
    I've been thinking this past week that animals must have telepathy, too. How else can they simply stand at the gate without a sound and magnetically draw you over to them for a scratch or a treat?
    It's like they have some kind of Star Trek tractor beam.

  8. Sounds like an interesting read. Snapper is adorable and is probably wondering what he likes best himself.

  9. I have been a fan of Temple Grandin for about 5 years since I read "Animals in Translation." She is so straightforward in her understanding of animal perspective. Thanks for telling us about her new book.

  10. Your photography just fascinates me, wow.

    I'm on my way to Amazon and order that book, thanks for the tip.

  11. We have learned that our cats bond better with us when they are indoors. With a nod to anthropomorphism, I believe we are all better off, not to mention the birds are all a bit safer. They have a touch enough time as it is.

  12. GORGEOUS photos. And thanks for the post, very nice. I'll google it, sounds very interesting.

  13. My cat used to go outside but for the past several years I've kept him in. I do feel bad for him when he can't enjoy the great outdoors but it's so nice knowing he is safe and sound inside. I think it's made him friendlier also. I sure enjoy your blog!

  14. When I was a kid in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico we always threw the cats outside at night. Regardless of the weather. The cat loss factor was pretty high. We keep out cats inside now, they live longer.

    We're very familiar with Temple Grandin. We have a son with autism and Ms. Grandin is an inspiration to us.

  15. That book sounds really great. After working with an autistic child for the first time, I am intrigued and inspired to better understand the world of autism.
    Great pictures of your very handsome cat, such amazing eyes on that one!

  16. Snapper is a beauty!
    That books sounds very good. Something I am going to have to read.
    I have 2 cats that are strictly indoors, and 3 that go in and out. The in and out cats do end up at the vet more often, but I just can't make them stay inside. They would drive me nuts, in a good way of course! My Dakota used to be an outdoor cat, until he was attacked by a dog, so he is indoor only, he has adjusted to indoor life better than I thought he would.
    I am sure Snapper will decide if he wants to be inside, outside or both!

  17. I've heard of Temple, although I've never read any of her books.

    Snapper is absolutely gorgeous. My boy, Bear, was an outdoor cat until he came to live with me. He adapted very quickly to being indoor and now rarely even ventures out onto the balcony. My vet has told me that indoor animals live longer because they're exposed to fewer dangers. I often wonder if my guys are content and happy. I sincerely hope so.

  18. I have read Temple Grandin and her view (literal and figurative) makes so much sense to me!

    As for Snapper, it seems to me that the whole deal with cats is that everything must be their choice. He has all the options in the world now. He's a happy cat.

  19. We have a cat that behaves in much the same way. He always wanted out, but as soon as we let him out, he explored for a few minutes and wanted back in.

    It's been a few years and now I think he's just indecisive. He wants out but he wants in. Or maybe he's not indecisive, he just wants the liberty to choose for himself?

    Good luck with Snapper =) And enjoy the book. It sounds like something I'll need to pick up!

  20. Snapper is so cute! I know how he feels though.Sometimes you feel like you need to go on an adverture, then halfway through you are thinking it was not such a good idea. I love the picture with smooch in the background behind the porch.:)

  21. I have to tell you that I have fallen in love with your Snapper. I have even gone as far as to have his first photo in this blog as my desktop photo. It is such warm fuzzy every time I look at him. The photo is absolutely great! Both the color and the composition are superb.....just a fine photo! Thanks for sharing ;)