From my very first cat (Katie Kitty) to the silly space cat Gideon you know and love, all of my felines have lived outdoors. As someone who lives in a very rural part of the country, barn cats are an important part of our lives; they keep snakes away from the house, prevent rodents from bothering livestock, and chase birds away from crops. My family’s barn cats have always been given food, regular vet check ups, and plenty of love, but at the end of the day, they serve a purpose and we need them.
This April, my best friend asked if her indoor cat, Saturn, could stay with me while she finished school. I’ve had a lot of cats in my day, so I thought “How could this be any different?” and he’s been with me ever since. I can tell you I was not prepared. Here’s a couple of the things I wasn’t ready for.
LATE NIGHT CHATS
Saturn can be pretty talkative. Especially early in the morning or late at night when he wants food or attention. The meowing drove me insane at first and I really didn’t understand why he was talking so much, as none of my cats had ever really been chatty. I learned that cats very rarely meow to each other outside of kitten-mother interactions. Past kittenhood, cats use meowing as a way to tell us humans that they want or need something. My outdoor cats had the option of being independent, usually not having to ask for food but getting it themselves. For that reason, they don’t have much to ask me for. Saturn, on the other hand, requires me to give him food and water and is not afraid of letting me know his bowl is empty.
The first night Saturn jumped onto my bed, I woke up and screamed, to be completely honest. I wasn’t expecting anything in my house but me and it had me pretty spooked. Now I’ve gotten much more used to it and he curls up next to me to sleep, coming and going as he pleases. The only times my outdoor cats had woken me up before was one time when Gideon climbed a tree and got on the roof over my bedroom. The desire to be close to me while I was sleeping or sitting on the couch surprised me. Even though my barn cats are domesticated and not feral or semi-feral, they are still used to spending 90% of their time away from contact with human and doing whatever they want. Being picked up and no longer in control can be an annoyance to them. Saturn’s world is much smaller and usually has one or more people in it at all times.
I shared a video of Saturn making a chirping sound on my Instagram not that long ago. While chirping is a sound owners of indoor cats are used to, this was the first time I heard it. My research tells me cats make this sound when they are excited to see prey, but frustrated that they can’t get to it. In the video, Saturn saw some birds outside the window but was unable to get to them. My cats, Gideon included, have been pretty skilled hunters and been able to move about freely to catch something they see. While I can’t say they’ve never been frustrated, I can say I’ve never heard them chirp.
Indoor or outdoor, the important thing to remember is keeping your cat healthy and safe. I’ve loved having Saturn with me and it’s definitely been a learning experience.