commentary and current events

Why You Should Keep Your Cat Indoors

Rarely have I seen a seemingly innocuous comment on Twitter blow up like “Cats should be indoor pets only.”

As it turns out, there’s a whole world of people out there who think that keeping a cat indoors 24/7 is some kind of crime against feline nature (not to mention their furniture). And I don’t mean people who own farms, granaries, or other venues in which cats are present primarily as working animals. I mean ordinary suburbanites who cherish their feline companion as part of their own family.

Suffice it to say, the risks to an outdoor or indoor-outdoor cat are many, and the benefits to the cat don’t really outweigh those risks. Nor do they outweigh the risk the cat poses to local birds – and many bird populations are struggling already.

But don’t take my word for it.

Currently, I have three cats who were once all strays. Here’s what they have to say about why they much prefer living inside a human house.

Image: Grayscale image of a shorthaired tabby cat with blog post title and URL.

Melody

Image: an extremely flully brown tabby cat with large yellow-green eyes gazes longingly over the edge of a sofa covered in an afghan.

Melody was born on the streets of Jackson, Michigan. Along with her mother and siblings, she was transported to the local Humane Society, where I met her while working as a volunteer. It took me two weeks to get her to come out from behind a cat condo and give me an exploratory sniff, at which point I decided she needed to come home with me.

Melody enjoys napping, playing fetch with a hair tie, and using her Dickensian orphan vibe to get food and treats, which she especially loves. She says, “The house is full of food, and I mean FULL of it. They have an entire cabinet stocked with JUST canned cat food! I don’t have to find, stalk, catch or kill anything. All I have to do is make this face and boom, Fancy Feast.”

Pippa

Image: A lynx-point Siamese cat rests on a red throw pillow.

We met Pippa in October 2018 when she climbed my husband. Someone had dumped her at my in-laws’ farm, but her lack of a winter coat and snuggly manners made it abundantly clear that she had spent the first six months of her life as a house pet. We suspect she was purchased from an unlicensed breeder by someone who had no idea that Siamese are among the most assertive, outgoing, and demanding cat breeds out there.

As a true princess of Siam, Pippa demands only the best in care and comfort. As a full-time indoor cat, she gets it.

Pippa says, “Humans live THE MOST plush lives, and I am an expert on Being Plush. Everything they own is either covered in padding or is a hard flat surface ideal for knocking small objects off. And get this – CLIMATE CONTROL. No freezing in winter or baking in summer! It’s all a little short on cat hair, but I don’t mind contributing mine.”

Image: A lynx-point Siamese cat lounges on a brown rug in front of a fireplace with wood stove.

“And get this,” Pippa adds. “In the winter, when it gets cold and awful outside? They put a fire inside a box. For me. It heats my personal cat sauna, which is just there, under the bricks, behind where I’m lounging in this photo. There’s nothing this nice outdoors!”

Image: A sleepy lynx-point Siamese gets tummy rubs.

In addition to enjoying the plush surfaces and cozy winter wood stove heat, Pippa has also found that year-round indoor living is a great way to get the attention she is due as a Cat.

“When it comes to being Supreme Feline Empress, I have one rule: NDPM (Never Don’t Pet Me),” says Pippa. “When I lived outdoors, nobody followed the rule! No one! You had ONE JOB, humans! Anyway, that’s why I found a mark and charmed him by being too cute to resist. Also, he had a soft warm winter coat on and it was October (see: humans live plush lives).”

Melody Again

Image: A fluffy brown tabby gives her best Dickensian orphan stare.

When Pippa first climbed my spouse, she was a hot mess of fleas, ear mites, three types of worms, and a wood tick that had lodged between her shoulderblades where she couldn’t reach and had already sucked enough of her blood to make it twice its normal size.

Melody, when she first arrived at the Humane Society, was in similarly rough shape. But since she’s become an all-indoor cat, Melody says, “I haven’t had a single flea, tick, ear mite, or worm of any description since I got here. I haven’t caught feline leukemia, FIV, distemper, rabies or even a cold. And they BRUSH ME. OH MY BAST, I LOVE THAT BRUSH.”

More Pippa

Image: A lynx-point Siamese, wearing a black harness and blue leash, checks out the autumn leaves on a grass lawn.

That’s not to say the cats don’t ever get to see the great outdoors. We just take them out in controlled conditions, where we know they’re safe from cars, neighborhood dogs, marauding cat-haters, coyotes, and so forth.

Melody is still too petrified by the harness to enjoy sojourns outdoors, and Gracie (see below) is too old to really enjoy them anymore – she just looks at me like I have personally betrayed her by putting her outside. Pippa, however, loves a good adventure in the backyard and will put herself into her harness in order to get one.

Here’s Pippa, singing her favorite autumn song:

YOUNG CAT
You can eat a dead leaf
I said YOUNG CAT
You can eat it with ease
I said YOUNG CAT
And then go back inside, where you
BARF! IT! ON! THE! CARPET!
(MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW!)

It’s fun to eat and then
BARF UP THE LEAVES
It’s fun to eat and then
BARF UP THE LE-EAVES

You can eat a whole leaf!
You can even eat two!
You can BARF! THEM! BOTH! IN! MOM’S SHOE!

Gracie

Image: A fluffy white cat sleeps curled in a ball, with one front paw covering her nose.

At 14 years old, Gracie is the oldest of our three. My neighbor found her wandering the streets in the summer of 2008. Gracie was born deaf, which made the streets an especially dangerous place for her. We suspect she was abandoned after someone adopted an adorable Turkish Angora kitten from an unlicensed breeder, only to discover that Angoras are almost as demanding as Siamese – or, with her utterly un-showable facial features, she was dumped by a kitten mill.

In addition to being deaf, Gracie has immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, which we were fortunate enough to catch before it killed her. For the cost of one highly undignified pilling session a day, Gracie has gained an additional five years of life so far.

When asked to comment on the benefits of living indoors, Gracie replied, “Buzz off. I’m trying to sleep in this comfortable safe space where I know no predators can take advantage of my advanced age, autoimmune disorder, or deafness by sneaking up while I’m vulnerable.

I would have been dead years ago if I lived outdoors. Instead, I’m queen of a warm, clean, comfortable castle, with servants whose opposable thumbs are here to serve my every whim.

If living outdoors is so great, let’s see you do it.”


You can send cat treats and toys to their Highnesses by clicking here. Put “for cats” in the comments so I’ll know the gift is for them. Thank you!

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commentary and current events

On Forgiveness

While leafing through one of my old journals yesterday, I came upon a note from my past self: “Maybe forgiveness is learning to live with an unaddressed wrong.”

This description of forgiveness struck me as particularly important in our current political climate.

When I defined forgiveness as “learning to live with an unaddressed wrong,” I was thinking about a situation in which I both felt I had been wronged and knew that the chances of the person who committed the wrong actually making it right were slim to none. I realized that my emotional equilibrium could not depend on the other person apologizing, providing redress, or changing their behavior to prevent the commission of the same wrong again in the future (against me or anyone else). Because those weren’t gonna happen. If I were to find any peace of mind after having been wronged, I had to find it myself.

I had to let go of what I didn’t control: The other person’s behavior. Instead I had to focus on what I did control: Living my own life from this point forward.

Before I defined forgiveness for myself as “learning to live with an unaddressed wrong,” I’d spent years needing the person who wronged me to apologize, make amends, and change their behavior. When I accepted that the apology or amends or change would never come, however, I freed myself to start deciding what I was going to do about this unaddressed wrong. I didn’t need to “let go” or “pretend it never happened.” Instead, I could treat that wrong for exactly what it was – harm done to me, without any attempts to make it right – and respond in ways that protected me. I couldn’t make that wrong right, but I could respect my own understanding of the harm caused.

Almost immediately after armed insurrectionists stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to force Congress and the Vice President to violate the Twelfth Amendment and illegally certify the 2020 election results for one Donald J. Trump, Republicans started calling for “unity.”

I wouldn’t describe the call for “unity” as a call for forgiveness, exactly. When someone asks for “forgiveness,” they’re usually acknowledging, if only tacitly, that they committed a wrong.

Calls for “unity,” on the other hand, aren’t admitting to a wrong. In fact, the most strident of them insist that no wrong was committed at all: They’re proud they stormed the Capitol to demand a lawful election result be unlawfully overturned, and given the chance, they’d do it again.

“Unity!” may not be a demand for forgiveness, but it’s a loud and clear signal that the perpetrators of the wrong will not address it. The rest of us have to learn to live with this unaddressed wrong.

The good news is that “learn to live with” doesn’t have to mean “resign ourselves to.” It can also mean “address the wrong ourselves, as far as we are able.” Specifically, post-January 6, addressing the unaddressed wrong may mean that we proceed in a way that protects us and the nation from people we know would happily harm us again.

Defining “learning to live with” to include “addressing the wrong myself as far as I can” was also freeing for me, personally. If I know the wrong hasn’t been and isn’t likely to be addressed, then the work required to protect myself is on me. I don’t have to wait for the wrongdoer to make it right. I can do what I need to do to avoid being harmed again.

Because our national wrongdoers are obviously unrepentant, learning to live with them – safely, healthily – means kicking them out of any space where they might be able to commit similar harms.

Kick out the members of Congress who encouraged the events of January 6. Kick out the ones who voted against impeachment of a President who incited an armed insurrection against the United States Capitol. Convict him of high crimes and misdemeanors, so that he can never again hold any kind of public office. Refuse to do business with him, so he can’t screw you over the way he’s so gleefully screwed over so many others. Put the country back on a track that protects it from similar wrongs, so that it can flourish.

That’s how we find peace of mind. That’s how we live with the unaddressed wrong that is insurrection. That’s what forgiveness for January 6 looks like.


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commentary and current events, neurodivergence

Inauguration Day 2021: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Four years ago today, I studiously avoided watching the inauguration. Instead, I wrote the introduction to Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber, a volume that seemed even more vital then than it had when AutPress released its call for submissions ten months earlier.

Four years later, I still find the Spoon Knife 2 intro meaningful. Here it is, reprinted in full, for another inauguration day – and the entrance into another test chamber.

National Day of Testing: An Introduction

“You know what my days used to be like? I just tested. Nobody murdered me, or put me in a potato, or fed me to birds. I had a pretty good life. And then you showed up.” – GLaDOS, Portal 2

My debut piece in The Spoon Knife Anthology relied heavily on the mythology of Portal, a video game in which the player-protagonist navigates a series of nineteen test chambers, accompanied by promises of cake and increasingly sinister commentary from a sentient supercomputer named GLaDOS. As the player progresses, completing each chamber becomes increasingly difficult. Breaking out of them altogether becomes unavoidable.

Portal is primarily a puzzle game. The same test chambers that trap the player-protagonist and obscure the final goal also provide both the tools of escape and the necessary practice in how to use them. The moment of escape is devilishly simple but requires quick thinking; the game’s ending implies exactly how far one can test the chamber.

For several months after submitting my first Spoon Knife piece, the concept of the “test chamber” intrigued me. “My Mother, GLaDOS” was my first tangible test (of the) chamber, the first time I’d committed some of the rawest and most gaslit parts of my childhood to print and the first time, outside the safety of my therapist’s office, that I had ever criticized the malignant programming that tested me. I played with the concept of the “test chamber” for several months before generating the Call for Submissions that produced responses in the form of the poetry, fiction, and memoir that appear here.

The writers (and editors and publishers) of the book you now hold in your hands all have this in common: we all diverge in some way(s) from the normative, the expected, the acceptable. We’ve all been pathologized, scrutinized, corrected – often, in horrible ways.

As I write this, the United States finds itself in a new test chamber, one whose outputs will inevitably affect the rest of the world. Those of us who find ourselves already marginalized, like the authors represented here, will suffer first, but we will not suffer alone. All of us need the tools of defiance and resistance.

The Spoon Knife Anthology gives its readers the chance to name demands for compliance when we see them, and to try on the means of defiance and resistance. In Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber, we explore what happens when those tools – and others – are applied to a particular purpose or demand. We test the chamber in which we find ourselves, and in so doing, we find the power to subvert it.

Dani Alexis Ryskamp
January 20, 2017


For more literature on compliance, defiance, and resistance, visit autpress.com.

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