Ever since Pete, one of my three cats, was killed on a nearby street, I have been much more restrictive with my remaining two cats, Zeke and Zoey. Zoey is less apt to roam, so I trust her to go out alone after supper, even on these still-dark evenings. But Zeke goes out on a leash. He has taken to it surprisingly well. We amble around, following our nose. Well, Zeke follows his nose, and I follow him, rerouting him only when he’s inclined to take off into a neighbour’s yard, through a hedge or over a fence.
These expeditions usually take place around nine in the evening. I strap Zeke into his harness, attach the leash and out we go. I take a flashlight along, just in case, but Zeke definitely has the advantage when it comes to night vision. More than once I’ve discovered rocks that I could swear don’t exist in daylight. When Zeke decides to take a short cut across a perennial bed or between shrubs, I have to illuminate the scene so I don’t step on anything important. Sometimes I tell him that his preferred path doesn’t work for me, and we have to take a different route. Zeke is suprisingly amenable to these negotiations.
He doesn’t always follow the same route, and the length of our expeditions is determined by weather; if it’s cold, wet or windy, a quick in-and-out is enough. On calm, damp evenings that are relatively warm, we stay out longer and go farther. Sometimes we just circle the pond half a dozen times, stopping at intervals while Zeke checks out the smells in various spots. More ambitious rambles start when we cross a narrow perennial border along the west side of the house. I’ve managed to convince Zeke that the best crossing spot is one where there is a stepping stone for me to use, so as to avoid trampling dormant plants. We sneak through our neighbours’ front yard and down their driveway to the boulevard. A couple of times we’ve gone quite far from home; in fact, I’ve asked Zeke if he used to wander around like this when I let him out on his own, but of course he doesn’t say.
I’ve certainly gained a new perspective on the garden and immediate neighbourhood on these cat-walks. Who would have suspected that a dried out stump of a foxglove plant would have such significance for the cat? He sniffs it and rubs his face on it repeatedly before moving on. Certain parts of neighbours’ hedges also offer endless fascination. There is hardly ever anyone else around, and the streets look surreal in the weird orange light. Once we did meet a couple who told me that a man who lived on their street long ago also used to take a cat for walks on a leash. So Zeke and I are continuing a tradition!
I think Zeke enjoys our walks, and he definitely likes the “kitty treats” I hand out when we get home, as a reward for good behaviour. (Zoey gets treats too, even though she’s been inside).