One of my very best cats, Freddie, is on long-term loan.
I miss Fred, but I believe in sharing the wealth and there are still plenty of extra cats keeping me company at home.
Like most cat-lovers, I spend a lot of time observing my cats and wondering about their ability to survive without me.
I used to worry about them in wet, rainy, cold weather. I would rush home if a mid-day storm hit, anxious to provide them shelter. As soon as they heard my car drive up to the house, they would appear from their neighborhood hiding places and greet me at the door, not a drop of water on their perfectly fluffed coats. I worried about them, they were fine.
Of course, with the change of seasons I have something new to worry about. How will they survive in 100-plus temperatures, trapped in their little fur coats?
Kittens and older cats feel the effects of heat and dehydrate very quickly.
I've read that in many ways, dogs and cats react to hot weather as humans do. That's not good. So I make sure the cats have lots of fresh cool water on the porch.
Human bodies are cooled by perspiration, but dogs and cats cool themselves by breathing off excess heat. They have no sweat glands except in their foot pads. Under certain conditions, heatstroke and subsequent dehydration can occur very quickly so I make sure the cats are never confined to a sunny area and are never without water.
If I thought one of my cats did have heatstroke, I'd do as advised: I'd put him in a cool, shady place, sponge him with cool water, and take him to the vet if he showed no response or could not stand up and move around.
During the recent heat wave, I'd start rushing around at about noon, calling them to come in and escape the worst of the hot day ahead. They rarely paid any attention to me. You know how hard it is to herd cats.
But most of the time I couldn't find them because they were, happily, perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. I found this out by accident one blisteringly hot afternoon.
On that day, I had reason to crawl under the house. Never mind why, just believe me. I crawled under the house and was surprised to suddenly come upon one of my older and wiser cats sitting Buddha-like in the dark. The air conditioning was clearly doing a much better job cooling the crawl-space than the rest of the house.
It was at that point that I determined to stop worrying about the cats. Cold and wet or hot and dry, they seem to find the most comfortable spot available and claim it for their own.
All of which brings me back to Fred, the special cat on long-term loan. I have to admit that I spent some time worrying not about his immediate comfort zone, but about his entire move.
How would he react, going from a multiple cat household with indoor/outdoor privileges to an apartment where he would be the only cat and an indoor cat at that?
I worried, my friend worried. The only one who didn't seem to be worried was Fred. He seemed to adjust just fine to life in a second-floor apartment.
One day we found out why his adjustment was so care-free. My friend was in the kitchen, cooking breakfast. She walked through the living room a few times and casually looked out the window to the apartment swimming pool in the distant courtyard.
As she glanced out, she saw an orange blob reclining by the edge of the pool and then did a double-take. Fred? How could that be?
She ran to the open window and noticed something she'd never seen before: a hole in the screen. Freddie scratched an escape route in the screen, jumped from the window to the ledge of the second-floor patio and from the patio to the tree and from the tree to freedom.
What did he do with his freedom on this beautiful morning? Nothing. He just took a snooze poolside. Chillin'.
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