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The Cat in the Trash Can

In the early stages of adopting my cat last summer, I realized he wouldn't be a house cat. I don't own my house, and the owner doesn't want a cat inside. Prince will have to be an outdoor cat. Initially, he lived in the dark, damp space under the mobile home. Then, for some reason, he moved out in the open. A couple raccoons spent some time in the area about then, and their presence might explain the change. Maybe, cats just don't like dark, damp places. Besides, I needed to shut the access door he was using. I realized he'd need some sort of shelter before winter and planned to build a full-blown cat house.

Then the rain came. An orange tiger cat looked nice on the front porch on sunny days. An orange tiger cat on a cold, windy, rainy day looked wet and miserable. I laid a plastic garbage can on its side on my small porch. An old jacket inside the trash can gave Prince a spot to shelter in stormy weather. He didn't need any encouragement. He moved right in. Even on nice mornings, I'd find him lying on the jacket's fleecy lining when I came out to feed him.

Eventually I built an insulated cat house from a combination of newly purchased wood and some scraps. Like the ones on the internet, it stood up on stilts with a front deck big enough for a cat to lie on. Otherwise, it was a lot like a flat-roofed dog house. Another old coat went inside for bedding.

There was one problem. Prince wasn't interested in his cat house. Sure, he jumped up and went inside during construction. He even stuck his head out through the open top and looked around. Once the roof went on, however, Prince lost interest. For a while he didn’t even use the garbage can much. Maybe the fleas the vet treated him for left bad associations with old jackets in his mind. Perhaps the unhappy ride to the vet inside a cardboard pet carrier soured him on small, enclosed places. In any event, Prince refused to move into his cat house. He'd shelter under the eves or on the front porch, but he wouldn't use his house.

We had our first snowstorm of the season the other night. The cat house remained dry--and empty. Prince stayed out on the porch in the wind-blown snow. Finally, my mother moved the garbage can with its twice-washed jacket back on the porch. Prince has been living there again. 

We all have this picture of alley cats hanging out by the trash cans. It's easy to say, he's just a wild stray cat who prefers a trash can to a gentleman's--or gentlecat's--home. But in any event, like so many other creatures, my cat shuns the blessings of culture for a garbage can. I can understand that trait in wild animals, but Prince is obviously somebody's abandoned or dislocated pet. He isn't really a garbage-can kind of animal. It doesn’t make sense.

Yet, how often do we do the same thing? Some people prefer the homeless shelter to the confines of an alcohol & drug free life. Other, supposedly better-adjusted, people also choose the benefits and pleasures of sinful activities over the relatively austere life of a follower of Jesus Christ. Even most of us who are Christians--unfortunately even too many of us who talk about deeper Christian experiences--so often park our minds and souls amidst worldly, unhealthy things when we could be dwelling in high and heavenly places. Maybe there's just a bit too much of the alley cat in us all. 

In the meantime, the insulated cat house sits near my window, waiting for my favorite alley cat to decide he's had enough.

Note: Eventually, I made a permanent opening under the mobile home, and Prince adopted that location as his shelter. He is thriving several years later. For more about Prince see Of Cat Food and Christians and My Cat's Food is Eating His Food.

This work is in the pubic domain and may be copied and distributed freely.


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