Free Range Cats

Stretching cat
This is not my cat. I won’t embarrass her.

I’m sure people are outraged by this, but we let our cats roam free.

In Vermont that meant lots of sappy pine needle encrusted dreadlocks. It also meant catamounts. In the 18 years I lived in Vermont with between 1 and 4 cats we lost 2 full cats and one cat tail to predators. If we consider the tail .20 of a cat we can calculate a rate of .12 cats/year. Which if you have an overweight cat might be a very good thing.

I joke.

There are risks to outdoor cats, cars, critters and here in Denver, evil utility workers.

The other morning I saw a gas line maintenance crew approach my cat who thought she was invisible in our garden. He took two steps into our flower bed and leaned down to pet her. From my vantage place across the street at the beginning of my walk I called out “she bites.” But before he acknowledged me she had bitten him.

So he kicked her.

Her biting has been around since kittenhood, and I have never had another cat that bit, even in play. This one bites as a warning and it is really more than a nip than a bite, she has never left a mark. It is surprising though, because most cats react to a gentle pet on the head with a purr or an escape. Assuming you don’t touch its ears which might merit a full shaking off of your offensive hand. She does none of those, grabbing those friendly fingers with her teeth and nipping.

I have wondered if this habit should make us keep her inside. I wonder about spreading a fear of cats to the neighborhood kids. Now I also wonder about spreading a fear of utility workers to the neighborhood cats. Which might serve them well.

We talked about it at family meeting and no one seemed on board. They enjoy it when she comes to the tennis court, romps around the field and climbs trees with them. I can only assume from the time she spends at our door begging to go out each day that she would agree with the males of our household.

So the only effort I made to controlling her outdoor habits was keeping her in around school pick up and drop up. We live on the same corner as the school and it gets crowded with kids and cars at 8am and 3pm. The rest of the time our neighborhood is empty.

This afternoon didn’t go as planned.

Leo, who stayed home sick today, followed me out to the adirondack chairs in our shaded front lawn. He carried and ice water for us to share as well as some huge rainbow knitted scarf that he uses sometimes as a whip and sometimes as adornment. His hands were full and thus the front door was open. When the school bell rang we went to cross the street and the cat came with us.

I picked her up to bring her back and she did that weird eel like thing were she squirted out of my hands even though I felt that I had secured her in a solid four point grasp. Catdini. After her escape she headed away from school into the neighbors front lawn. This neighbor is a serious cat lover and tells us weekly how much she loves our cat so I figured this was a pretty good place to leave her.

After making it to the school playground I could tell by the wide smiles that I was probably not alone. I looked back and she slunk behind me in my shadow. I went to grab her again, know that I was going to have to get scratched if I wanted to get her out of there and she darted diagonally into the wood chips at the base of the playground slide.

Oh shit.

Sadly literally.

The speed with which she dug her hole and began her squat was miraculous.

I scooped her up, leaving the worrisome end dangling free. But that wasn’t the only thing dangling.

She managed to drop herself out of my arms and drag herself by her front paws across the school sidewalk. This time I needed to get both scratched and shitty if I wanted to get her out of there. And let me tell you I did.

I ran with the howling, shedding, scratching, shitting thing across the street to our house and tossed her through the front door. I worried some about the Turkish rug and a little about my shirt as I sprinted back to the playground. It has been a while since I ran in the 95 degree sun (like, my whole life) so I ended up sweaty as well as those other S words.

First I checked out Oliver with his substitute teacher who gave him a hug. And then I checked the cat’s hole at the base of the slide a moment after a small child came zooming down. All clear. Yet the sidewalk was still streaky.

Heading back with some supplies to clean (you can’t count on rain in Denver) I looked down at my Patriots shirt and remembered that my cleaning was not yet done.

At least I have trained all of my friends that I don’t like hugs.

Now I need to train the cat that the playground is not just a huge litterbox.

Easy, right?

Published by

Anna Palmer

Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble,, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at

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