Walking the Cat

Vintage photo found on Flickr, posted by Wicker Paradise. Used under Creative Commons. Photo has been cropped and edited for colour.

I will tell you a secret.

I want to buy a pet stroller like the one pictured below and take my cat for walks in it. This is something I would enjoy.

Photo of pet stroller from Amazon.ca.

I haven’t done so because I know it will make me look insane. The last thing I want is to attract attention or appear crazy in public. But if it weren’t for that, I think it would be fun.

It’s not like I think my cat is my baby, or that because of my infertility I long for a baby and want to use my cat as a substitute. I don’t even want a baby. I don’t have a mothering instinct. I know my cat is a cat. But I like cats. And I enjoy my cat’s company. Is that so bad?

For what it’s worth, I think there are people who could do it and get away with it without looking insane. I mean no insult to anyone who takes their cat for walks. But I’m always right on the edge of weirdness anyway, and pushing a stroller with a cat in it would likely be the tipping point. Which is a shame, because I think taking her for walks would be mutually beneficial.

First of all, because of my weak joints, I would enjoy the added stability that pushing a stroller would give me. I’m not ready for a walker, and hopefully won’t be for a very, very long time, but I do find it helpful to have something to hang on to. I don’t need it, but it would be nice.

Plus, I think it would be enjoyable for my cat. She apparently used to live outdoors, but when we adopted her, the shelter that had rescued her made us agree to keep her as an indoor cat. Which is fine, and I’m happy to not have to worry about her roaming around out there somewhere. But I do think she misses the outdoors. When we open the windows she sits in front of the screens and happily sniffs the fresh air for hours. I think she would love being taken outside, even if it had to be in an enclosure to keep her safe.

I kind of miss being a kid, when I would just do eccentric things without thinking about how they would appear to others. But then, I got so much criticism and negative feedback and got called weird so many times that I learned to act normal just to avoid all that. But acting normal feels so stifling sometimes.

It doesn’t help that the culture of the city I currently live in is rather conservative and traditional. There is no room for eccentricity here. One of the cities where my husband has applied for a job, and where I desperately want to move, is known to have a lot of eccentric types. Of course, that’s a generalization and a stereotype and I have no personal, first-hand knowledge of the culture or people there, so I don’t know how true it is. But then, I do follow someone on social media who lives in that city and dresses her cat up in little sweaters and takes her around town in a basket. The photos she posts are so adorable my heart feels like it’s being squeezed out of my chest when I look at them! So at least I wouldn’t be the only one taking my cat out and about if I lived there.



The Puking Pipeless Pied Piper

Photo by Benjamin Griffiths, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.
Photo by Benjamin Griffiths, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

*Warning: This post may be triggering for those with odor and gag reflex sensitivity.

Through no effort of my own, I seem to be some kind of Pied Piper for cats and dogs. Is this an Autism/Asperger’s thing?

As I mentioned in a previous post, when I was a small child I used to go for walks in the woods with my dog and cats. They would all follow me or walk alongside me completely of their own volition. No leashes or harnesses. This does not seem weird to me, but my mom often brings it up. She says she’s never seen anything like it. She says even other animals would join in sometimes. It was like a fairy tale.

Animals have always appeared to be drawn to me. Dogs I’ve never encountered before get really excited when they see me, as if they already know who I am and think very highly of me. As if I’m some kind of celebrity in the canine world. If I’m with a group of people, I’ll be the one dogs run to.

Photo by Nadir Hashmi, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Photo by Nadir Hashmi, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

Often I’ve been told things like, “He’s not usually like this with anyone. He was abused before we adopted him and is afraid of new people.” Meanwhile, he’s frantically wagging his tail, jumping all over me, and trying to lick my face.

Photo by Eric Danley via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons. Photo has altered from original (slightly cropped).
Photo by Eric Danley via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons. Photo was altered from original (slightly cropped).

I’ve even had aggressive dogs calm right down and sit down submissively at my feet. My mom is afraid of dogs because she’s been bitten before, but I have never had a dog act aggressively towards me in my whole life.

Cats are naturally more aloof than dogs, but they like me too. (My cat is cuddled up on me as I type this.) Again, it includes cats who don’t usually warm up to people. I’ve inadvertently pissed people off by somehow managing to be a magnet for a previously feral cat that they’ve just claimed will only come to them. These cats will saunter right up to me and push their head into my hand so I will pet them.

Photo by Peter Stevens via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons. Photo was altered from original (cropped).
Photo by Peter Stevens via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons. Photo was altered from original (cropped).

A long-time friend who has witnessed this happen to me many times once said that animals sense that I am just completely harmless. But a lot of people are harmless. This seems like something else.

People have often said that I should be working or at least volunteering with animals in some capacity, but I have a problem. I am extremely, cripplingly sensitive to odors. If I so much as get a whiff of excrement or even a wet dog (among many other things), I will vomit. This has caused problems for me many times in life.

I try not to let it happen. At home I keep a bottle of scented oil from The Body Shop nearby so I can immediately get another scent into my nostrils. I try to use mind-over-matter to think of other things and ignore the revulsion. I have a specific song that I quietly sing to myself as a distraction: My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music.

My husband now tries to help me by singing it to or with me when he sees that I’m about to spew. More often than not this is all to no avail and the inevitable happens. If I can’t get away from the smell, I will continue to dry heave even after my stomach has long been emptied, making it impossible to function in any useful capacity.

Obviously there is no way I can volunteer in an animal shelter or start a dog-walking service. I would be useless. It’s hard enough sometimes to have a pet, but our cat brings so much joy to our lives that we work around my issues. Outside of my own home I would not be able to have so much control. The litter box is kept in a storage closet with the door left open just wide enough for our cat to enter. Every time I need to be near the closet door I breathe through my mouth (this doesn’t always work because if the odor is strong enough I will smell it through my mouth too). My husband handles all the litter box and cat puke issues. That was our arrangement before we adopted her and is the only way we can manage having her. If my husband goes away to a conference or something, I have to get someone else to come and scoop the litter box. It is difficult to explain to people why I require this and I know they don’t understand and probably just see me as a fussy princess who finds icky things unpleasant, but it is so much worse than that. It is completely undoable for me. I’m sorry I’m like this. I hate being judged.

I hear about volunteer opportunities for animal lovers and think I would be ideal for them if only it weren’t for my odor sensitivity. I especially love cats and I wish I could handle having more than just one, but more cats mean more odor. I watch kitten cams on Livestream, which I greatly enjoy and find to be quite therapeutic, but it’s not enough. Whenever I hear of homeless or sick cats my heart just aches for them and I wish I could take them in.

Photo by California Chan via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons. Photo has been altered from original (cropped).
Photo by California Chan via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons. Photo has been altered from original (cropped).

It’s frustrating to feel or be told that I have some kind of gift with animals and yet not be able to do anything about it. So is this an Autism thing? I mean, I know the sensory issues are, but is the animal-magnet thing? Since I’ve suspected that I have Autism, I am seeing a lot of aspects of my life in a potentially new light.