I have a confession to make–I love walking cats.
While probably not the “manliest” hobby, I definitely get a kick out of taking Dan and Angel, my two feline friends, out for a tour of the neighborhood.
They obviously enjoy it as well, emitting enthusiastic squeaks every time I edge over to their cat stroller. Yes, that’s right–cat stroller. Did you know there was such a thing? Neither did I until my mother bought me one. I blame her for the whole thing.
My cat stroller is a big, sturdy contraption, complete with two drink holders (two!), apparently so that I can enjoy a tasty beverage while piloting my felines. “Caution!” reads the plastic by the handle of the stroller. “Do not spill hot liquids on your child!” Apparently this cat-walking contraption is really just a repurposed baby stroller with an added no-escape mesh enclosure where the baby would normally sit.
My wife finds my cat-walking activities quite embarrassing, and after having had many uncomfortable/awkward encounters while accompanying me, she has boycotted all further cat-walks.
Which is fine with me.
On any given day, I don my headphones, crank up my tunes (hard-driving rock and electronic music are particularly good accompaniments to cat-walking for me), get a hot or cold beverage (or two, since I’ve got the drink holders for them on my cat rig), and head out the door with my two cats squished into the mesh enclosure, meowing like crazy and climbing over each other for the best possible vantage point.
When I’m with the cats, I usually exit through the back door. While I’m not necessarily ashamed of strutting my felines down the sidewalk, I have grown weary of the following types of encounters:
A mother (frequently my own age) strolling a kid, sometimes with the exact same stroller (minus the zippered mesh), passes me, smiling at first, then switching from smiling to puzzlement/confusion as she sees two cat heads where there should be a baby.
Passing dogs get a whiff of my cats, and then go bonkers with barking, causing confusion/amusement from their owners. Depending on the size of the dog (chihuahuas don’t bother them, while black labs terrify them), my cats frequently freak out, hissing and twisting around in their confined pouch while attempting to escape these strange monsters. Fun for all concerned.
Passing “questionable characters” (I live in an urban area) in my neighborhood with the cats can elicit unwanted and uncomfortable attention from people that I don’t particularly want to communicate with in the first place.
I used to walk the cats a lot near a football stadium and made the mistake of taking them out for a stroll during tailgating times. Talk about comments!
Keeping to the back streets and alleys lowers the probability of these encounters.
One evening I walked with my wife to the local grocery store, which was just the slightest bit too far out of the cat safety distance. The cats had begun to fight, and while the chance of embarrassment is always high when strolling cats, once the cats begin to whine and claw at each other in the stroller, embarrassment is inevitable. That day, my poor wife had to stand outside the grocery store with two cats going after each other in a repurposed baby stroller while I picked up bread and milk. Comments galore.
Another time, my mother came to visit, and insisted on taking the cats out for a stroll herself. More than one neighbor asked her if she knew that “ponytail guy” who also walked cats in the area, leading me to the realization that, despite all attempts at discretion, my cat-walking proclivities were a matter of common knowledge to those in the neighborhood.
I quickly learned that the cats had limits to their tolerance for cold, wind, and rain. A little bit of each was fine, but if any proved to be too much then they would start to emit pitiful and desperate howls, causing me to turn around and head back home as quickly as possible. Nothing gets other people’s attention like wailing cats being wheeled along the sidewalk during a rainstorm.
For a number of years, I lived in high-rises along Chicago’s lakefront, and though I thought that this would be ideal cat-walking territory, I quickly discovered that having to ride down an elevator (frequently containing people taking their dogs outside) and past the security desk, then down the busy drive and through congested streets was no fun for me at all and fairly terrifying for the cats, who love natural outdoor sights, sounds, and smells, but do not particularly like barking dogs, loud buses, and large groups of humans. Though I’m not shy about passing one or two people, this long and public parade with the cats was really too much.
Probably my favorite of all the cat walks I took was to the local public golf course, located just a couple of blocks away from our place. I would take the cats there when I knew the place would be deserted, often late at night. This golf course was often overrun with birds, squirrels, and rabbits, and I would chase after these critters with the cat stroller. This seemed to enthrall my cats, with both of them trying to stalk their prey through the mesh restraining wall. Many houses are located adjacent to this golf course, and I can only imagine what their owners must have thought as they witnessed me dancing back and forth across the green with my strange baby carriage late at night.
Care to see the cats in their stroller? Apparently it’s not the most common hobby–my video of them from 2007 is currently the number one hit on YouTube for ‘cat stroller’, and it has gotten over 11,000 views. If you do watch, be sure to note how many octaves my voice goes up when I’m talking to the cats: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DuZmAHglus