dried sunflower stalks on a foggy October morning in our Topsham garden

Honoring my cat Toshi’s wild nature

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my relationship to our cat Toshi and her essentially wild nature. Toshi came to us three years ago at this time of the year from the local animal shelter, a tiny ten-week-old ball of fluff. Ever since she was a kitten I trained her to wear a harness. I don’t walk Toshi–she walks me. And just about every morning she stares me down as I pour my coffee. Toshi waits patiently, then sits while I snap the harness around her neck and belly. And off we go on a fresh air adventure in the yard.

Toshi as a kitten

Biodiversity on our suburban half-acre

We have some biodiversity on our suburban half-acre–woods in the back, a vegetable garden on the side, and some green out front that passes for lawn. While roaming the terrain, Toshi hunts while I take time to observe. Keeping her in sight, I also take in the light through the tree branches, birdsong, and the all the stirrings of the morning.

A morning ritual for cat and human

I’ve come to look forward to our morning ritual. Going outside and watching Toshi has helped me accept that she is more of a wild thing and less of a companion animal. I’ve had cats before who enjoyed their lap time. This one is rarely in cuddle mode. Such is the luck of the draw when you take in a pet from the animal shelter. I try to balance my desire to honor her wild nature with my commitment to protecting birds and wildlife. And, of course, I want to keep her safe from predators and other hazards cats face when they roam free. Respecting Toshi’s wild ways requires patience and attention. Furthermore, I’ve come to understand that it’s a delicate balance between her needs and mine, which is probably true of all genuine relationships.

Gratitude

In closing, bringing this wild cat into our home has been enriching and challenging in equal measure. Toshi’s presence in our lives and her wild spirit have made me adapt my daily habits. Acceding to her need to be outdoors has allowed me to glimpse the world through her cat eyes. And ultimately, it has deepened my connection to all wild things.

Finally, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave them in the comments.

Robin

Note regarding 2024 revision: This post was originally published four years ago but I am releasing it again with some edits and an additional photo of Toshi as a kitten. At a certain point last summer Toshi made it clear that she wanted to be outdoors more than in. And keeping an eye on her became burdensome and ultimately untenable. So we are keeping her in this summer.

Toshi in the garden, August 2020
Toshi in the wild flower garden, Topsham, summer 2020