Boating Adventures | "How Becoming a Crazy Cat Lady Has Helped Me Stay Sane" by Vicki Totten

Read to the bottom of the post
to find out how Vicki and Stan
TRACK SKIPPER on his
adventures!

Even though Skipper looks mad in this photo and his
tracker needs to be centered, he has adjusted to wearing
his new tracking device.
This has not been a good year for losing things. While my husband and I fared better than many following the hurricane, our losses have still rocked our world. We had just bought a small cottage and studio space with dreams of creating a home for us, and a pottery studio for my husband. We were cultivating a community of friends and celebrating our decision to grab hold of our dream of living near the water. And then Harvey came along.

While our house wasn't destroyed, there was enough damage that our furniture is now in storage and the future studio space has been delayed until we can repair the extensive damage Harvey did. So, our dream is still a dream. Thankfully, we still had our house in Austin, so we are still better off than so many others we know. But the hurricane still shook our world. Many in the community we had become part of have scattered in the wake of Hurricane Harvey's wrath. And the dream of us sitting on our porch watching boats coming in and out of the harbor has been put on hold.

The need to be free to climb trees was evident in Skipper as a kitty.

So the thought of having one more loss is what I blame on my becoming a "crazy cat lady." The threat of losing our cat Skipper, who is our constant companion, traveling with us to and from Austin and Rockport, became the impetus for us to find a better solution than the nightly search and rescue operation that was occurring when trying to bring him in for the night. Trying to keep Skipper indoors had simply not worked.  Maybe it was because he had already experienced living his life outdoors when we rescued him as a kitten, or maybe it is because he loves to climb trees and hunt.  Whatever it is that makes him crazed when forced to stay indoors for long periods of time meant that trying to force him to stay indoors hadn't worked. Instead, it had resulted in several destroyed screens on the boat, frequent escapes whenever a door at the house was opened, and him learning to pick the locks on not one, but two different cat doors.


And that need to climb up high has not diminished as Skipper has gotten older

Our compromise is to let him out during the day, but lock him inside at night. Even when he is within our eyesight in trying to bring him in, however, he apparently thinks it is fun to run from us when we go out to call him in for the night. I confess that I am partly to blame for this behavior. When he was a kitten, I discovered he liked to play chase around the house. Sometimes he would chase me and other times I would chase him. He really liked hiding, and then surprising me. It was a great game. A game he apparently now can't distinguish from us moving toward him at dusk to bring him in. Dang it.

Because our house in Austin gets frequent night time visits from coyotes who live in the nearby greenbelt, we needed to find a solution for what had become a very stressful nightly routine. It took two real scares, however, for us to finally discover a solution that - so far - seems to be working. The first scare ended up with me driving all the way home from Gruene, where my husband was in the middle of an art show, because my cat sitter told me Skipper had not come in that night. So I drove back to Austin at the crack of dawn to search for him, fearing the worse. The first thing I did when I walked in the door was to head down the hall to the bedroom, hoping for a miracle where I would find him waiting on the bed. And I got my miracle. There he was on the bed, paws crossed in front of him, looking as if he had just been waiting for me. I swear he also had a smug look on his face.

The second scare happened in Rockport. Because our house is downtown and there had been people all around us working on rebuilding various businesses, we were afraid he had gotten locked in one of the buildings when the workers went home for the night. But our search of the nearby buildings with our spotlight in hand turned up nothing. We even went down to the shoreline, fearing that maybe he had fallen in. We had started our search in the metal building attached to our house, but since he didn't come when we called, we locked the door and didn't return to it until we got up the next morning. And there was Skipper, waiting inside. You would think he would have figured out by now that when he ignores our calls it usually doesn't end well for him. Or not.

So after these two events, we began looking around for devices to help us find him when he goes missing. Thanks to Amazon's same day shipping, we received Skipper's new electronic tracker the night before we were leaving town, downloaded the application, and had our cat sitter do the same. We then charged it up and introduced Skipper to his new collar with the fancy device attached to it. As if having him wear a harness and leash when we travel isn't humiliating enough, now he is also expected to wear this device on his collar all day long. What a difference it has made for our sanity - even if it does make me seem like a crazy cat lady.


The lines on this picture show Skipper's route after he was let out of the
house while wearing his tracking device. 

The tracking device has also provided us with a new form of entertainment. In the documentary "The Lion in Your Living Room" we learned that cats typically have a specific route they patrol when let outside. We can now see for ourselves that this is true. When he is let out in the mornings the first thing he does is hang around the front yard for a few minutes, sniffing the grass and slowly walking around, as if looking for predators. He then pretty quickly will go on his route which can be as small as the houses within eyesight, or as far as 500 feet. Of course, in between he may climb a tree, chase a varmint, or even take a short nap.

The tracker doesn't mean we don't still lose track of him sometimes. A few days after getting the device, he came back in one morning without his collar or the device on. We went on to the app and could see the vicinity where it was, so we began searching in the thick bushes in front of our house. I had actually never seen him go in there, but that's where it showed it was. Finally I looked deep within the bushes and I could see Skipper's white paw. And underneath that paw was his red collar with the device attached. Apparently we are not the only ones entertained by the new device.

Another incident occurred when he didn't come home after dark and we could see from the app that he had ventured to a neighbor's yard on the street behind us. We were able to hop in the truck and drive right up to where he was in the bushes (he apparently has a thing for bushes). When I got out of the truck, he didn't try to run, and instead rolled over on his tummy, as if he had been waiting for us.

Having this new tracker doesn't guarantee we won't experience another loss anytime soon. And it may well cement my reputation as a crazy cat lady. But it also gives me peace of mind - and that's worth a lot these days.


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