the cat flap

Those of us who’ve done a lot of reading in our lives… are familiar with the feeling that life seems to make more sense when it’s told in the framework of a story… described in a book. I used to have the same feeling when watching a movie. But as we approached the post modern age, I lost that feeling of security when watching a film. Often I found it difficult to follow the plot; to tell one blonde from another in Hollywood films. Sometimes, it was difficult, even to tell the difference between the good guy and the bad guy. You had to live with your lack of knowledge, and your lack of understanding. Actually, it was more like life itself… except for one thing.

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looking out the window, Nechama

In real life, everyone has a different capacity for understanding. Some are able to understand most of what’s going on, even if they can’t predict what will happen in the future. Others see only part of the picture… usually what is closest to them. Unfortunately, in the modern Hollywood films, the viewer is usually the last to know. In any case, having a lot of things going on, at the same time, and not being in control; not knowing exactly what is going on… can bring on insecurity and confusion. That’s the big difference between reading a book, and living life from day to day. No matter how complicated a situation was, in classical literature, the author told us about it, one step at a time. And it made sense.

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a hand written sign on the street with New Year wishes

In the last couple of weeks, quite a few different things were happening in my life. I had obligations to take care of; my dear old mother who needed attention and help, and relationships with family and friends. And there were preparations for the new year. The holiday season was about to start, and everyone here knows that nothing gets taken care of till the holidays are over. When you ask for something, the common answer is, ‘after the holidays’. I had to take my car in for the motor vehicle test, and before that, to pay the yearly registration tax. But though I paid it by way of the internet, the actual registration still has not arrived, and it made me nervous. It was hard to get a clerk to pay any attention to such a problem once the holiday season had begun. Yet, while all of these different things were going on, there was an undercurrent that had me worried almost all the time.

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Nechama

My cat, Nechama is fairly well liked in the neighborhood. When we go for a walk in the morning, we often meet with other cats in the neighborhood, and trade stories and share common interests. We study the birds, the trees and the bushes. We watch the progress of the ant colonies. Not ant colonies that are bought in a store, where you can follow the ants’ progress through a glass window. No, there are real ant colonies where we can see free ants bringing all kinds of food and construction materials from all around to the home base. There are so many things that are fun to do with the neighborhood cats, including the observation of a varied array of other animals that don’t usually have much to do with cats. But the cats are aware of them, and watch them carefully.

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neighborhood dogs, running loose

In recent months, a small number of cats have noticed that Nechama lives a rather luxurious life, by cat standards here in Jerusalem, and they started visiting Nechama in a neighborly way. She isn’t exactly a social butterfly, but she does enjoy the occasional discussion with a friend, and in the beginning she welcomed these visits. I remember watching the beginning of this social activity on the back porch, or in the stairwell of our building. Sometimes, she would just sit and talk for hours near our front door, with her boyfriend, BlackandWhite. They didn’t need to talk that much. It was enough to sit together and understand one another without words. Sometimes, other cats would drop by. Becky and Rainbow, and Tomasino would come by. Jinji would sometimes rush to sit first on the boulder, where Nechama and I liked to take a break. Especially in the long summer days, it was fun to spend time together as the day grew long…

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folks put cat food outside for the neighborhood cats

And then occasionally, when I wasn’t home, one or two of her friends, noticing that a back window was always open, would come right in and enjoy the comforts of our home. They would eat a bit of her food, drink from her water bowl… but still, with respect. They didn’t finish everything that was on the plate or in the bowl. But as the months passed by, the situation began to be a bit uncomfortable. Even when Nechama really felt like being alone, these visitors came by, without an invitation, and would camp out in the house, the moment I left on business… or to visit some of my friends. They knew me well, and recognized my car. The moment I was out of the house, they figured the house was just open for parties. Sometimes there were fights. Sometimes, piggish behavior. And there were a few times, when I would come home at night, to find my beloved Nechama sitting on a pile of books, sort of out of the way, and watching as other cats were carrying on as if our home belonged to them. It would put her in a bad mood.

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a cat with power in his steps

I would try to encourage her to defend her own space. But she isn’t that much of a fighter. She’s more the philosopher type. And it got so, that I felt it was up to me to find a solution. She doesn’t like to use a sand box to take care of her personal needs. And she doesn’t like to be locked up inside the house. So we had to look for a more sophisticated solution. We discovered that there are cat doors made. Cat doors that are opened with a key. I’ve learned from my friend Janet, that these doors are called ‘cat flaps’ in English. In Hebrew, we just call them cat doors, or dog doors, or pet doors. After examining the types available here, imported from Italy and England, we decided on the English door, which was advertised as an ‘electro-magnetic door’. The cat wears the key on her collar, around her neck. And the door recognizes that specific key, and opens the door for her, not allowing other animals to invade the home. At first, it seemed like a very simple solution.

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Jinji is a friend who like to think

Finding a craftsman to install the door was not so simple. There were people who just laughed when they heard my request. One fellow took the easy way out. He proposed a price so high, that he knew I’d keep looking. But another guy was so confident in his abilities, that he didn’t even bother to read the instructions that came with the door. Of course, they were in English, but I was more than happy to translate them for him. He thought that instructions were a waste of time. It was the next guy, who managed to repair the work of the first guy, that actually managed to install the door. And it worked, but it didn’t look as good as I’d hoped. And that is when I encountered the next problem.

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Nechama, on the other side of the cat flap

Nechama did not understand the need for the cat flap. She saw that the window was closed, and when she wanted to go through the window, she just let me know. When she wanted to come in, she would call me through my window, or meow outside the front door, or even pull down the handle that I used to open the door for humans… but she wasn’t at all interested in her cat door. And though I patiently tried to explain to her, and demonstrated how I could move my hand through the door; showed her the spare key, and how it opened the door… she would have nothing to do with it. It worried me. As long as I hadn’t seen her use the door, I didn’t feel good about leaving her at home when I went out by myself. And it seemed as if she was stubbornly refusing to use that door.

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a neighbor, and his dog

Finally, one day, we went off for a walk in the morning, as we often do. And as we were taking our walk, we encountered one of our neighbors, walking his dog on a leash. The dog was in no way offensive, but the neighbor and I got into a conversation, and Nechama got impatient. She went off on her own. This didn’t worry me. I knew that when I got home, she would soon arrive. That happens lots of times. I went on, and a very nice walk. When I got home, I looked around… and no Nechama. I called her name. No. No response. I opened the door, and there she was, waiting for me. Meow, she said. It was a relief.

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58 responses to “the cat flap

  1. I’ve been away from the blogs for quite a while. But your delightful tale of Nechama’s cat flap is a wonderful welcome back. I laughed so hard at her reluctance.

    The opposite situation confronted me last week. My new electronic door fob refused to let me into my own home My cat Melissa was safely inside but distressed when she realized I was outside and apparently not coming in. We both meowed in unison until my manager eventually recalibrated the fob and opened my door..

    I’m wondering if I can locate a cat flap large enough for me. Then I’ll wear my fob on a collar around my neck. Melissa told me it’s the only way.

    • I am so glad you had a good laugh at this post, Nikki. I myself have not been keeping up with blogland… not even answering comments on my posts recently, because life has been so intense as a result of this holiday. But though the holiday is still not over, I decided to give it a first try today. Sorry about your getting locked out of the house… that can happen too, and I can feel for Melissa. I am sure she was worried. How sweet it is to be reunited with a cat friend.

  2. I love your response, nikkitytom! Cat owners are indeed a breed apart. I am so glad – and not surprised – that the highly-intelligent Nechama finally worked it out for herself when she was good and ready.

    • Yes, I loved Nikki’s comment too. And you’re so right, Gill. I shouldn’t have worried at all, and trusted in her understanding, which has been proven many times before. Now she’s handling the situation very well. Thanks for coming by.

  3. Well, cats use their sense of independence very well. In the case of the new gateway, the occasion was there to use it. Hopefully, its use will become more regular.

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful story about Nechama!

    • Well, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks away from home most of the time, and Nechama has used her new gateway very well, fortunately. Glad you liked the story, Frank.

  4. What richness! All the holy relationships and the deep dignity of Nechama are so vividly offered here, Shimon. Thank you for this wonderful story. I hope she is feeling better about her ability to control her times for contemplation and socialization. Peace to you both.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, Catherine. I’ve been away from home mostly, in the last couple of weeks, because of the holiday. And fortunately, Nechama has grown very used to the cat door, and seems to understand its advantageous now. Thank you for your blessing.

  5. Now this is an enthralling story that you led us through, step by step. No confusion as to who was who and you got us to the conclusion without knowing ahead of time what would happen. A great story! Nechama is one cool cat!

    • Yes, Nechama is a cool cat, and she’s definitely gotten the hang of using her own door, and seems to appreciate it. Very glad that you enjoyed the story, Angeline.

  6. Well, after all the repentence, atoning, praying and beating on one’s chest, it’s definitely time for a lighter note, and you’ve made me laugh. Nechama is just a typical female who likes to do things her way…

    • I think you got my intention exactly, Rachel… Having almost a month of one holiday after another can be wearing… and it’s a welcome relief to think about lighter issues in this life. As for me, I can only bless all those females who like to do things their own way. I am constantly learning from them. Thank you for your comment.

  7. Dear Shimon,
    You are a very fine storyteller, and the relationship of mutual love and respect that you and Nechama share is very special. I cannot believe the technology that is now available for even kitty doors. I must tell my friend Deborah about it. She has whole families of raccoons brazenly troop in through the kitty door and raid their kitchen, even when Deborah and her husband are just in the next room. This seems like the perfect solution!

    • Thank you very much, Naomi. To hear such words from a professional storyteller, warms the heart. And yes, since I talk a lot about our ancient culture, one might miss the fact that I am very grateful and moved by the countless inventions of modern technology. It is such a gift to be alive in these times. Please tell Deborah about this new door. I am sure she will really appreciate it.

  8. I can recall telling you about those doors. I’ve never seen one in person. And I giggled out loud at you showing her the spare key!

    • Yes Bob, we did talk about these doors when I was just beginning to suffer from the problem. I’m thrilled that I gave you cause to giggle. How nice that you enjoyed the story.

  9. a wonderful story. I loved it! when left to fend for ourselves, we’re at our most creative (most of the time). A slideshow of beautiful photos brought this all to life 🙂

    • So glad you enjoyed the story, Marina… and the pictures. And you’re right. Nechama seems to appreciate the door already, and uses it a lot. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Wonderful story and pictures. Nechama is a beauty and obviously very smart. She certainly has you right where she thinks you should be…at her beck and call. But when you are not readily available she can manage quite nicely, thank you. Cats are lovely creatures.

    • Yes, I agree with you completely, Patricia. And by the way, she does look a bit like Teddy. She didn’t want me to get too independent. But she did figure out how to take advantage of the door, and she’s been using it quite well when I was off on my holiday. Thank you very much for your comment.

  11. Ah, Nechama! What a beautiful creature. This was a most delightful story, Shimon. Thank you for sharing it and the wonderful photographs. I always love seeing photographs of Nechama! I never had a cat of my own, but I know I would adore Nechama.

    • Thank you very much, George. I’m happy you enjoyed the story. From the little I know about you, I think you would feel quite comfortable in the company of cats… especially male cats. And I’m sure you would get along great with Nechama. Thanks for your comment.

  12. This is a sweet story. You have one lucky cat to have someone as caring and patient as you to tend to her needs and worry about her. Cats are smart – be careful Nechama does not get her paws on your computer or she may soon be writing her own blog posts!

    • You’re quite right. I often think about the chances in life that can pull us one way or another, changing everything that is to come after. Nechama was just a very little kitten when she adopted me. I was out for a walk, and she jumped on my foot and hung on to my leg with both her front paws, and just wouldn’t let go. I was annoyed, but I accepted her, and in the last seven years, we have become close friends. Thank you for your comment, shoes.

  13. I love the way you told the story. It would make a sweet children’s story, “Nechama and the Cat Door.”

    • Thank you so much, yearstricken. Fortunately, I have been blessed with a number of grandchildren, and I do tell them stories of my little adventures in life, and share my pictures with them now and then. They like seeing pictures of themselves.

  14. Shimon, As a cat lover and cat owner, I love your “cat flap article”, Am sending it to my kids. Thanks!

  15. And when you are in the house,she will not use her cat flap… she will miaow for the dignity of being allowed in through your door or window….but you know now she can use the flap if need be…I can see why you wanted a cat flap with all these naughty animals coming into your home…
    what a wonderful cartoon someone could draw!No doubt they’d be drinking whiskey or making themselves cups of tea or looking in the fridge to see if you had some fish in there.They might even play on the piano.
    Now you can be sure of going home to a peaceful house.And at night time Nechama can get out too.i am glad you found someone who could fix it for you.They are very useful… we still have the flap but,alas,no cat.
    It would be nice if the house door opened by this means so I could wear a collar with a chip in it!A new trend…. the latest fashion and no worry about losing one’s doorkeys…
    maybe there’s an idea here!

    • Well, Nechama was very glad to welcome me back from the holiday, and spent a lot of time rubbing against my legs and then sitting in my lap and getting petted. She still expects me to usher her to the door when she wants to leave the house, but now she often comes back through her own door without my help. I think she’s grown used to it. And yes, if I had a little more time, I should have drawn a cartoon of all the cats having a party in our house when I came back (in the old days… that doesn’t happen anymore). It is much better to come back to a peaceful house. Thank you very much for your comment, Kathryn.

  16. A wonderful tale, really enjoyed reading, thankyou! Our cat took an age to get used to his little door, but now he loves the freedom of it. Nechama sounds like a very interesting soul!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, Cath. And glad to hear of your own experience with this contraption. Nechama too, is learning the advantages of having her own door. I have lived with cats all my life, but I think that now, in my old age, with less time spent away from home, the intimacy I have with Nechama is more than I ever had with previous cats, and we seem to influence one another. Thank you very much for your comment.

  17. It’s pretty neat what kind of technology exists around pet supplies today. What a great concept to keep unwanted “friends” out. Great story!

    • Yes, I am constantly amazed by the many advantages of technology, often in areas where we didn’t think that anything could be improved… the world has changed so much since I was a child, that it is almost unrecognizable. Glad you liked the story, livesinstone, and thanks for the comment.

  18. What a wonderful story, captivated I was, from start to finish!!! I’m so happy she finally figured the cat flap out, especially as you took so much trouble to sort it out for her.
    Gorgeous pics, lovely to see some of your dogs too. I really enjoyed this.xxxxx

    • I was really a bit too innocent in this case, thinking that she just couldn’t open the door by herself. I should have realized that it was an emotional problem, more than a physical one. But now, after having been gone quite a bit during the holidays, it is clear that she has gotten used to the advantages of the cat flap, and though she still demands that I open the front door for her when she wants to go out, she usually uses the flap coming in, even when I’m at home. I can imagine that this is the sort of story that amuses you, Dina. I wish you could meet Nechama. She’s quite a character.

  19. i’ve had 5 cats in my life, at one time there were 3 living with me. now i have one dog. i don’t like the dog better. i can’t go anywhere for any length of time without having to plan for its care. i was able to go away for three or four days without worrying about the cats.

    regardless, i’m glad it worked out well. i was worried there when the cats were partying while you were away. wasn’t sure how that was going to end.

    • I have to admit, that I’m much more a cat person, than a dog lover… though I do realize that dogs do have nicer characters on the whole than cats. In Hebrew, the word dog means ‘like a heart’, and there’s no getting around it… dogs have a lot of heart. They’re very loyal, and offer unconditional love. The problem, though, is that they also are more dependent. But I suppose there are solutions for every situations. I’ve heard of some very nice hotels for dogs where they’re treated very well. Thanks for the comment, Rich.

  20. What a lovely ending. And I had no clue there are cat flaps with keys like this! My cats stay inside though, as a cat a few doors down waits to fight them if they venture out..and also, it’s not a safe area in regards traffic.
    I know the unsettled feeling you mention early in your post – I’ve been feeling it too lately.

    • Yes, traffic can be very dangerous, unless the general public has respect for cats. Around here, cats are traditionally respected. But it’s true that the social dynamics between cats are just as complicated as between humans, and sometimes even worse. I send my regards to your cats, Annie.

      • bodhisattvaintraining

        Thanks for thinking of my cats Shimon – how lovely to live where they are so respected 🙂 They are loving and lovable creatures..

  21. Wow, that is a beautiful story Shimon. Also sort of reminiscent of how we humans behave sometimes 🙂

    • Thank you very much, islandscribbler. Yes, there are a lot of similarities between cats and humans… and when they live with humans, it is often astounding. Thanks for your comment.

  22. A wonderful story! Friends have these kind of cat flaps, but if you are around or near the door the cats will wait for you to open the door, I think its another way of reminding you who is the boss !

    • The nature of the relationship is very interesting, Claire. I’m not sure that she considers herself the boss, actually. But she does have a lot of pride, and she demands a certain courtesy. And when she doesn’t like something, she’ll really let you know. Took me a while to get to these comments, and I know you’re on vacation now yourself. Hope you see this.

  23. Wonderful writing as always dear Shimon. You know we both love cats and your cat, Nechama is so beautiful… Her colour especially. But this one, “Jinji” thinking cat, she is so lovely too… Thank you dear Shimon, Blessing and Happiness, love, nia

    • I’m sure you would get such a kick out of the way Nechama has adjusted to her new cat flap, Nia. She’ll use it even when I’m at home now, but if she see’s me near, she’ll insist I open the door for her. Glad you like the colors. And I agree with you, Jinji is a true beauty. Thank you so much for your good wishes. Always so good to hear from you.

  24. That’s a very nice story, Shimon. It’s nice to hear that your little one is able to be safe and un-bothered again in her “own” home….

    • Thank you Scott. This turned into a real problem, and I was especially worried about this month of holidays, because though I had a friend who would supply food and water, I didn’t feel good about leaving the house, if other cats were coming in all the time. So far, everything has worked out very well. And she seems to be enjoying herself.

  25. Dear Shimon, a delightful story about the intricacies and social networking of the world of cats! It seems to be a rather accurate reflection of human life too in many ways 😀 I am glad to hear that Nechama got the hang of the new catflap, clever girl. Quite an ingenious little contraption actually! Sharon

    • Yes, modern technology has really improved our lives in so many ways. It fills me with amazement. And it was a good learning experience for Nechama. She is quite used to it now. And you’re right, watching the social relationships of cats is very reminiscent of what happens between humans too. Thank you so much for your comment, Sharon.

  26. Oh Shimon, what a wonderful post and I am so happy that dear Nechame figured the cat flap out! I think it often does take time, but once understood there’s no looking back.
    You and Nechame might start a new cat flap fashion in Jerusalem:)x

    • So glad you liked this post, Janet. Yes, Nechama has gotten used to the flap… and she often comes in, using it. But If I’m in the house, she still insists that I open the front door for her when she wants to go out… and it doesn’t seem to matter, even if I’m fast asleep. She’ll wake me up. But as you know, we’re willing to suffer a little for those we love. Thank you very much for your comment.

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