It’s interesting and somewhat amazing how much animals are like we humans, or we are like them. Rogene and I have just recently experienced a prime example of the prodigal child as described by Jesus to his followers recently when our precious little calico cat disappeared. Her story follows:
Callie had always been the typically normal curious cat, nosing herself into every crevice and trying to see what is in every corner of her living space. This has been true even to the point of getting into places where she could not get out without assistance, but we, her loving owners, always cared enough to crawl under the kitchen sink, move the refrigerator or washer/dryer or search through the stuffed walk-in closet. But the curious cat nature is strong and some of these rescues have been necessary more than once unless measures were made making it impossible for the cat to try them again.
But what was inside her house held only a minor interest to Callie as compared to what was outside our windows. Callie did not have a great kittenhood. According to the Humane Society, she was borne into a family who not only had cats, but children and a dog which loved to torment the cats. This taught Callie to use her natural aggressiveness in a form of self-defense, and even her love nibbles were strong enough sometimes to draw blood. This caused her to be ejected from two families’ homes and taken to the shelter where we adopted her.
After we got her home, which at that time was an apartment, we opened the carrying box she was in and she raised up her head and looked all around the room. Then, suddenly, we saw what to us seemed to be excitement from this little creature. Callie jumps out of the box and runs all over the apartment exploring her new home. She quickly finds her corner of personal supplies and uses her necessary box, eats a snack and takes a drink, and then jumps up between us. She knew she had found a home.
What was outside did not seem to matter much to Callie while we were in the apartment, possibly because all she could see when looking out the patio door was a huge sea of asphalt parking lot with cars and people coming and going. But she was very interested in the birds which came to the bird feeders we had hanging on the patio.
All that changed when we moved to Oklahoma into a wooded area where outside our windows Callie could see all sorts of new things she never imagined existed. Green pasture with large black animals which make strange sounds (“Moo”). There were birds coming to our feeder she had never seen before, and squirrels and rabbits and other more unusual animals she had never had the chance to see while in the apartment.
Who wouldn’t be curious about what else was out there beyond the invisible shield which Callie looked through. We, her owners, would go outside regularly and come back sometimes with our arms loaded down with many good things; usually good things to eat. Why was she not allowed to go outside to explore?
Now when Callie decided she was going to do something, she became very determined to do it regardless the consequences, even if it meant getting in trouble and being placed in solitary confinement in her (laundry) room. So dreaming of what freedom in the wild would be like, one spring day Callie sneaks out of the house and takes out on her own to explore the neighborhood.
She quickly finds herself being stalked by humans who she did not know. She starts to run back home but then becomes distracted and confused as to which house she belonged in. She sees a bird and starts watching it and following it as she starts wandering up the hill into territory she had never been in before.
It started getting dark. What does she do? She finds a trailer to hide under and tries to sleep. But could not. The things she could hear somewhat in her own house were now quite clear, and spooky. How could anything sleep with noise like this? Almost asleep she is awakened by the squeak of a mouse almost in her ear. While getting quite hungry, Callie did not recognize the little intruder as potential food because her food was always provided to her in a dish by a human. She had never been taught to be a hunter. This excursion in independence was becoming confusing. It seemed strange to her that the site and sound of the mouse made her hungry and instincts caused her to try to catch it, but once her paw was on it and it started screaming she, to put it simply, didn’t know what to do.
Very little sleep came to her that night, and the next morning movement around the community, both human and animal, brought a deluge of experiences which no domesticated animal can be prepared for. Dogs barking at her from a distance, a wildly strange looking animal with a rather long snout and a body which looked like a soldier’s armor (armadillo) came toward her but then veered away to avoid possible problems. But then one animal did not veer away.
Hungry, this ominous creature glared at Callie without a second thought of her being a human’s pet or a stranger to life in the woods. As it goes with coyotes this beast had only one thing in mind, lunch. He snaps at Callie, but the beast looked enough like a dog which she had tussles with before to quickly respond and run away. The beast chases after her and Callie knew she had to do something to get out of its reach. She had seen squirrels climb trees, she thought it could be her only chancer so, driven by her instincts, she thought she would give it a try. Struggling up the tree she finally gets up high enough to be able to look back and watch the coyote marching around the tree hoping she would fall.
Callie held onto the tree with all the strength she had until her hunter decided she was not worth waiting for, hardly big enough for a snack, and wandered away. Callie slowly tries to back down the tree and falls about halfway down, catching her harness on a protruding limb causing it to be pulled backward over her hind legs catching it on one leg not allowing it to be used properly. Callie realized she was in real trouble now and decides to go back home. But where was home? She had no idea where she was at. How could she find home?
That night she found another safe harbor under another trailer and tried to sleep, but who could sleep with all those weird sounds. Besides, she was hungry, and thirsty. Had she gone downhill on her venture she would have had plenty of water for the lake is only a block from our home, but she went uphill, far from the water she was needing now for survival. The night was long and at one point she stuck her nose out from under the trailer to see what she might see only to have a huge screaming bird (owl) swoop down upon her which caused her to quickly dash back under the trailer where she was spending the night.
The next day Callie spent most of her day trying to find her way back home, but actually only wandering further away. She goes up on a porch and begins to cry. A man came out and saw that her leg was caught up in the harness and got it out for her. She goes over to his door with an attempt to get into his house, but because he had a dog inside, he refused. He started to take the harness off of Callie, but this frightened her. Most likely she thought her mistress put that on her, she had to keep it on to be found.
This man who found Callie called us and Rogene immediately went up to his place and started searching. The search lasted for the rest of that day and sadly was halted at nightfall due to most likely not being able to see her.
That night there was a large thunderstorm go through our area. Callie evidently found a safe place like under a trailer or in an open shed to be in during this storm because the next morning when Rogene went up the hill to where the man told her she had last been seen, Callie was in the grass, her back was dry, and she was looking up at Rogene without a sound.
Callie was quite despondent and confused. It was obvious that she was suffering from her excursions and was hungry and dehydrated. She was limp, not responding to words, and allowing us to give her a bath and do other examination procedures with no reaction. We could not be certain that she would recover.
However, after a few hours of getting water back into her little body, she started moving around a little and recognizing better where she was at. After a couple of days of nourishment and recovering from the physical turmoil, she started acting more like the cat we knew before the incident. Even to the point of trying to get outside again a little over a week after being found. But we still love her and will continue to try to protect her as best we can.
So what is it about curiosity? Why do creatures seek so hard to be independent? Is there a lesson in this story?
Please understand that yes, I did add some unknowable details to this story about the coyote and owl and a few other incidents to make it more interesting. However, I am a longtime observer of nature and animal psychology and these details are very plausible and with some of the things we saw and that were reported to us by neighbors could have happened. However these details do not affect the true message behind the story.
We must be careful when resting in the presence of God not to become too curious about the things outside the windows of God’s house. While if we wander away, regardless how often that occurs, we are placing ourselves in grave danger each time we do so. Rejoice in your relationship with God, and let him take care of the world outside.