#8: Cat + Bicycle = Cat-Schlepping on Wheels

I’ve never been much of a cyclist. At seven, I was the last of my friends to move on from training wheels, and only then under persistent peer-pressure. This was when I was practicing on dirt and gravel roads, in a hometown too small for stoplights. A quarter century later, I am currently living in Berlin, and get very stressed out cycling around such a major metropolis (cabs, busses, tram tracks, oblivious pedestrians, car doors opening, delivery trucks, bike lanes that abruptly disappear, other mental cyclists, etc). And when it comes to cycling anywhere hilly, or while hauling camping gear, forget it. I’d rather get off and walk.

 

My natural inclination is to go everywhere by foot, to have time to take in my surroundings as I move through them at a human pace, with minimal chance of crashing into anything. I consider myself to be something of a champion pedestrian – I’ll walk ten miles up, down, and around town or country and not think twice about it, until my flat feet and dodgy knee start to ache.

 

However, moving at a walking pace certainly does have restrictions. Especially if you’re schlepping a twelve pound cat. The desire to get out and see more of the world, schlep further and faster, and minimize the damage to my shoulders, has finally motivated me to get over my aversion to cycling. I’ve started going for bicycle rides with Aífe, and it’s far and away one of the best, most gleeful things I’ve ever done.

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#6: Schlepping Through The Worst-Case Scenarios

This blog has, thus far, discussing cat-schlepping as an activity one might choose to undertake for the sheer delight of it – an exercise in exploring feline curiosity and companionship in fresh air. Some folks, I’m well aware, will dismiss this as sheer whimsy. Some will scorn it. Some of these frowny folks may just dislike cats. Others may like cats very much, and feel very strongly about keeping them indoors. I can hear this last type now: “I’d never take my cat outside, and certainly never schlep it about. That’s demented.”

 

Well, you can’t win ‘em all.

 

Even so, to all you dismissers of cat-schlepping out there, let me ask you a question – what about the times when leaving the house isn’t a choice? What about when ‘adventure’ (that very broad catch-all for anything unexpected) comes looking for you? What about situations when taking your cat outside is no longer a matter of choice, but a matter of life and death?

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#2: Cat-Schlepping is a Feminist Issue

Even though cat-schlepping is mostly about the sheer giggling joy and wonder and well-being we take from our wanders, make no mistake – it is also a serious undertaking, with the seeds of genuine, trans-species revolution.

 

Any discussion of cats, of what they are like, of what they are capable of, and you will unfailingly come up against one fact over and over again:

 

Cats are not dogs.

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#1: The Joy of Cat-Schlepping

The first half of my 20’s, all I wanted to do was travel. I wanted to see the world, meet people, walk down strange streets. And I was in a real rush to do it; what I was rushing towards (or from), I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) have quite admitted. But I made a pretty good go of it, saw mad and wondrous things from Seattle to Sarajevo, from Dublin to Darjeeling. But I made a lot of dodgy choices along the way, and at 25, I ship-wrecked myself onto San Francisco. I’d survived my misadventures, but they had left me thoroughly bedraggled, and broke in terms of both pocket and soul. I knew I needed to bunker down for a while.

 

And that’s when I became a forever home.

 

I spotted Aífe (ee-fuh) on New Years Eve, 2010. A teeny, brown, three-month-old tabby, sitting with her sister in the window of the Union Square Macy’s, where the extraordinary San Francisco SPCA was running its annual holiday adoption event. I went in to meet the kittens. The first of the pair seemed indifferent to me. The second, however, examined me with great interest. She sniffed at my coat and face with her tiny pink nose, delicately and inquisitively batted at my hair and spectacles with her tiny fuzzy paw, and met my brown eyes with her own bright green ones. She was easily one of the cutest things I’d ever seen, and seemed to have a wonderful, engaging little personality tucked inside. The SPCA folks told me that they had stopped doing adoptions for the evening, but I could come back for her the next morning if I wanted.

 

I did. I really, really did.

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