This is a cat article loosely inspired by the novel ‘The Door Into Summer’ by an American science fiction writer., Robert A. Heinlein.
Cats don’t understand doors. Why should they? Doors are just human barriers between one place and another. For a cat, the door to the outside is a barrier between a stable, fixed environment to an environment which is subject to the seasons and which is full of nature. How does a cat see this?
If you keep a cat indoors full-time, sometimes the cat will not walk through a door to the outside even if it is open. It is as if there is a sheet of glass stopping her. It is as if, for the cat, the world beyond the door is unknown. It is different and the cat will instinctively be cautious and stop before stepping out.
Sometimes a cat will shoot through the door notwithstanding that the cat has no idea what is outside except that it is a place to be. I know this because I have read many stories of “escaped” cats who were then lost or killed.
There is a book by Robert A. Heinlein, The Door Into Summer, that hints at this. In an interview with Alfred Bester (another science fiction writer) he says this about his book:
“Well the fastest was – I’ll have to explain. When we were living in Colorado there was snowfall. Our cat – I’m a cat man – wanted to get out of the house so I opened a door for him but he wouldn’t leave. Just kept on crying. He’d seen snow before and I couldn’t understand it. I kept opening other doors for him and he still wouldn’t leave. Then Ginny said, ‘Oh, he’s looking for a door into summer.’ I threw up my hands, told her not to say another word, and wrote the novel ‘The Door Into Summer’ in 13 days.”
The author’s cat did not want to go outside because there was snow on the ground. Ginny, his wife, made a remark that inspired his book.
Indoors is always warm and pleasant but unnatural. The cat seeks a door into summer; a better environment. The smells and sights of summer. If the door opens to snow a cat will often (not always) choose indoors.
A cat sees the outdoors as a different place. A different habitat. Different doors will lead, at different times, to a different habitat. The domestic cat hopes to see a better one than he finds inside the family home.
All things being equal, the habitat outside is better than the habitat inside but because of routines that does not mean a cat automatically goes out. Also when it is cold, inside is better than outside. This is probably because the wildcat ancestor is generally adapted to warm conditions. And even when it is nice outside, eventually a cat will want to come in because he knows the inside habitat. He feels secure.
Rarely a cat will go outside and never come back. That is when the lure of the wild that is within all domestic cats overcomes the security of the inside world to which he has become accustomed. Every newborn cat needs to be socialised which effectively means being domesticated. The domestic cat is that close to the wildcat.
Picture: by cloudzilla
VG gave me the idea for this article. It is far from perfect. I am just thinking aloud.