Leaving your comfort zone is scary, even when you really want to do it.
Since I adopted him in 2006, Rigby has moved all over the country with me: Florida, Oregon, Washington D.C., Washington State, New York City, and Texas. His favorite home was in Texas, because we had a house with a big back yard where he liked to play.
He would wake me up at 7am every day, skip the food bowl and go straight to the back door. He spent hours climbing trees, chasing butterflies, and rolling around in the dirt. He just wanted to be outside, warming his fur in the sun and eating grass. That’s life for a happy Texas cat.
When we moved back to New York, Rigby stayed mad at me for months. I signed a lease on a great apartment in Astoria, but there was no outdoor space. Rigby had to make do with a wall of northwest facing windows. But other than the occasional house pest, he had nothing to chase, no trees to climb, and no dirt to dig in. He gets bored, and then I feel guilty.
Rigby is a special breed known as the Cymric, and kitties like him have a gene that causes a spinal deformity, resulting in a cute bunny hop and a stubby little tail. Cymrics are also known to be somewhat dog-like, and Rigby is no different. He comes when he’s called, he plays games, he loves other animals, and he’s very friendly. He always wants to be in the same room as the humans, and he’s very chatty (especially when he’s hungry).
His dog-like demeanor gave me an idea: to cure his boredom, I should teach Rigby to walk on a leash. I bought him a harness and started making him wear it around the house to get used to it. Then, yesterday, we went to Astoria Park.
Unsurprisingly, Rigby was nervous to be on the street on a leash, with all the noises and the cars around. Since taking up our Queens residence, he hasn’t spent much time around trucks and buses. My partner and I put Rigby in his carrier and walked down to the park with him in tow.
Once we got there, we set the carrier down and opened it, only to find that Rig refused to budge. Eventually, I pulled him out and set him down in the grass. He nervously huddled up with John, partly to keep warm; even as a long hair, Rigby gets cold easily.
As we sat in the sun, just watching him, Rigby eventually started getting a little more comfortable with his surroundings. We made sure to pick a spot that was low traffic, with fewer dogs and no kids. There, we thought Rigby could check out the squirrels and get some sun
.But even as the kitty who loved the big backyard in Texas, Rigby refused to leave our side. After a while he began looking around, curious about the park and all this grass. It probably smelled strange to him, but he was interested.
Even so, he never walked around. Eventually we headed back home, but here’s what I learned. It’s going to take a while, but I think teaching Rigby to walk in the park will be good for him. I know he loves being outside, and even so it will take time for him to get used to the new experience. He won’t know what to do right away, and that’s ok. He’ll slowly gain practice and experience, becoming more confident over time. Eventually he’s going to love the park, and he’ll be so glad we started going when we did.
This has actually taught me something about my own life. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I love to walk into totally unfamiliar territory and be great at everything right away. But sometimes it takes more work, practice, and a supportive and loving community to learn and excel. You can be certain you want something, and still be scared of it. It’s alright to take your time and move into something at a careful pace, picking up new experiences and confidence along the way. The important thing is to know that you’re making progress, and that’s a lot more important than perfection.