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The Undomestication of Jasper

Our family pet is a cat named Jasper whom we rescued from an abandoned storage shed when he was an infant, much to my husband’s chagrin.  Dan is not a pet-person.

The fact that Jasper is still with us (by “with us” I mean in our house, but also ALIVE), is a testament to Dan’s great love for me.  And the fact that Jasper came with us from Alabama to our new, smaller home in Georgia means that Dan will never, ever leave me.  Our relationship has been pushed to the brink and has survived.

Jasper has endured some difficult days over the last three years; living with Madeline will do that to you.  There was the time he almost hung himself in the blinds.  And the time Madeline drug him around the house in a shopping bag.  And the time she pulled him into her bath by his toes.  And the time she grabbed him by his haunches, dragged him into the hallway, and forcibly kept him there during a tornado drill (by laying on top of him).

But Jasper’s greatest challenge happened over the course of the last two months when we made the decision to transition him from an exclusively indoor pet to an indoor/outdoor dweller.

As Jasper never had a cat-mom, he doesn’t really know how to be a cat; he had no proper parenting.  For the last two months I’ve watched what I’ve dubbed “The Undomestication of Jasper.”

It’s a saga, really – a bit like the movie Madagascar, where you get to watch Alex the lion grow wilder and wilder by the minute.  And it. is. hilarious.

It is important to know that up until this point, Jasper spent 80% of his waking hours trying to get outside.  (The other 20% were spent eating and being drug around in shopping bags.)  He used to crouch by the front door every evening, poised and ready, and as soon as Dan turned the knob, Jasper leapt up, hissed, and – while a startled Dan was shouting “WE ARE GETTING RID OF THIS CAT TONIGHT” – shot out of the crack in the door and hid in the bushes.

You see?  Dan’s love for me is unshakable.

It all started the first time I let Jasper outside here.  He crept out  s-l-o-w-l-y, tail between his legs, looking over his shoulder at me suspiciously like, “Am I allowed to do this?”  I’m sure he thought it was entrapment; that as soon as he stopped looking sorry I was going to snatch him up, pop his nose and close him in the laundry room for a time-out.  I sat outside for a minute while he sniffed around, then came back in and closed the door.  His response was a full-blown feline FREAK OUT.  His eyes tripled in size, he pinned his ears back, stood up on his hind legs and tried to paw his way back through the glass door.  He made noises I’ve never heard a cat make – howls.  He circled the house, stopping to moan at every single door and window.

I decided perhaps a gentler approach…

The next day I left the sliding door open and my pansy of a pet spent 9 hours laying on the rug without so much as the tips of his paws crossing the threshold – as if there were a force field between him and the great outdoors.  I moved his food onto the deck and he just SAT THERE and WATCHED while a stray cat ventured up and ate the whole bowl.


After two days of feeding 4 different stray cats, I decided enough was enough.  On the eve of the second day I plopped Jasper outside, closed the door, and went to bed.

He cried all night long.  At 5:00 am he hopped up on our windowsill and moaned like,

“Guys!  Hey guys!  THERE ARE NO BEDS OUT HERE.”

But I’m happy to say that Jasper’s progress has been remarkable.  A couple of weeks ago I caught his very first jump off of the back deck.  He was teetering on the edge like a little kid mustering the courage to jump off a diving board.  He stuck his neck out to peer over the edge, and it was just enough forward momentum to tip the scale; he was going over and he couldn’t recover.  His hind legs did roadrunner-circles trying to back-paddle, but he couldn’t fight it – he officially flopped out of the nest.

Today, he is leaping up on the railings and pouncing at my birds, all tiptoes and shoulder blades, like a pro –  very Simba and Zazu.  He’s also eating my pansies, which I greatly prefer to him acting like one.  In fact, I just looked outside and saw him prowling the front yard with a leaf stuck to his butt.

Welcome to cat-dom Jasper.  You’ve arrived, big man.

  • Amy Varney

    Awesome! I have played with the idea of undomesticating our cat Stella but have been afraid to try. This post gives me hope for her future lol.

  • Joyce Courtney

    Wonderfully funny. I can so picture it!! May want to begin flee treatments every month or so and as Bob Barker always said at the end of “The Price is Right.” – “Help control the pet population, have your pet spayed or neutered!” :)

    • Kate Conner

      Haha, Jasper lost his man-parts shortly after we got him, but I do need to pick up some flea stuff! It stays warm here so long – I don’t know that there is ever an “off-season!”

  • Karen Rowlette Beatty

    This is wonderfully funny and the imagery is spot- on!

  • Keeley

    Hysterical. I love the shopping bags and the “Very Simba and Zazu” comments :)

  • Mary

    Please be considerate of your neighbors. I have neighborhood cats that frequently use my shrubs as their litter box. It smells AWFUL, especially in the summertime when I am most likely to want to enjoy the seating around my shrubs. When I brought the issue to the attention of the cat owners, I was met with a shrug of the shoulders and a “sorry, my cat is an outdoor cat. there is nothing I can do”. Nice.

    • Kate Conner

      So sorry about your neighbor’s kitties! That sounds awful! Luckily, our house is surrounded (on both sides) by a big wall of trees and a parking lot. Hopefully he won’t venture so far away as to intrude on anyone, but if he does we’ll certainly take care of it!

  • Billie

    Just a safety suggestion – you may want to get Jasper a collar. If he gets lost, he is much more likely to be returned with a collar. He may not be venturing too far from the house now, but that may change! Good luck. I am very much enjoying your blog and look forward to your posts! :)

    • Kate Conner

      Yes, thanks! He has one now that he’s…tolerating. And I’ve been perusing Etsy to find him a really cute, funky little tag for Christmas. It’s the little things, really. :)

  • Julie Morris

    I don’t know if it’s hormones or if I’m really crazy, but this is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time :) My big ol’ baby belly is about to knock me over from shaking.