Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Indoor Cats and Outdoor Cats

It never fails to amaze me how different in personality all my boys are. I could classify them by the introvert/extrovert axis (2 introverts, 4 extro); the temperament scale (2 choleric, 1 melancholic, 1 phlegmatic, 2 sanguine), the Myers-Brigg inventory (although they're a bit young to sit through all those extremely annoying repetitive questions.). But I prefer the much simpler Indoor/Outdoor Cat distinction.

If you have boys, you know that they have a LOT of energy, and if you don't find an outlet for them to release it, they do things like beating on their brother's head with a Nerf battle axe or coloring red marker on the baby's face. All boys benefit from unstructured outdoor play. There is something about the green of nature, whether it be a manicured lawn or a dappled woodsy glade, that simultaneously soothes and energizes boys' brains (See ""Last Child in the Woods", by Richard Louv.

But we've noticed that some of our boys, especially those with choleric tendencies, have such a visceral need to go outside everyday that they are like Outdoor Cats: standing at the sliding door, yeowling until they are set free. If they don't get to roam outside during the day due to weather or a busy schedule, they start doing the boy-equivalent of shredding your favorite shirt or peeing on the laundry pile. (I love to secretly watch my children play outside, when they don't know I am watching. Is that creepy?) Once outside, they will be the ones whipping the bushes with a torn off willow-branch or running around the house as many times as they can in 2 minutes, "just to see." My Indoor Cats also love to play outside; but they will be the ones playing sedately in the sandbox or soaring nicely on the swings. The Indoor Cats will also come back inside after 20 minutes, complaining that they're cold, and sit down to do a puzzle or a mind-bogglingly complex European strategy board game. The Outdoor Cats would happily stay out all day in the teeth of a Michigan blizzard, making legions of snow angels and hurling snowballs at the garbage cans. 

Trying to equalize their amount of outdoor play, or trying to turn Indoor Cats into Outdoor cats, is a recipe for disaster. So try and work with their tendencies. Direct the Outdoor Cats to the pile of scrap lumber to build a fort, or to the weeded-over garden patch to create their own vegetable kingdom. And make sure you have plenty of challenging books, puzzles, games, Legos, math manipulatives etc, to keep those Indoor Cats purring. 

How about you? Do you have Indoor/Outdoor cats too?
Indoor cat Josiah and his super Lego pyramid
Outdoor cat Caleb and his caterpillar

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