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Beyond the Fur Horizon

She basks in the middle of the road now. Casually spread out on the concrete as if she owns it, my young cat Gabby has finally adjusted to being an urban tabby.

When we first moved into the city, Gabby stared out the window of the high-rise apartment in which we were temporarily housed. Her eyes followed the swooping gulls that soar high above the streets. Frustrated by the walls of glass and the confines of the indoors, Gabby got what exercise she could by tearing apart the furniture and attacking the toilet paper in the time-honored manner of indoor felines the world over. However, when we moved into a small rental house in a quiet neighborhood near the university, Gabby saw more familiar and intriguing sights outside the living room window. Huge dogs trotted past on the sidewalk, flaunting their relative freedom. Squirrels cavorted on the lawn, twitching their fluffy tails at her. And, worst of all, the neighborhood cats padded carelessly across the front stoop, smirking at the new kid on the block.I think that was the last straw for Gabby.

She demanded to be let out. After a brief struggle, we capitulated and opened the door, and Gabby came face to face with Lucy, the long-haired calico queen of the block.Lucy, we learned from our neighbors Fred and Becky across the street, who belong to her, had been accustomed to sleep on the flowerbox which nestles below the window of our living room. Cats, like people, are creatures of habit, and the mere fact that the humans inside the house had changed didn’t change the fact that Lucy considered that window box her own personal futon. Gabby wasn’t having it.

The turf war began with glares and staring contests and moved on to low growls and hisses, eventually escalating to claws and fur-flying free-for-alls. At first I would jump up and try to referee every time I heard the snarling begin. But, you know how it is. After a while, you realize the kids just have to work things out for themselves. And now, some months later, peace reigns, for the most part. Oh, to be sure, there are still skirmishes, midnight porch raids and the interminable pissing contest that seems to be at the root of all wars, but the cats, at least, have decided the street is big enough for both of them. Sometimes Lucy strolls over here and picks up a few souvenirs. Other times Gabby slinks across the street and bothers the birds at Fred’s feeder. But, it’s no longer a war. It’s more like tourists crossing the border at Niagara Falls. Each side benefits from something the other has to offer.

In these complex times, the notion of open borders is no longer a simple issue. But, it seems to me that we are way past the point where good fences make good neighbors. Cats go right through fences. And let me tell you, anything a cat can do, a human can do ten times easier.The latest politically inspired idea to erect  multibillion dollar fences  to close off the borders of this country misses the point. Considering all the problems in the world today, if we are to survive as a species what we need is more unity, not more division. Even my cat has figured that out.

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