Outdoor/Indoor Cat--Still Undecided
(Mokelumne Hill, CA, USA)
Fidget at 8 weeks in his new home
I live in the woods in Northern California with my relatively new husband of five years. He had two dogs when we first got together. He was a total dog person and not at all a cat person. (Those two dogs have since died due to old age and we've adopted two other dogs. Molly the Beagle, from a shelter in Oregon and Trina the Tripod, a Husky-Malamute mix with a deformed front paw/leg but who galumphs around admirably on her three good legs.)
For months and months I talked about wanting to have a cat again in my life and Joe resisted. Finally, he said, okay, maybe, someday. Then, in Oct. of 2008, I rescued a kitten that had been abandoned to the outdoors (along with his mother and siblings) by a friend of my daughter's. He was a feisty kitten, already eating solid food and about 7 weeks old.
I brought him to our mountain home, set him up in the spare bedroom with food, water, litter box and bed and we proceeded to let him acclimate to our house and the dogs. Interestingly, the bigger dog (the Husky/Malamute) that we most feared might try to eat him has turned out to be his best play-buddy.
Fidget (the name Joe gave him) quickly won my husband's heart and is a huge part of our family life. Our vet said, when questioned about whether to let him outside or not, that there are some cats that simply must go outside, but that the majority are happy staying inside. Her two cats, she said, are inside happy cats. (She lives also in the woods, at a higher elevation than we do.)
We live in a fairly isolated area in the foothills where there are a lot of wild animals that pose a danger to a domesticated cat. In addition, there are some feral cats around, unless they've already been eaten, which is possible.
Fidget is really curious about the outdoors and once, when I was away, got out accidentally when Joe was bringing in firewood. The next morning he heard a plaintive MEOW and opened the door, whereupon the Fidge rushed inside and went nowhere near the door for days and days.
He feels safe inside, but he's also such a curious cat and loves to sit in the window watching and making noises at the humming birds flitting around their feeder out on the deck. And lately he's been wanting to go outside again, to the point where he's gone out and been brought back in.
Some friends said we should get a cat door, because that way he could venture outside yet come back in if he feels unsafe. I'm not sure what to do.
I've read all the stuff on life-expectancy being greater for indoor cats. (We've had him vaccinated for the feline leukemia but I don't know about other diseases that could harm him.)
I know of so many people through the years who've lost cats in the woods, cats who ventured out many times but one time just didn't come back.
I hate to think of Fidget never getting to chase a butterfly or a bug (though there is the occasional fly in the house that gives him lots of joy) or to catch a 'real' mouse rather than the toy mice he practices hunting with.
So, I guess it comes down to just a few factors. And the life expectancy thing vs the mandates of the cat's inherent personality. And, as Fidget is only 6 months old at this point, I think I'll wait a while longer before we decide whether to let him outside or not. I have no idea what is the truly 'right' thing for him. I just know that I love the golden-eyed purr-happy sweetheart and want to make the right decision for him.