Outdoor/Indoor Cat--Still Undecided

by Teresa
(Mokelumne Hill, CA, USA)

Fidget at 8 weeks in his new home

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.

Sincerely,
Teresa

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Fidget 2 years later
by: Teresa

Well, finally I am submitting some photos of Fidget at over 2 yrs old, a dedicated outdoor cat by now, though he has a cat door (hidden on the outside by a leaning board) and goes in and out as he pleases. He feels safe inside and in fact for a period of several weeks last summer became an indoor cat again because we had a stray dog who lingered outdoors and we had to bring in the litter box again for a time until the dog was collected by his owner.
Fidget brings in prey in the summer mostly though also the random mouse from the wood pile in the winter, and he loves being our cat. See photos.
Teresa

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Love that face
by: Anonymous

What a cutie! I think that orange males are the sweetest, most loving cats. I'm sure has added a lot to your household.

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Looking forward to that new photograph.
by: Larry (Editor)

Hi Teresa,

Thank you very much for updating us about Fidget, sounds like he is doing just fine.

Yes,it can be quite a thing when your cat starts leaving you those little 'presents', I think we are supposed to look pleased about it :0)

Looking forward to that new photograph, I bet he is as good looking as when he was a kitten.

Larry (Editor)

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Outdoor/Indoor Cat--Update on Fidget
by: Teresa

I've been following the links sent to my email about all the great cats out there for this past year. What a great site you have here Larry! I really enjoy it and I applaud you for what you do.

I wish I had a current photo on hand because my little kitten, Fidget,(http://www.best-cat-art.com/outdoorindoor-catstill-undecided.html) has grown into a long and lanky tiger-striped Marmalade sweetheart. I'll photgraph him soon and post a picture of him because he's amazing.

Fidget is now 1 year old and we kept him inside for his first 6 or 7 months, during which time he drove us crazy, rocketing around like a maniac furball on speed, knocking things off every surface and hunting any little thing he could find.

For example: he discovered these generic Q-tips we had in the bathroom that were a blue color in the stem. He'd tip over the little garbage can to hunt them and also leaped up onto the bathroom counter to hunt the container of blue Q-tips in a box on a shelf, knocked it over, scattered them everywhere and for weeks he was hunting Q-tips all over the house.

Now Fidget is a much calmer cat because he goes outside when he wants and also, he's older. BUT, he's turned out to be a prolific hunter (of real critters, not just Q-tips) and has gotten into the habit of bringing into the house his catch of lizards and mice.

He doesn't eat them, but it is a bit disconcerting to find a dead lizard or mouse or even worse, a half-dead lizard or mouse delivered to my bedroom rug.

Still, for the Fidge, it's just another day's work. He lays there like the king of the household and if the critter escapes behind my bedroom bookcase, heck, he's done his job.

I have to mention, also, that the Fidge is a total sweetheart. He loves to have his head caressed and likes to sleep by our feet, purring to beat the band.

I promise a good photo of the grown up Fidget very soon. Meanwhile, I urge everyone to love their kitties because their kitties will love them.

Sincerely,
Teresa


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Please don't risk his life!
by: Elizabeth Flood

Hi Teresa

Thank you for your comments on Pete the Singing Cat. He does look rather comical, doesn’t he!
I love little Fidget, and I feel that he is very special.

I agree with Deborah S-C, whole heartedly on her comments. Please don’t take any chances with your darling’s precious life.

To me, adopting pets is the same as adopting children who then become a part of you. As liable parents, you are responsible for your children; therefore, your role is to protect them from all harm and evil.

Fidget is very much loved, and would be quite content, just to stay in the comfort of his home, as long as he can see the outside world from a window.

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Still thinking, almost decided
by: Teresa

Thanks, Larry, and all of you who have written such thoughtful comments about my Fidget dilemma.
I will take a picture of him soon and post it here to show you how huge he is now, a veritable amazing, sleek lion/tiger cat, at 7 months old.

He seems so interested in the outside world, via any opened window or door, and as the weather gets warmer, it seems that it will be more and more impossible to keep him from exploring outside. I mean, of course we can continue watching out and keeping him from going outside but he is such a curious and intelligent cat, he continually wants to expand his world of interest.

So. I tend to agree that a cat needs to explore the outside world, as it is in his nature to do so. Living here in the northern California woods, I think we're going to have to let him out eventually. It really seems that it would be cruel to not let him have the opportunity to get out there and explore as his intrinsic cat nature demands.

However, I am aware that by letting him expand his world into the outdoors, I am also taking the chance that his life span might be much shorter than if he were confined indoors. But, hell, what's a life if it isn't lived to its utmost?

Now, really, the decision is when and how we'll let him out.

Sigh,
Teresa



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Please DON'T Let Your Cat Outside
by: Deborah S-C

You definitely should NOT let your cat go outside. There are a myriad of dangers waiting for him, including FLV/FIV infection (FYI, your FLV vaccine is not fool-proof), being eaten by a coyote(VERY prevalent now in the U.S.), owl, fox or other predator, getting lost, getting into poison or antifreeze, being seriously injured by a feral cat, getting hit by a car, etc etc. Statistics shown that inside cats on average live three times as long as cats that are allowed to go outside. I imagine your cat's prospects would be even worse, because you live in a wooded area.

In addition, I personally believe that cat owners should be sensitive to the plight of small mammals and birds (especially migratory birds) that are easy prey for outside cat. For that reason, the Audubon Society and several national welfare organizations have teamed up for the "Safe Cat Campaign" to encourage cat owners to keep their pets inside.

It is a myth that inside cats are not as happy as cats that go outside. With appropriate love and playtime, and perhaps windows to look out and observe the outside world, an inside cat can lead a very fulfilling life.

I am with a rescue organization and foster cats. We will not adopt out a cat that will be an outside cat, for the reasons listed above. In fact, I know of no animal welfare or rescue organization that recommends that cats (with the exception of ferals) should be allowed outside.

I will only add that I have heard countless stories from potential adopters who have told me they lost their previous cat from some mishap from being outside, including freak occurrences such as the cat who feel out of the tree and died when falling into the wedge of two branches. Most of these owners were sick about what had happened, and wish they had kept their cats inside.

I commend you for your thoughtful approach and for researching this matter. For more information, you may want to look at www.safecats.org.

Good luck...

Deborah Callahan
PeachState Pet Partners

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Indoor or outdoor is a dilemma.
by: Anonymous

I was very interested in your story and can greatly sympathize with your dilemma.

My man friend and I discussed for ages whether we should allow, Jenkins, our darling tabby cat outside or not. We both believe that cats enjoy freedom (who doesn't,)and that they are happier when allowed to roam. Jenkins has been to the vet to be done and has all his shots. But still, we can't help thinking about the dangers out there, not so much from wild animals as we live in the city but from traffic and nasty humans.

But, the truth is that being unable to make our minds up has settled the question. Jenks is over six years old now so he is a completely indoor cat.

I'm happy to say that he is not unhappy :) we are fortunate to have a large place so there is plenty of room for him to charge about. He has three scratching posts and uses them so messed up furniture is not a problem, although there were a few incidents in the beginning. He has all the cat toys in the world too!

So if you do keep Fidget as an indoors cat it will not necessary mean that he will be unhappy, some cats are I know, but you have to play with them and give them the attention they want. Good luck to you.

By the way, Fidget is a little beauty.

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Kitty exercise inside
by: DennisM

Matilda was an outdoor stray and eventually decided that the indoor life was the life for her!
When we open the door she runs INSIDE as though she thinks she will fall out of the house.!
You'll do your little buddy a HUGE favor by keeping him inside and safe... He'll make his own amusement and exercise routine..

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What a good looking chap.
by: Larry (Editor)

Hi Teresa,

First, thank you so much for sharing your story and photo of Fidget, (what a wonderful name for a cat!)

What a good looking chap he is, enough to steal anybody's heart.

"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."

It is obvious from the thought that you have put into your message, that whatever you decide will be the right decision.

I am also of the belief that it is the cat's inherent personality to enjoy the outdoors, but of course, we have to weigh that against possible dangers.

As a third option, would it be possible to build him a 'run' where he could enjoy a measure of freedom, under your supervision?

Good luck with whatever you decide for Fidget and please, do let us know.

Larry (Editor)

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