Outdoors! (but not fanatic about it)

by Katie
(Louisiana )

outdoors

outdoors

I'm allergic to cats, so any cat I have is, necessarily, going to have to be a cat that spends 100% of its time outdoors (if you count sleeping in the back shed in cold weather as outdoors.)

I keep saying I'm not going to adopt any more cats, but my plans don't work out and I keep ending up with more cats, and here's why.

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I live near the edge of the woods. Idiots from the city adopt cute little kittens, then when the kittens reach six months to one year of age, they aren't "cute" anymore and the city idiots come here to dump them, thinking the cats will be "just fine because they can live in the woods and hunt."

The cats are NOT "just fine."

Most of the dumped cats are dead within days - they are clueless at how to defend themselves and dogs and coyotes and cars wipe them out. But once in awhile, a survivor makes it to my doorstep, hungry and desperate and sometimes injured.

I can and do try to find homes for the dumped cats that arrive at my house but, realistically, these are older "non-cute" cats that people aren't very interested in adopting.

So the cats who arrive on my doorstep as strays/dumped cats have, realistically, the following options: (1) if I don't intervene in their lives, they'll end up as feral cats, with short miserable life expectancies; (2) if I take them to the animal shelter, there's a better than 50-50 chance they'll be euthanized within thirty days; or (3) I can keep them as part of my crew of outdoor cats.

So I generally have 2-4 cats and all of them spend 100% of their time as outdoor cats.

Their median life expectancy is around five years but what happens, in fact, is that about half the cats disappear mysteriously presumed dead at approximately age one year (which corresponds to the late teen years in humans) and the other half learn how to take care of themselves and usually live a normal life span of 8 to 12 years.

I had one 100% outdoor cat that lived to be 16 years old and eventually died of geriatric kidney failure (after three months of subcutaneous fluid injections!)

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I'm not a fanatic on the indoor/outdoor controversy. I think people have to be realistic about what choices are available for the cats and whether their own situation makes it more practical to have indoor cats or outdoor cats.

And it's important to recognize that domestic shorthairs typically have a strong impulse to roam and a strong desire for freedom. Although many cats can live happily indoors, the fact is that many cats simply do not adapt well to indoor living and better a short outdoor life than a miserable indoor life (also, MUCH better to have a short outdoor life than to be euthanized as "unadoptable" due to "behavior issues.").

For people who want a 100% indoor cat, I recommend Persians, they seem to have a low key temperament and relatively non-intense roaming instincts, so they do particularly well indoors.
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I have a considerable amount of sympathy for bird lovers who detest feral cats. Judging by my observations, feral cats don't have particularly desirable lives.

And they do slay a lot of wildlife while trying to survive. I would support humane euthanasia of feral cat colonies in order to protect the birds, especially where the feral cats are chowing down on rare birds instead of common house sparrows.

I hope the bird lovers will, however, be willing to tolerate the occasional small colony of feral cats (especially if well maintained and not eating endangered species!) and will be realistic about the hunting habits of outdoor cats that are domesticated and have a regular food supply.

Bird lovers who study the issue will find that approximately 2/3 of domesticated cats are non-hunters and the ones who do hunt will hunt a couple of times a week but will kill lots of things - rats, mice, bugs, lizards, snakes - not just birds. (We can be pretty confident about this because scientists place kitty cams on cats to find out what they do when they aren't asleep on the porch, and this is what the results show.)

One of my cats once killed a half grown copperhead snake (VERY poisonous) and placed the body neatly curled on my porch as a gift, which startled the heck out of me. That cat may have saved the lives of my children! So it can be a VERY GOOD thing to have an outdoor cat that hunts.

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I've written more than I meant to, but I think people get a bit fanatic on the issues of indoor cats/outdoor cats/feral cats/TNR/birds and I think we could all benefit from being less dogmatic and more realistic.



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thanks for listening!
by: Anonymous

Thanks for your thoughtful responses!

My experience with cats and cars is about the same as yours: I've had several cats killed or seriously injured by cars including one delightful kitty who was killed because a motorcyclist swerved out of his path in order to hit her deliberately (the neighbors saw it happen and told me).

So if an owner can provide a good indoor home and if the cat seems happy indoors, I am all in favor of indoors.

But that's two big ifs. At the time of my original post, I was looking after four outdoor cats. AFTER the original post, somebody dumped ANOTHER cat who showed up starving on my doorstep and I'm now looking after FIVE outdoor cats. Five is too many for me, so I put an ad in the paper yesterday and I've found a lady who says she'll take the fifth cat ... but not for a couple of weeks because she is moving to a different apartment and needs to get settled in before I bring the cat over to her new place.

In two days of running a "free to good home" ad, that was the ONLY call I got. So, since the cat is living with my cats now, I'm going to get him neutered and get him his shots (the adopting lady is okay with this) and I'm going to HOPE that she follows through and calls me two weeks from now to tell me she'll take the cat.

In the meantime, he'll be an outdoor cat and IF the lady takes him, he'll be an indoor/outdoor cat.

I didn't get ANY call from ANY person willing to let him be an indoor cat.

Sigh.

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On the whole kittens-into-cats thing, I think there are a lot of well intentioned people who don't know much about cats.

Kittens and cats are beautiful and graceful and affectionate, delightful to caress and hold because they are so soft and fluffy and purr so charmingly. And yes, they do warmly and genuinely love their humans.

Adult cats, however, are ALSO aggressive nocturnal predators who have a strong roaming instinct, are highly territorial, instinctively mark their territory by urinating at key points, and are well armed with sharp teeth and claws and an instinct to use the teeth and claws to fight for a dominant position over other mammals in their territory.

A lot of poorly informed people get sucked in by the cute/charming thing and come unglued when they learn about the aggressive nocturnal predator thing.

And then they panic and dump the cat. Which is why I have five cats.

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No right or wrong answer.
by: Larry (editor)


Hi again Katie,

Good on you for all that you do for your cat family. I'm sure that they appreciate it.

You are right when you say there is no right or wrong answer as to whether cats should be outside or not.

I had a succession of feline friends lost to traffic, and one who lost a leg after a run in with a motor vehicle. After losing the last one I swore I would not have another cat as much as I love them.

That lasted for a few years until I was offered an irresistible kitten. He has never been outside. Sure, he knows there is an outside world and would love to chase the birds he can see from the window. But he is happy enough. He loves to play, demands attention and gives a lot of affection. He has never known any different.

I'm very glad there are none of them copperheads around here :)

Larry (editor)

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A kitten is not going to stay a kitten
by: Larry (editor)


Hi Katie,

Thank you so very much for your submission. You write extremely well and make many good points.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people heartlessly dump 'unwanted' pets. Surely they realize a kitten is not going to stay a kitten forever. Kids grow from being 'cute' toddlers into sometimes troublesome teenagers, what do you do? Just dump them?

As you can see I added a photo of a random outdoor cat, just in case someone should need to know what one looks like :) I hope you don't mind.

I'm very sure your excellent post will attract many comments. I will write more later as I have to fly out the door now.

Thank you very much once again Kate.

Larry (editor)

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