It’s true. I know all the warnings. I’m aware that the average lifespan of a cat is greatly reduced when allowed to wander outdoors. I’ve read the data, I’ve done the research. Heck, I’ve even advised others. And yet…
Does this mean I don’t love or care what happens to the little guy? Of course not. He’s as much a part of my family as our dog.
Does this mean I think my cat’s invincible? I wish he was, but I am not nearly so naïve. For instance, I know the Great Flea Disaster of 2011 was mostly due to his outdoor adventures. We wouldn’t have had to bomb and then evacuate our house for an entire afternoon if the kitty just stayed inside.
Then why do I allow him to do something so dangerous?
Giving him a bit of freedom is safer for all of us. I’m not just talking about his evil plotting of my death when he doesn’t get what he wants. It’s actually safer for him too.
In The Cat’s perfect world, the door would always be open so he could come and go as he pleased. This isn’t going to happen. Not only do I not want him outside at night when he can’t be monitored, but I don’t want other animals coming in. The next door neighbour’s Yorkie is one thing. Raccoons are another.
We’ve tried keeping him contained. It doesn’t work. Unfortunately, ever since he got out for the first time one sunny day in Calgary, after years of apartment dwelling, he will not cease escaping. Just like how I know Shiva will always eat the poison, I know the cat will always get out. Always. Unless we put the entire house on lock down and never open a single door or window – and even then – somehow, he will find a way.
When he gets out after days or weeks of us vigilantly working round the clock to keep him in, he often won’t come back. Not an hour later, not two hours later, not ten hours later. Sometimes not for days. There was one winter where he dashed out in the middle of a snowstorm. By morning we started to wonder if we would ever see him again. It was almost like he was punishing us for keeping him imprisoned for so long.
Alternatively, if we understand his need for outdoor fun and actually give him permission to explore, he comes back almost immediately. In fact, he rarely even leaves the backyard. Lately, he’s barely even left the deck. Content in the knowledge that he is master of his domain (for lack of a better phrase) he doesn’t feel the need to stray far. When he knows he will have other opportunities to feel the grass beneath his feet, he is happy to come when called and return inside when we do.
There is also the fact that he is a wimp. Unlike many other neighbourhood cats, I’ve never seen him even go within twenty feet of a road. He jumps three metres in the air if I drop a quarter on the floor. There is no way he’d go near a street with moving vehicles. Children terrify him. As do all strangers. He runs back into the house at the sight of a blowing leaf. The only things that doesn’t seem to frighten him are dogs. I mock him all the time for it, but it makes me worry about him a lot loss if he is out for more than his usual five-minute jaunts.
This is why I say it is safer for him to go outside on occasion than for us to put our ninja skills to work keeping him in. He will always out-ninja us, anyway. It may be better for him over all, and the local frog population may not appreciate it, but it’s a lot less stressful for everyone. Including the feline himself.