Real Life Confession #93: My Cat Goes Outside

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?

He’s not looking at the camera but he is standing up! It’s a rare photographic moment that must be shared.

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.

18 thoughts on “Real Life Confession #93: My Cat Goes Outside

  1. You know, research be damned, I just don’t think it’s healthy to force an animal to stay inside all the time. I know my cat had to be confined one summer due to a roaming coyote. He was miserable. His appetite was terrible, he slept *all the time*, he was majorly depressed. When you think about it, how well would we humans mentally deal with being cooped up in the house all the time? I’d go nuts.


  2. Super awesome!
    My cat retaliates if i don’t let him out on a regular basis. For example, once he peed on my pillow. My PILLOW! He wins.


  3. My cat Cleo was a stray for a while as a kitten – my neighbor moved and left her and her brothers behind. She managed to weasel her way into our home and hearts… but security be damned, she’s an escape artist, too. We’ve given up trying to stop her. If she gets out, so what? She only ever goes into the neighbor’s yard — our yard isn’t quite as safe. 😉

    My other cat, though, has been indoors all her life and has NO clue what to do when she gets outside. It’s really quite funny.


  4. I give you credit for putting this out there, as I know this is a hot button topic for many people. I grew up with dogs and cats – and both of them basically went in and out at will. We lived on a quiet street in a quiet neighborhood where people were very mindful that kids and pets were apt to be in the roadway. I am not so fortunate these days – and it’s really not safe for my cats to roam around outside. I do have a privacy fence in the back yard, but even then I’d worry. Olivia would be fine – she actually listens really well for a cat, but I’d worry about the boys. BUT I do think it’s very important that they get outside routinely – as it’s SO good for their mental state and overall happiness. I therefore had a small portion of my deck enclosed so that they can exit the french doors off my bedroom and go onto their own private “catio.” It wasn’t too expensive and it gives me peace of mind. Before that, I took them outside on harnesses.

    Anyway – I know from others’ experience that there are some cats you just can’t keep in – no matter what they are going to get out, so it seems like you have settled on a reasonable compromise!


  5. Growing up we lived in a pretty quiet residential neighborhood and our cats were indoor/outdoor – mostly outdoor since I was pretty allergic. They never lived very long. I think 2 years was the maximum. We had a neighbor – we never knew which one – that was setting out poison for all of the cats in the neighborhood, so if the coyotes weren’t getting them, the poison was. Plus my parents, along with most folks back then, didn’t see the need for spaying or neutering so who knows how many female cats our male cats knocked up? It makes me cringe to think about it.

    It really isn’t safe for cats outdoors – nor for the wildlife they tend to attack. But it’s each person’s choice. I can totally see how having a cat that has tasted the outdoors would be depressed if only kept indoors. There are alternatives like “catios” that can help. My biggest pet peeve with this is just when owners let their unaltered cats roam around making unwanted litters. But if your cat is fixed and is only happy with outdoor excursions, so be it. I would never think to condemn someone for that.


  6. Sounds like you’ve got a pretty good understanding going, you and cat. It’s nice to have everyone tucked back safe inside at the end of the day!


  7. The only thing NOT covered is the potential issue of kitties killing off wildlife. Up until this set of cats, all of our cats have been indoor/outdoor. The youngest that passed away was 12, another 13, and Panther is still alive and kicking at 16 and she had been indoor outdoor until she went deaf this past year.

    I like my kittes being indoor only–our neighbor lost TWO cats last year to possible poisoning. BUT our cats have a screened-in porch that is pretty much ‘outdoor’s that they spend a lot of time in and they will come outside and sun themselves on our front porch periodically when we are out there with them .

    PLUS… no more dead bunnies, dead chipmunks, dead birds, delivered to our doorstep.


  8. What I great story, I never thought of it that way. Just like humans sometimes want what they can’t have, cats can be quite similar. It’s great to see that you understand him so well and that you know what’s best for him in the long term.


  9. Hmmmm…..he actually sounds pretty smart…..teaching you guys that it’s better to give him what he wants, all you will all pay the price. But I’m probably just reading too much into it, since he is just a cat after all. Only us dogs know how to play you peoples as good as that!

    Also, since he is a cat, why do you peoples care if he runs off at all? I mean, we have two cats here, and I never see them doing anything to help out around the house. Peoples are strange. Wouldn’t it be easier to keep goldfish? No litter box to….

    Hey, wait a minute. Keep the cats! They DO have a purpose. Yum.


  10. My first rescue cat Pookie refused to be “contained” indoors, and was like Houdini no matter how careful I was. She always stayed on the property where the landlord loved her taking care of rodents in his garden; often presenting me w/her trophies. One day, she got locked into a neighbor’s garage for days & was either poisoned or drank ethylene glycol (anti-freeze) which destroyed her kidneys & it was too late to save her. It was traumatic for me to lose my beloved after just 2 yrs, so I now only use “catio” type outdoor enclosures for ALL pets. They get fresh air, sunshine, space & safety above all. Otherwise, coyotes & people can steal them right out of your yard. Of course, ALL pets must be spayed/neutered & vaccinated!!!


  11. I completely understand Kristine. I made the “mistake” of letting Nick and his brother Sebastian out on the deck of my apartment when I first got them. Since then, it is almost impossible to keep him in. When I lived in an apartment without a deck, he went nuts. In fact, he would sneak out without me knowing it and roam the apartment hallways. I only knew he was out when I heard him yowl at the door to be let in.
    More times than I can count, Nick has gotten out of my house and gone into the garage and somehow snuck outside. (I honestly don’t know how he does it.) I have left to go somewhere only to find out he was outside that whole time. He has also snuck into the garage and hidden there without my knowledge. I have come home and hit the garage door opener to find him sitting there yelling at me for leaving him in the garage. Who knew? I didn’t.
    Now, I just let him outside into the fenced backyard to wander. He roams the whole yard for about 20-30 minutes and then it’s back inside. I figure at 19 he can pretty much do what he wants. Why deny him something he so clearly loves?


  12. We do our best to ensure the cats remain inside. Emma has never ventured to the great outdoors, but Isaac was actually a stray in our neighbourhood before we took him in as our own. He occasionally escapes, but when he does, he’s usually easy to catch right away (heads right for grass and rolls around), but if not, he always comes back – usually same day, but never more than 24 hours. Because he previously walked the mean streets of our suburb, I don’t really worry about him, but I know it’s never good to have cats roaming the neighbourhood – dogs, coyotes, cars, etc – so we do our best to prevent escapes.


  13. Hi Kristine, I like to go outside a lot. It doesn’t matter what it’s doing outside so I understand how your kitty feels. So although you can’t live in a glass bowl all your life, a little time outside is good.


  14. Bob is an indoor cat, (except for that one time when he escaped) but he is also my daughter’s cat. I would prefer a cat that went outside to help with the rodent problem in the area, but we do have some wild life around so I won’t take that risk with my daughter’s cat. I have suggested adopting a feral cat but Hubby does not want cats. I will have to content myself with the dogs once our daughter takes Bob back.


  15. I love a pet parent who actually tries to understand and listen to their pet, figure out what he/she needs, and follow through. Maybe there are risks of letting cats outdoors but you’ve figured out your cat and you are doing what is right for your situation. If it wasn’t healthy for your cat, or if it was disrupting your neighbors (I add this, because our neighborhood cats “disrupt” me, my dogs, my garden and my birdfeeder all the time and it drives me crazy!) I’m sure you’d adjust. Plus, I’m assuming, no litter box! That has to be a good thing!


  16. This post fascinates me. I’m amazed that your cat appears to want to assert his rights to roam outside more than he actually wants to roam outside.

    Very smart of you to figure out the best way to keep him happy and safe. Hmmm, maybe you’re teaching him something after all.


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