Can I justify taking my cat back from my parents?
October 13, 2009 11:17 PM   Subscribe

Can I move my cat from a house and supervised outdoor walks to a Brooklyn apparment?

I adopted a stray and perhaps feral cat when I was living in rural Ohio. When I moved to Brooklyn, I left her with my parents. The condition was that she was to become an indoor cat, but my parents had the bright idea of allowing her out under supervised conditions. She isn't leashed, but she is watched whenever she is outside. They live in the suburbs, but off the beaten track and near the woods. She's a rather good hunter who has finally mastered the trick of not killing anything she catches.

To complicate matters, my parents have three dogs who she gets along with quite well. (I've been sent pictures of her sleeping curled up in the legs of the sleeping german shepard.)

I'm living in a decent apparment in Brooklyn with two roommates and a cat-friendly landlady. Both roommates are ok with a cat, although I think that one is more enthusiastic about the idea than the other. However, if I moved her here, she'd be indoor only and without the other animals she's used to. She'd get much more human attention- I don't think my parents play with her at all.

So, do you think I can move her here? It's not a safety issue, I trust my parents to take good care of her. I just miss my cat. Or should I give up and look into adopting a cat who's not tied to the outdoors and three dogs?

From what I've read, it's possible to make her indoors, but I don't want an unhappy indoor cat who's longing for the outdoor area and larger indoor area.
posted by Hactar to Pets & Animals (10 answers total)
You don't say the age of the cat, which matters. The older it is, the more likely a sedentary lifestyle will be less of a challenge.

I think you know the right answer for the cat, which is to leave the her where she is, in the company you know she enjoys and the territory she is comfortable with.

But it sounds like you have the option of trialling your cat in Brooklyn, if you have to have her with you. If you do, you will have to create some aspects of the outside in your apartment - something to climb, things to play with, spots where she can sit and watch birds congregate and so forth.

If you can't offer her that, it sounds to me like leaving her in Ohio is the only reasonable option.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:20 AM on October 14, 2009

I'm staring down the exact same predicament in the (hopefully) near future of moving to Brooklyn from rural NC and am devastated to leave my cat behind, but terrified of bringing him to the city. However it's not really an option for me because in the past if I have left for more than 2 weeks he's acted out from all sorts of abandonment stress. SO it really depends on your cat's attachment to YOU, less so than your attachment to your cat.

BUT. If you do decide to move her, know that cats are extremely adaptive and not quite smart enough to hold a life-long grudge! For the transition, I think it has to be as gradual of an adjustment as circumstances can allow, and in your case would start with your parents. Keeping her indoors over night and limiting outside time -- like bring her in as soon as it gets dark. (This should be pretty natural thanks to the days getting shorter.) Seperate her eating and sleeping habits from the dogs as much as possible. This is making me sad to type and essentially reads like "breaking" her, but, well, sometimes you have to make the hard momma/papa cat decisions.

Once you get her to your apartment she will rightfully be nervous and depressed and there's not much you can do about it besides lots of cuddles and trying to mimic her "natural" habitat as much as possible. Lots of open light, keep the same feeding schedule, hide cat treats or pieces of meat around giving her something to hunt, and as much full-reign of nooks and crannies as your roommates can tolerate. You're certainly going to need a cat condo. I've also read that it helps to get the cat used to one room at a time. The steps I am personally taking in the meantime are to get my cat accustomed to leash walks. So far I have the leash, and a surly cat who once I put it on him, immediately plops down and decides it's nap time. I think the leash thing works best on young cats when their brains are still all squishy. But it will probably work once outside-time is a scarcity!

Good luck with whatever you do, I know how it must suck to be in an LDR with your cat. 3:
posted by Juicy Avenger at 12:27 AM on October 14, 2009

Oh yes the age is pretty critical, I was for whatever reason assuming she was pretty young, ~5 years. Also how long has your cat lived without you? And how long with you? She seems to be doing delightedly, upon re-reading your question. And now I am thinking that once you move her you might not even like the cat you end up living with, especially if she isn't all that attached to you. Harsh but true, maybe?
posted by Juicy Avenger at 12:34 AM on October 14, 2009

Our cat is an outdoor cat who was obliged by a house move to be an indoor cat for a few weeks.

She didn't seem to mind, but she has a lot of energy, and likes to spend a lot of time running around and chasing things. When she was shut in, she would spend half the night chasing imaginary mice up the stairs and onto our bed. Now she's allowed out, she uses the garden for her maniacal sprees, and is far more sedate and polite when inside.
posted by emilyw at 1:54 AM on October 14, 2009

You're probably going to hate me for this, but leave your kitty with your family because she's surely attached to the dogs and your parents, not to mention the outside. While she WILL adjust, why take that away from her?

Adopt anothet kitty, this way, you can have a city kitty and a country kitty and someday write some ridiculous Tale of Two Kitties!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:21 AM on October 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

First, make sure that your parents agree with keeping your kitty forever - don't make any assumptions until that is clear. If they are, then you have options.

If your parents are willing to have your kitty back if it doesn't work out, then what's the harm in trying her out on the urban lifestyle? If it doesn't work after a few months, then you have the peace of mind in knowing that she has a loving home back with your parents. Many cats can adapt quite nicely to being inside-only cats. Your cat may vary.
posted by mightshould at 6:14 AM on October 14, 2009

I'm going to agree with Cat Pie Hurts and say leave your kitty. Find a new kitty who doesn't know what she's missing to live in your apartment with you.

I've seen it, and the cats adjust, but they all seem to wind up with some neuroses. She seems to have a wonderful life where she is. Leave her there.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:39 AM on October 14, 2009

Yes, it really depends on the cat. I know one that couldn't adjust. Just to add some more anecdata to this thread, my mother's cat (wandered into my parents' home as a stray kitten, about 12 years old when the move happened) moved from a house in the suburbs with a small yard where she (the cat) was free to come and go as she pleased to an apartment in the city where she was expected to adapt to an indoors-only lifestyle. She couldn't handle being cooped up inside all the time and began howling day and night to be let out. After a few months of trying all kinds of things, my mother, as much as it pained her to let the cat go, finally gave up and found another home for her so that she could live out her life as a happy indoors-outdoors cat and not as a miserable indoors-only one. So I guess you'll just have to actually try it and see what happens.
posted by misozaki at 6:40 AM on October 14, 2009

Best answer: Your cat will miss her current lifestyle more than she misses you right now (assuming they are capable of remembering people after long periods of separation which I personally doubt). You know your cat is in an ideal situation right now where it is pretty much living the best life it can, even though you do have a profound emotional connection to it you need to think about whether your feelings should trump it's best interests. Adopt a local city cat from a rescue shelter, you know it is the right thing to do.
posted by BobbyDigital at 6:50 AM on October 14, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I'll look into adopting a city cat soon. And when I visit my parents, I'll get to see my old cat.

(She's 4 years old and really active still.)
posted by Hactar at 1:39 PM on October 14, 2009

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