How do I make my cats happier?
May 9, 2011 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Should I transition my indoor cats into outdoor cats?

I have two seven-year-old brother and sister cats. They live with my parents, but I get to see for a weekend or two every month when I visit home (I live about two hours away). I am concerned that they seem a bit depressed, especially since I've left home. I have thought about moving them into my place, but it's a much smaller apartment than my parent's home, so I think they might do worse here. Also, I'll only be here until the end of August, after which point I may be moving to NY, so I'm not sure if there's any point in moving them now. Still, I feel like something needs to be done.

I've also thought about the possibility of trying to transition them into outdoor cats. They have always been afraid of the outside, but I feel like they're stuck in this depressing inertia indoors. My parents aren't really cat people, so while they give the cats affection in terms of lap sitting and patting, they don't really play with them that much. I try to spend as much time with them as I can on the weekends when I'm home, but I don't feel like it's enough.

I notice the male cat in particular (Tim) seems kind of lethargic lately. Tim used to be a really energetic cat, but I feel like the spark is gone from his eyes. I am worried about him. I don't think it's just age, as he's not that old.

There are a number of friendly outdoor cats in the quiet neighborhood where I live and I notice how happy they all seem enjoying the May weather.

Would it be possible for me to transition my cats into outdoor cats or is that unrealistic? They are pretty terrified of the outdoors, although they watch it with awe from windows.

If not that, then what should I do? I just want the best for them.

Btw, I will probably be moving my cats with me to NY. I'm not sure where in the city I'll be living, but I'll try to look for a place that has a backyard.
posted by timsneezed to Pets & Animals (53 answers total)
When you say outdoor, do you mean indoor/outdoor, not just outdoor?
posted by DeltaForce at 12:55 PM on May 9, 2011

If you're going to be taking your cats with you to New York in August, don't transition them to the outdoors. They won't want to go back to being indoor-only, which will mean they'll be desperate to escape your NY apartment. Cats' territories are much larger than a backyard, so you'll be letting cats with only a little bit of outdoor experience loose in the Big City, where they may not be able to get back home if they venture too far.

Take them to wherever you're living now, even though it's smaller than your parents', and give them extra love when you're home and several toys to play with when you're not. They won't care that it's just for a couple of months -- house to apartment to other apartment will be a much less stressful transition for them than house to outdoors to apartment/city outdoors.
posted by me3dia at 12:56 PM on May 9, 2011 [6 favorites]

The outdoors can be dangerous for cats, especially cats that aren't savvy about it. If I were you, I'd wait until I moved to NYC, and try to do supervised-outdoor sessions in the yard. You could also build or buy them a cat run at your new place -- it's basically a wooden frame surrounded by mesh, with a window or cat door they can use to get to it from the house. Fill the enclosure with tree branches, shelves, and other fun climbing stuff, and they can enjoy being outside without encountering cars or hostile people and animals. You can find pre-existing dog runs which can be converted pretty easily, if you don't want to build one on your own...
posted by vorfeed at 12:58 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have found that about age 7 is when my cats suddenly transitioned into insanely lazy pillows. They're healthy, happy, just older and less interested in playing.

Don't make them outdoor cats. If you think they need more attention, I don't think there's anything that terrible about moving them to you -- they don't need much room -- even if you'll be moving them again. But don't take them unless you absolutely for sure will be keeping them with you when you move to NY.
posted by jeather at 12:59 PM on May 9, 2011

Response by poster: @Delta Force -- Right, I mean a mixture of indoor and outdoor.
posted by timsneezed at 1:00 PM on May 9, 2011

Even if you live in a snaller place than your parents, the extra activity of being played with should make up for that.

I am not a big fan of having outdoor cats, so take this for what it's worth. There are dangers your cats will get exposed to that they have not learned to deal with, such as cars, coyotes, and diseases (feline lukemia, etc).. Also, if your cats haven't been exposed to being outdoors, they may not ever adapt, after seven years.

Outdoor cats poop in other peoples' yards, which is inconsiderate.
posted by annsunny at 1:00 PM on May 9, 2011

er, smaller.
posted by annsunny at 1:01 PM on May 9, 2011

My vet says the average lifespan for an indoor-only cat is 15 years; for an indoor-outdoor or outdoor-only cat it's 5 years.

Another vet I know calls outdoor cats "future cat pancakes."

And yeah, my 9-year-old cat started slowing down significantly about a year ago. He's still a healthy and contented fellow, he's just in his majestic middle age.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:01 PM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Should I transition my indoor cats into outdoor cats?

They have always been afraid of the outside

No. There's your answer in short form.

Long form answer: I grew up with cats. They were always outdoor cats for whatever reason. Most of them died prematurely either hit by cars, got into fights, disease/illness. I won't tell you about some of the gaping quarter sized oozing wounds cats would come home with from fights with... god knows what... animals. Sometime while I was in HS, we lost our last cat and decided from now on any cat the family owned would be indoors. My parents still have that cat, she's 16.5 years old. She's as healthy as a horse. Her female feline life-partner, also an indoor cat, is 11. They slowed down with age, stopped playing so much and now spend most of their days sleeping together on the dog bed they took over. Never again with outdoor cats.

The cats my husband and I have are both indoor cats and the female cat is always listless and lazy and just wants to snooze, unless she's beating up the dog or other cat. The male cat has his moments of complete chaos and crazies, but he's content just hanging around too. They're both almost 7. It's a personality thing with them.

Before letting them out, take them to the vet for a full checkup. If they are fine, and you can't do anything about the in-home indoor living situation, possibly try to re-home them with friends.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:03 PM on May 9, 2011

I wouldn't make them outdoor cats at this late date, and I honestly wouldn't recommend it. Outdoor cats get mangled by other animals or run over by vehicles, etc. Not fun for you, or for them. That said, my current apartment has a small private courtyard with a high enough fence that my cats don't have any interest in climbing. They're content to lay about in the sun, enjoy the breeze, and sniff the herbs. Perhaps you can find something similar for your older cats when you move?
posted by Hylas at 1:08 PM on May 9, 2011

Response by poster: @Hylas -- Yes, I would definitely try to install some sort of fence around the backyard if I decided to transition them outdoors.
posted by timsneezed at 1:11 PM on May 9, 2011

Response by poster: So would having the cats within a blocked off outdoor area address most of the concerns about them going outside?
posted by timsneezed at 1:12 PM on May 9, 2011

So would having the cats within a blocked off outdoor area address most of the concerns about them going outside?

Fleas. Ticks. They'd have to be monitored so they didn't escape or become prey. That's the beginning.

If they are scared, do not force them to do this. They're aging cats, trust me, they are not sitting at home ruing their mortality and wishing they traveled more or saw more of the world when they were kittens.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:15 PM on May 9, 2011 [8 favorites]

I am a firm believer in not making a cat an outdoor cat. The number of shots and risks climbs up dramatically if you take them from indoor to outdoor. As stated upthread, the life expectancy of the cat goes down a lot. Depending on how gregarious your cats are, a blocked off area might not prevent other wildlife or diseases from your cats. My last cat was outdoors for the first 10 years of her life, and sustained a serious hip injury from being hit by a car. She became an indoor cat when my mother started traveling extensively, and she certainly seemed perfectly happy.

Also, at the age your cats are now, they just get lazier.
posted by Zophi at 1:15 PM on May 9, 2011

If the "blocked off outdoor area" doesn't have a roof, it isn't going to keep your cats contained. Cats climb. And jump.
posted by janell at 1:16 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, unless the fence is 20 feet high and made of something smooth and unclimbable, a determined cat will climb it. I include in this crowd cats who are not your cats, but who see your parents' yard as their territory, and they will resent the interlopers (your cats). Your vet bills will rise.

Especially if they're scared of the outside, it's just not worth it. And if it's going to be your not-cat-people parents' responsibility to keep track of them, get them to come back inside, give them flea/tick treatments, and check them over to make sure they're not hiding any injuries - well, that doesn't seem fair to them, either.
posted by rtha at 1:33 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fleas. Fleas. Fleas. I cannot express to you how awful a flea infestation is - my previous indoor-only cat got fleas from being outdoors on the porch for a total of about twenty minutes. My husband wants to let our current kitty outdoors on a leash but I keep reminding him: FLEAS. Never again.

In addition, I am definitely biased on this issue because I never had an outdoor cat live past five years old. My vet has a chart on her wall of animal lifespans; the cat section is divided into indoor and outdoor. I'm sure you can guess which lives, on average, more than twice as long.
posted by something something at 1:38 PM on May 9, 2011

Personally I am inclined to think you're projecting this change in personality onto the cats. You (reasonably) miss them and feel responsible for them. But as jeather says, it's not at all unreasonable for them to be transitioning to a more sedentary style now that they're in middle age. If it was just one cat I might think differently but it's not like they don't have each other to play and be active with if that was the case.

If you're sure you're right then I'd say the thing you should really do is find them a new indoor home with more engaged and active cat-loving people. Because as people keep saying, outdoor cats have shorter life spans. They get run over or injured in other ways. You cannot convert an outdoor space into one that will keep in a cat unless you're going to go to zoo levels of confinement. Period.

If you really think their quality of life will be so much higher that it's worth the almost-certain shortening of lifespan then that's fine, I suppose. But I'd also add that if your parents aren't all that engaged with the cats now why do you think they're going to be interested in letting them in and out and dealing with potential fleas etc?
posted by phearlez at 1:50 PM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm pro indoor/outdoor cat, at least in many environments. I'm from the UK, where it's the norm, and I call bullshit on the "5 year lifespan" claim. As a kid, my urban neighborhood was full of pet cats that were allowed out, and while there were occasional tragedies, most of those cats were making it into their teens.

That said, I don't think it's the solution for your kitties, and I'm not sure why you think it would be. Unless those cats are scratching to go out they have no idea what they're missing. Cats are weird about space, and re-defining territory is stressful for them. I think you should take them for a check-up to make sure they're physically healthy, make sure they're getting a good quality food, consider the possibility that they're getting middle-aged (as the staff person of two seven year-old cats I second this), and then think about whether or not you'd all be happier if the kitties lived with you.
posted by crabintheocean at 1:51 PM on May 9, 2011

When my cat was indoor/outdoor, I ended up taking him to the emergency vet an average of three times a year to deal with injuries from fighting. He got fleas, worms, and would wake me up at 3 am to let him go out. He also got stuck in neighbors garages twice, once for a period of nine days.

He was mildly happier, but the stress wasn't worth it. We play with him lots and give him tons of attention and leave the windows open for him to gaze/yowl out of, and life seems fine for all of us.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:53 PM on May 9, 2011

My cat went from a large house to a small apartment with me, and she's perfectly happy, and will be getting joined by a friend before long. Cats don't need the outdoors, they need continuing interaction and love, which they might not be getting from your parents. It's perfectly possible for two cats to get plenty of exercise in a reasonably small apartment. I'd even probably think two would be fine in a studio. I might say two cats shut into a single bedroom might be a bit much if it was small, but if you've got toys and you're playing with them, yeah. Cats do fine in apartments.
posted by gracedissolved at 1:55 PM on May 9, 2011

I don't think you should transition your cats to outdoor cats - not because of the harsh world of the outdoors, but because you mentioned that they're apprehensive of the outside. If it's not something that really interests them or like something the kitties themselves want, no reason to force them.

Growing up, we had a kitty that would spend probably close to 75% of his time outdoors (in the burbs of DC). Not because we forced him to, but because he wanted to. He lived to be 17.5 years old, and didn't slow down until the last 10 days of his life, when things went downhill very quickly. He got into one or two scuffles with the neighbor cat over the years, but otherwise was very healthy and happy. I'm personally convinced that keeping him indoors would have actually shortened his life, and that he lived as long as he did because he we let him outside, and we let him be happy. But spending lots of time outdoors was also something he wanted, with hesitation or apprehension.
posted by raztaj at 1:56 PM on May 9, 2011

*withOUT hesitation or apprehension
posted by raztaj at 1:57 PM on May 9, 2011

Define "depressed." I have seen cats in many environments, but they only seemed dramatically changed in affect when they were sick - flea allergies, an abcess after a fight with a strange cat, broken leg from a fight. Once they stopped going outside, those issues went away.

Most domestic cats do not ever need to go outside. A laser pointer and one of those carpeted cat trees near a window with a good view would be a far better plan.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:01 PM on May 9, 2011

My concern is for the native fauna. Cats kill small native animals. Considerate cat owners keep their pets indoors.
posted by taff at 2:15 PM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Cats are also one of the major killers of song birds, it is not even for food, but just the sport. I like cats, I hate outdoor cats.
posted by edgeways at 2:18 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am a proponent of teaching cats to go outside and I say: Don't Do It.

It will be unfair when they move to NY and have to stay indoors.

BTW, a fence won't do anything and they'll escape if they want. I think they make cat enclosures where you can entirely (including ceiling) confine them onto a patio or some such, so that might work.

I'be had plenty of outdoor/indoor cats. With a little care and training, cats can be safe and do well outside.

In your shoes, tho, I wouldn't.
posted by jbenben at 2:25 PM on May 9, 2011

I've got an ex-feral. I've been taking her out on a harness. It's been painful (literally) to get her into the harness, and walking her has been, if not quite a drag, close enough.

But she's starting to get it, and she understands that when I snap my fingers it means no, and when I whistle, it means "come", and the walks are only about 50% my standing around while she sniffs something, and she does enjoy them.
posted by orthogonality at 2:29 PM on May 9, 2011

My younger cat first arrived at the SPCA (in a box left by the front door) malnourished, un-neutered, with a severe flea infestation and an abscessed wound in his front leg. He's now a gorgeous, sleek healthy cat who likes to sit on windowsills and look out at the world. I know he misses being outside-- he'll try to slip out the door given any kind of chance--but I take him for supervised walks in the garden every few days, and he often helps me with the laundry and taking out the recycling, and I think he's okay with that. It's easy to project onto animals some of our own feelings, but cats are often perfectly content to stay indoors, even if they'd previously been adventuring out in the wild...
posted by jokeefe at 2:34 PM on May 9, 2011

My outdoor cat got eaten by a coyote.
posted by kestrel251 at 2:49 PM on May 9, 2011

Response by poster: what about the idea of supervised walks? how would I go about doing that? As a kitten I tried to get Tim to walk on a harness, but he resisted. (We only tried it once, though).
posted by timsneezed at 2:52 PM on May 9, 2011

Your cats are better off indoors. Every rescue I've worked with that adopted kittens and cats made adoptees sign a waiver saying they'd be indoor only, and for good reason - the average lifespan of an outdoor cat is half that of an indoor cat. Not only do they have cars to worry about, but other bully cats, dogs, racoons, coyotes (depending on where you live), dumbass kids and the like who get off mistreating animals, etc etc. Vet bills get expensive, as well, for example, between my brother and parents (whom which I have this argument often), they've spent well over $4,000 on various injuries that could have been completely prevented (one car-hitting, and 2 abscesses from getting into fights). Save yourself the worry, vet bills, and your cats health. Boredom can be solved other ways - are there enough toys, cat trees, even windows to gaze out of?

As for kitty walks... good luck :) Most cats take better to leashes if you get them used to it when they're young. Obviously there are exceptions, but in general their temperament doesn't really lead be walked. If you really want to get them outdoors, you could always get try a outdoor cat enclosure. (Note these are random links I found on amazon, I have no experience with any of these products other than wishfully thinking my 3 furrballs would probably love them.)
posted by cgg at 3:14 PM on May 9, 2011

Contrarily, I will cite my old cat, who was an indoor cat for about seven years and then, when I moved to a place where she could go out, she took to it. She did get bitten once by another cat and need stitches, and she got lost for three or four days once, but she lived to be 20 and died of old age.

My experience is that the geography immediately around your digs is what makes the difference. One reason I picked my current apartment was that it's in the middle of a long block and is on the ground floor with a small yard. When I moved here both cats I had then went outside and it was fine. Now I have just the one and she's getting on, but she loves to sit outside and watch the passing scene in the alley – kids playing, old folks walking their dogs. So sometimes it does work out, but you have to very carefully assess the setting for traffic hazards and other risks.
posted by zadcat at 3:28 PM on May 9, 2011

I grew up in the Pet of the Month club. Getting off the bus: oh is that what's left of Fluffy? Or worse, when Fluffy was only mostly dead. So there's my bias, right up front.

You've already had to leave your cats in a less than optimal situation. Please don't traumatize them further by subjecting scaredy lazy middle-aged cats to the dangers of the streets. They miss you. Go and get them! A good friend had two former ferals in a studio apartment, and those were some fine and happy fat kitties.
posted by cyndigo at 4:00 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a cat that was an indoor cat before I got her, and she was terrified of the outdoors. But after about a week of me sitting outdoors with her on my lap (and her shaking and quivering and ducking whenever a bird flew overhead), she started to tentatively explore, and within another week it was like she had never been an indoor cat at all. In the end she was really very happy outside, but we were on a farm and she had lots of safe space to explore.

So don't let the initial fear put you off. But that doesn't mean it is the right thing for YOUR kitties, of course.
posted by lollusc at 4:12 PM on May 9, 2011

I'm with everyone else - leave these guys indoors for their own sake. You seem very married to this putting them outside idea, and I must wonder why?
posted by srrh at 4:31 PM on May 9, 2011

Best answer: We have two cats. One of them is almost two and the other one is about 10 months old. They've still got a ton of energy, so when it's nice outside, I take them into our backyard so they can stalk each other, stalk birds, chase blowing leaves, etc.

Once they get tired, they go to the door and we let them back in. It's that simple. They get to go outside and do their cat-things, and we know that they're in the safety of our apartment most of the day. It's a win-win. So I vote for getting somewhere with a nice yard (if you can) and take your kitties outside for little field trips.
posted by elder18 at 4:45 PM on May 9, 2011

Watching my dogs, I see one of their most important needs is sun. It can be indoor or outdoor sun, but to see them bask in those rays, I know they are happy. Cat's are the same way. If it is possible make sure your parents have windows that allow sun to come in. And fresh air. You can also look at those cat window boxes. That will give them plenty of safe mental stimulation.
posted by Vaike at 5:23 PM on May 9, 2011

Response by poster: I like the idea of supervised outdoor breaks. I'd like to give this a shot before giving up on ever acclimating them to the outdoors. Anybody who has done this successfully who could offer advice? My parents have a screened in porch, so I could start now by letting them on to the porch. I am sure at first they will be scratching at the door to get in, but hopefully eventually they'll get used to it.
posted by timsneezed at 5:29 PM on May 9, 2011

If you insist on letting them out, even just to the backyard, please get them chipped first. All you need is for one to spook and run the wrong way and you've just lost a cat. Chipping them will make it much more likely for them to get back to you if someone finds them.
posted by Caravantea at 5:36 PM on May 9, 2011

We have a fence around our backyard, so we can sit back and let them run around. Could they jump over the fence if they wanted to? Yeah, maybe.

But we'd be right there to track them down, and they seem really content to run around back there. Chipping them is a good idea, though.
posted by elder18 at 5:56 PM on May 9, 2011

One other thing: if you move them with you to New York, and they can't be outside, then getting them used to the outside now, only to take it away, is cruel.

can you tell I am agains this plan?
posted by cyndigo at 5:57 PM on May 9, 2011

I am not sure why you are hellbent on putting cats out who are afraid of outside, trying to almost force them to do it, making them unhappy, potentially unnecessarily stressed and freaked out in the process.

Like others, I am a bit confused as to why you are married to the idea, trying to find any way to do this especially when you said initially "I just want the best for them." I sincerely hope it all works out in the end for the cats' sakes. Consider their actually happiness, what they have known as their world their entire life as a safe home inside and what you perceive will make them happier based on your own human life.
posted by jerseygirl at 6:16 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I notice the male cat in particular (Tim) seems kind of lethargic lately. Tim used to be a really energetic cat, but I feel like the spark is gone from his eyes. I am worried about him. I don't think it's just age, as he's not that old.

Why are you convinced the problem is that he is not going outside? It's possible that Tim has a health problem and should be checked by a vet.

Also, you don't even live with these cats. If you start getting your cats used to going outside, your parents going to have to deal with them wanting to have their supervised outdoor breaks all the time whenever you're not around.

I understand feeling guilty about not being there to play with the cats and thinking they miss you when you're gone, but in the meantime they are your parents' cats until you move them in with you. You say you're going to be moving in August, so I really think it would be best to keep things as they are and then play with the kitties as much as you like once you move them in with you.
posted by wondermouse at 7:44 PM on May 9, 2011

Every outdoor or outdoor/indoor cat I have ever known has either had some really bad experience that affected their physical or mental health negatively. I have also known pet cats that were entirely outdoor cats who were abandoned by their owners (and also had a slew of lifelong health problems directly related to their being outdoor cats), who, when taken in as indoor cats by new owners seemed almost grateful to not be outside any longer. There's just no real good reason for (indoor) pet cats who have no outdoor experience to be transitioned into being outdoor cats. Unless your vet recommends it. Otherwise.. actually, since you do seem hellbent on this idea, I would ask your vet before carrying out your plan. S/he would be able to advise you best and would be able to customize their advice based on knowing your cats specifically.
posted by Mael Oui at 7:44 PM on May 9, 2011

If you think there might be something wrong with the cats, take them to the vet. There could be all sorts of things that a vet can check: endocrine issues, digestive issues, mineral imbalance, thyroid, diabetes, etc etc etc. A thorough exam and blood panel might give you some more peace of mind, since you seem very worried about the kitties.
posted by galadriel at 8:35 PM on May 9, 2011

"I'm from the UK, where it's the norm, and I call bullshit on the "5 year lifespan" claim."

I was going to say this in my initial comment, but didn't want to get too wordy, but here I go: Here's the difference between outdoors cats in the U.S. and Europe.

1) Car traffic in the U.S. is faster and far more prevalent than in Europe. There are few pedestrian footways connecting larger areas, and road crossings are not as pedestrian -- or pet -- friendly. Moreover, it is illegal in most incorporated areas of the U.S. to allow pets off-leash. This includes cats. People are NOT LOOKING for cats and dogs wandering even residential streets, in contrast to my experiences driving in Europe where this is considered quite normal. Pet accidents are much more common over here.

2) Cats have been in Europe more or less since people have been there, and there are few large predators in Europe. Cats have been in the US for 500 years. There are many larger predators here. There are coyotes in downtown Chicago. I have known cats and very small dogs who have been attacked by coyotes, alleged cougars (this one's tricky, big local debate about whether they're around), poisonous snakes, marauding lost BEARS who wandered down out of the mountains and managed to find themselves in a city, even a HAWK who mauled two neighborhood Chihuahuas! (Apparently he was out of rabbits to eat or something.) I have not lived in that many places in the U.S., and always in urban or dense suburban environments, so that's a very small sampling of "all the wildlife that wants to kill your cat."

3) As above, but there are pests, soil parasites, pathogens, etc., common to the U.S. that do not exist in Europe. Because cats are relative newcomers here, they have not evolved defenses to many of them. Furthermore, the United States is not a rabies-free country.

4) As above, but there are native birds and other animals that have not evolved the ability to escape cats. Native animal populations are suffering in many areas in ways that very negatively affect the ecosystem; outdoor cats are a part of that, and responsible owners do not participate in the destruction of the environment. It takes a special kind of lunatic to volunteer to help a species go extinct, I think.

There are other things, but those are the big ones. You can also take a look at how cats' lifespans in the U.S. jumped after the invention of litter so that they COULD be kept indoors -- you'll see the same five-year lifespan given for outdoor cats for the "before litter" kitties and it basically doubles once litter is introduced and cats can live indoors.

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:44 PM on May 9, 2011 [10 favorites]

Another vote for no, do not transition your cats to indoor/outdoor cats. Many excellent reasons have been given up-thread.

That said, cats are fine in small spaces. I had two cats in several small one bedroom apartments (unsure of square footage). I had two cats in a 350 square foot RV that were happy cats.

I don't know your cats, but I think it's quite possible that because your parents are less interactive with them that they could very well be depressed. I have two seven year old cats (the pair that lived in the RV) and while one is quite sedentary, she always has been, the other, male, is as bouncing-off-the-walls active as he has always been.

If it were me, I would take them home with me and move them to NY.
posted by deborah at 9:17 PM on May 9, 2011

If they end up in my (or someone similar's) backyard, they stand a real chance of getting trapped and taken to an animal shelter. There are birds nesting in my backyard and your cat wants to eat them. This is largely how I see your outdoor cat, because that's what cats do.

I don't do this to be mean, or because I don't like your cats, but because I do like the birds, and they don't need to deal with predators that are supported at 100x their natural population density by people feeding and caring for them. Millions of birds are killed every year by pet cats that don't need to eat them. Whole species have gone extinct primarily due to predation by domestic cats.

I have two cats. They stay indoors.

I don't live in NYC, so you don't actually stand any risk from me personally, but I am not the only person like this.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:31 PM on May 9, 2011

Response by poster: OK, guys. You've convinced me to keep them indoors, and move them back with me.
posted by timsneezed at 9:46 PM on May 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Also, will make a vet appointment.
posted by timsneezed at 9:47 PM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Good choice, timsneezed! Also, per moving to NY, see this NYT article and gallery on "catios." Also, Catio Showcase blog.
posted by taz at 2:05 AM on May 10, 2011

If they're already window-loving cats (as you mention above), an open (screened) window with some birdseed strewn under it, in such a place that the cats can see the birds come and go, will pretty much provide endless hours of entertainment. If you do this at two windows on opposite sides of the living area, they can race back and forth in a frenzy of bird watching, if they want to, and get exercise too. We strew seed in our flowerboxes once flower season is over, and even on our front steps (where we got a screen door where the screen part goes all the way down instead of only halfway specifically so the cats could watch out the door). Even in an apartment, if any of the windows open, you can suction-cup a bird feeder to the outside of the window, or use a small balcony, or whatever.

We call this "buying them friends." Bird friends, squirrel friends, it's all entertaining. I'm particularly fond of the grackles because they understand how windows work and get extreme joy out of actively taunting the cats from just outside the window. My big cat spends the WHOLE DAY bravely protecting the house from grackles that can't get in and feels very satisfied with himself in the evening. You can tell by the self-satisfied way he cleans his butt after grackle duty.

(One time a squirrel fell down my chimney into my fireplace and while the cats were content to guard the fireplace as long as the fireplace doors were closed, as soon as we began operation "get the squirrel out of the house" they got TOTALLY freaked out by the fact that an actual wild creature might attempt to interact with them and they went to hide until it was gone. And then for six hours more just in case.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:20 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Help me cut down on coffee/caffeine   |   Do you have a sense of structure to your memories? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.