The cat went out on a chilly night
March 18, 2017 8:02 AM   Subscribe

My friend wants to re-home her beautiful young indoor/outdoor tom cat, because he terrorizes and traumatizes her other cat with aggressive play. The other cat's a shy, skittish female and my friend is more bonded to her than to the tom.

I love the tom cat -- he's like a glorious little jaguar -- but there's no way I'd make him go from being indoor/outdoor to being indoor only. I am aware of the dangers to outdoor cats but he's been socialized this way and I am not going to change that.
However, our neighbors directly across the street have chickens that (though normally in a coop in their back yard) also often seem to be wandering in the road, their front yard facing my house, or even wind up on my yard sometimes. I also enjoy the chickens, this is in no way a complaint about that.
Many other neighbors have outdoor cats that wander our street. The chicken-owning neighbor even has an outdoor cat that seems to ignore their chickens. I have told my cat friend, though, that I don't feel safe taking her tom because I know he's killed birds, and I am worried he'd attack my neighbor's chickens.
So, I have pretty much just said no. But just for due diligence: would there be any way to make this tom adoptable and safe for the neighbor's chickens other than the bell collar on his neck which obviously seems not to work for the faster wild birds he has killed? And which would not alert the slow moving chickens in time obviously?
Also -- is it just luck that the cats around here haven't made a paw-lickin good chicken dinner yet? If one did want to adopt a kitty that might be allowed some roaming, would there be something to look for to minimize chicken hunting?
posted by flourpot to Pets & Animals (21 answers total)
I keep chickens and honestly a full grown chicken is way more than the vast majority of domestic cats want to deal with. And if your neighbor also has a rooster, you should be more worried about the cat than the chickens. Roosters can be vicious.

We used to get a neighborhood cat in the yard sometimes when my chickens were free ranging and the chickens would raise a ruckus, fly up onto the nearest tree branch and the cat would go on its way.

However, you're right that cats should be kept inside, for a multitude of reasons, and anyone who keeps livestock is well within their rights to be pissed off at people letting their domestic animals roam onto their property. Is this cat neutered at least?
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:15 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]

Yes, the cat is neutered.
No, there is no rooster.
And yes, I agree they would have a right to be pissed at this but their own outdoor cat wanders outside into my yard, so the issue is simply that I do not want to hurt their chickens.
posted by flourpot at 8:19 AM on March 18

When I was a kid, we had chickens and indoor/outdoor cats. The cats never once bothered the chickens. As @soren_lorensen said, most chickens are more than a match for most cats. My mom always put a bell on the collar of our cats to help the chickens hear them coming. I don't know for sure if the bell helped -- but like I said the cats never harmed the chickens. I think to minimize chicken-hunting, you'd want to have a cat that is the same size as, or smaller than, the chickens.
posted by OrangeDisk at 8:28 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]

One more vote for don't worry. When I was a kid, we had cats and dwarf chickens. Even they were too big for the cats, who were avid hunters.
posted by mumimor at 9:28 AM on March 18

I would ask the neighbors.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:33 AM on March 18

I lived on a farm with the toughest cat you can imagine. A huge semi feral thing that would hunt & bring back rabbits, huge rats the size of guinea pigs, numerous poisonous snakes (with vet bills to go with it). We also kept a wide variety of chickens, including silkies & bantams the size of pigeons that free ranged. The cat never looked at them twice, not even at the cute little chicks as they ran around. Chickens are smarter than you might think, also more aggressive, we had chickens that would hunt, kill & eat mice in our hayshed. A full sized chicken is a lot for a cat to take on.

You could always talk to your neighbours about it if you are concerned.
posted by wwax at 9:44 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]

I have chickens and two indoor outdoor cats, along with a variety of neighborhood feral that a neighbor feeds (and spays/neuters). The cats seem to realize the chickens are way bigger than the cats and have never bothered them.
posted by Cocodrillo at 10:04 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]

Right out of college my sister lived on a tiny horse farm and the barn cats never killed the chickens. Her Labrador puppy though killed two in under five minutes. The rest were carted off by some hawks and a fox.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 10:47 AM on March 18

Cats can learn to move in a way that doesn't make noise with one bell, so bird lovers recommend using two bells to ensure a warning is heard.
posted by teststrip at 11:07 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]

Could you talk to your chicken-owning neighbors? They may be able to set their mind at ease.

In the neighborhood where I grew up there were always chickens with bad boundaries and outdoor cats. I can't remember a cat ever getting a chicken. In a rural area your neighbors' chickens are probably more at risk from opossums, raccoons, hawks, and large dogs than cats. Your neighbors are (knowingly, one presumes) taking a risk in letting them roam free.

Somewhat relevant: A chicken killing a snake
posted by bunderful at 11:18 AM on March 18

Many years ago a stray cat adopted us and we let him be an indoor/outdoor cat for awhile. We decided to make him an indoor cat and, it took awhile, but he successfully made the transition and lived the reset of his life indoors (I'm sure the birds in the neighborhood appreciated it). Cats adopted from a shelter can come from all sorts of backgrounds and adopters successfully keep them as indoor cats so it can be done. Don't worry about the chickens and keep this cat inside for his own health and safety.
posted by Flacka at 11:53 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]

Somewhat relevant: A chicken killing a snake
Goes to prove birds are little dinosaurs. Not safe.
posted by mumimor at 12:14 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]

Growing up in Italy we had indoor/outdoor, bird-murdering cats and chickens, and it honestly never even crossed my mind that they might even interact. A full grown chicken is way too big for any cat to harass.

Standard advice that you can, if you want, kindly and thoughtfully turn an indoor/outdoor cat into an indoor cat and that it's better for their longterm health and safety. That said, I wouldn't worry about the neighbor's chickens. Depending on where you live they are definitely already dodging predators left and right (I live in MA and there's no way I'm letting my chickens out to get attacked by foxes, hawks, coyotes, fisher cats, owls, opossums, weasels, raccoons, and that's not counting the roaming dogs that somehow make it onto our property from nearby trails) so your cat would be very very low on their list of priorities.
posted by lydhre at 12:36 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]

I grew up with a big tough tomcat that my parents 'adopted' from living feral in our backyard in Brooklyn. (We think he'd been a pet, he was reasonably socialized with people, but he was living outside on his own when they took him in. For the first few years we had him, he was indoor/outdoor. Then we moved into a Manhattan apartment, and he was indoor-only ten months out of the year (when we visited family in the country, or stayed at the beach, he got to go outside). Living indoors didn't seem to bother him at all.

So, transitioning to indoor-only, or at least indoor-mostly, is something I've seen work.
posted by LizardBreath at 1:23 PM on March 18

But also, I would agree with everyone who said that a chicken is awfully big for a cat to bother with. Probably not a problem.
posted by LizardBreath at 1:24 PM on March 18

Chickens are badass. Old people in my area all have stories about being terrorized by them while collecting eggs as children.

My formerly outdoor cat used to kill dozens of little birds at the neighbor's feeders. Then he got a baby bluejay and was put in his place by the angry parents and their posse. Not all birds are created equal. Some will kick a cat's butt.
posted by irisclara at 1:27 PM on March 18

I have frequently had chickens and domestic cats together with no problems. However, I lost one chicken to a large feral cat, and another to a very hungry domestic-going-feral cat. The first cat was big, bigger than the chicken by far. The second cat took the opportunity of night, and a low overhanging branch, to pounce on a chicken that had been locked out of the coop.

So as long as you feed your ginger majesty, I'd say everything will be ok.
posted by Thella at 1:38 PM on March 18

I'd also like to add another data point for turning an indoor-outdoor cat indoor only. It took a few kind of annoying months, but in the end you could open a door to outside right in front of her and she'd take one look and walk the other way.

My parents have cats that they refuse to keep inside and it is one bloody thing after another with them. Abscessed wounds from getting into fights, catching diseases from the local ferals, going missing, etc etc etc. I can't even imagine how much money they have spent at their vet over the years.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:07 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]

Side comment, possibly relevant possibly not: I've noticed that the urgency with which a lot of cats want to go outside has a lot to do with craving greens. Once I started growing little batches of wheat grass, the few must-go-out kitties I had became a lot less interested in going out. When it's grass time, though, they _really_ want to eat plants, aloe, fern -- anything that looks like grass. (It does not make them throw up; some animals eat grass when they _already_ feel nauseated).

This is from my own cat years ago and fostering a few formerly semi-feral/indoor-outdoor kittens, plus one formerly outdoors-only cat that just decided to move out of her original home one day (dog issues). As far as I know, none of them were super into killing birds -- which is its own thing.
posted by amtho at 6:09 PM on March 18

I have chickens and a cat who hunts and kills things (sadly). My cat has never, ever bothered my chickens. I'd be more worried about the new cat picking fights with neighbors cats since he's supposedly the bullying type
posted by WalkerWestridge at 7:53 PM on March 18

Chickens are not ducks, but chiming in to say that the feral ducks in my neighborhood totally dominate the feral cats ... chasing them away from food, good shelter, etc. And having lived with both, chickens are WAY scarier than ducks.

However... Cars are a lot scarier than chickens. I lost any number of great indoor/outdoor cats as a kid (before I understood about indoor-only being the good choice for wildlife as well as for the cats). In recent years, I've made far too many humanitarian euthenasia choices for the local feral cats after awful accidents (and encounters with car engines). Your kitty will adjust to being indoors. Watch Shelly in action at and see how she transitions totally feral cats into hug-craving indoor pets. Provide plants and toys, and playtime, and most cats will adjust. (I had to interrupt writing this to go bounce some kibbles off the wall for Bruce to chase. Now he's wandering to the back porch to look at palm warblers. It's a good life!)

Our born feral Bruce will stand and look in horror at an open door and yell to warn you about it ... He is NOT going back out there! Younger kitty was feral longer before we tamed him, and he has escaped from failed porch screening ... and reappeared scared and exhausted and vowing to change his ways. We installed pet screening on the porch, and now the cats get their fresh air and birdwatching in a safe place. A catio could answer all your needs.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 4:01 AM on March 19

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