Should I keep this cat?
December 27, 2018 6:30 AM   Subscribe

I live in a large-ish flat in central London. I already have one indoor-only cat, so am well versed in the ways of Cat. For reasons, I have to decide whether to take on a second cat who is currently outdoor-only and convert her to the joys of being indoors; or whether it's better for her that I find her another home. Cat Tax and extended beanplating inside.

I've had Gutenberg for just over a year. He was a rescue, and I have no information from the adoption centre about whether he was ever an outdoor cat. Regardless, he lives happily in my flat and has never shown the slightest interest in going outside. He doesn't even look out of the window.

My Grandmother passed away a few weeks ago and, it transpired, had taken over looking after Sid in her last months. We think Sid's owners moved away and left her (him?) behind. Sid is currently a stray - albeit living in a very comfy, heated box, courtesy of my father's carpentry skills. All the local shelters are full and refuse to take her; and and there's no one in my Grandmother's village who can take her. My parents are travelling twice a day to feed the cat at the moment, and obviously can't do this indefinitely but also don't want to take on a cat.

Needless to say, I am in love with Sid, who is clearly the world's most affectionate furball. She's not at all feral despite her circumstances and clearly likes to be with people. I would very much like to bring her down to London and have space and funds to look after her. However, in order to make this work she would need to learn to love the indoors, due to the way my flat is set up, the hours I work and the frankly terrifying urban fox population.

Metafilter, I fear my judgement is clouded with emotion at the moment. Help me be objective.

Is is better for Sid to live with me, a known quantity who is ready and able to love her, but will force her to give up her outside life and freedom? Or would it be better for us to find her a shelter and give her chance to be adopted by another household where she would be able to go outside?

(For what it's worth, I don't believe "kill shelters" are a thing in the UK and I would never put an animal in one if they did exist.)
posted by citands to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think Sid would be miserable living an indoor life if she's used to being outdoors. Chances are she'll find a way to escape and will then find herself in an unfamiliar area where the likelihood of her coming to harm is thus much greater. Better to have her adopted by someone who's able to let her live an indoor-outdoor life.

FWIW, my local cat shelter is just inside the M25 but in a semi-rural location, so a good place for an indoor-outdoor cat to be adopted from.
posted by essexjan at 6:39 AM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you already really like Sid, and don't want to leave her as a homeless stray in the village, so the telling point will be whether the two cats can get along.

Ideally you've got enough space to keep them separate for a time, while they get used to each other's smell and presence. I know not all flats are laid out in such a way to make this possible, so sometimes you've just got to bring in the second cat and hope for the best.

In your shoes I'd take Sid, but with the internal proviso that if, after a time, the two cats can't arrive at peaceful coexistence, you'll start looking for a new home for Sid. She's a pretty cat, so that should help.
posted by zadcat at 6:46 AM on December 27, 2018 [12 favorites]

Why not take Sid home and see what happens? She might settle in after a while or if she's dying to get out, the shelter is still a possibility. Go for it!
posted by Ferrari328 at 6:47 AM on December 27, 2018 [29 favorites]

Best answer: I certainly think this is a circumstance where you should try it out and see if it will work. Then if it doesn't work, you can try to re-home Sid or take her to a shelter.

Do make sure you keep the cats separated for something like up to 3 weeks. They need to each be able to feel like they have their own spaces and territories and get used to each other's smells, and cats take a few weeks to adjust to change. So I would give the trial up to 6 weeks -- 3 weeks to get used to being indoors in her own space, and 3 weeks to get used to living with another cat. Make sure your windows are secure - cats are fluid and crafty (my wanderer knocked out a screen and hopped down from the 2nd floor the first day we had him).
posted by DoubleLune at 6:52 AM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I would definitely plan to take Sid in, and if it truly doesn't work out, and you can start kind of shopping them around. I'm more unsure about Sid and Gutenberg getting along rather than Sid adjusting to indoor life, to be honest.

You will have to make indoor live super super super appealing, though! Find out what kinds of toys Sid responds to best -- the thingies on sticks? kick toys? All of them? And lay in a good supply. Keep them rotating. Cats need to be able to practice their catly skills indoors, which means as much enrichment as you can possibly provide. (If you're out of the house a lot, it's possible to set up enrichment that it's either electronic or cat-driven, like feathers on a pole or puzzle boxes.) My very active, young, indoor-only cat genuinely needs up to an hour of play every day, without fail. (I am getting him a lil buddy soon, so the fact you'll have two cats might go a long ways.) Set Sid up to the succeed!

I think this is one of those unexpected cultural things -- when I lived in the UK, absolutely no one had indoor-only cats, even in the city, but it's much more common in the US. MeMail me if you want to chat about this more -- it's a fraught topic that doesn't also answer your question really -- but I promise that if you arrange for interesting indoor stuff to replace interesting outdoor stuff, Sid can adjust too.
posted by kalimac at 6:59 AM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Anecdata (anec-cata?): I've known several strays or outdoor-only cats who became indoor-only without much of a fuss, and were happy, well-adjusted cats. Sid's personality seems like she's a good candidate to make the conversion well.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 7:28 AM on December 27, 2018 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I would take her in. If it doesn't work out, you'll be able to provide more information* to the shelter you take her to, which will help her get adopted into the best situation for her.

*Info like "doesn't get along with other cats", "prefers to be an outside cat", etc.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:29 AM on December 27, 2018 [6 favorites]

Definitely try! I took in two outdoor cats and they transitioned to living an indoor life immediately, with no drama whatsoever.
posted by something something at 7:31 AM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have converted several outdoor cats to indoor cats over the course of my life. Some of them still would have very much liked to go outside afterwards, but you can't anthropomorphize them too much. Wanting to get out an open door is not a sign that your cat is deeply miserable in this dismal prison of an apartment. Yes, there's stuff cats like about being outside, but the safety of being an indoor cat is a thing even in rural areas, and this cat is perfectly capable of being happy in an apartment.

She's a stray. She doesn't want freedom. She wants a family.
posted by Sequence at 7:34 AM on December 27, 2018 [13 favorites]

Do take her in, at least try it. She needs a home now. She will thank you.
posted by mermayd at 7:53 AM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have an ex-feral who Very Quickly figured out that indoors has unlimited food, heat, and cozy places to sleep and will hang out on my balcony in the summer sometimes to nap but couldn't care less if I don't let her on the balcony, and certainly has no interest in actually escaping at all. It's not necessarily predictable, but many feral cats are very happy being indoors forever.
posted by jeather at 8:21 AM on December 27, 2018 [8 favorites]

My cat was a stray that I rescued and converted to an indoor-only cat. The first day I brought her home she immediately ate a bunch of the food I'd set out for her, took a dump in the litter box, curled up on the bed, and went to sleep. She has shown only mild interest in the outdoors ever since; goes through occasional periods where she tries (not very hard) to escape but then stops bothering after a week or so and goes back to sleeping on the bed or in her cat tree by the window. She's content. It was an effortless transition.

Go for it. It may well work out just fine.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:23 AM on December 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

My formerly outdoor-only cat moved into my house 4 years ago when her then-family realized she would be better off with me. She hasn't once tried to get out since.

See how Sid does, but set yourself up for success by researching how to integrate her into your home.
posted by Stewriffic at 8:28 AM on December 27, 2018

This is a recent picture of my ex-feral (the tabby). She really, really, really enjoys having all this food available. She's very happy and loves the other cats, one of whom loves her back.
posted by jeather at 8:48 AM on December 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Especially if a cat is a. fixed and b. mature, they can figure out they like the indoors better. I would definitely give it a go. It helps that it's winter right now, when most cats find being indoors better in general.
posted by emjaybee at 9:05 AM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Your description of Sid doesn't convince me that she's a committed outdoor cat. She's probably wondering when y'all are going to bring her inside already. You should go for it and do your best to carefully manage the introduction of the two cats.
posted by stowaway at 11:52 AM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Our dearly departed Hercule Purrr-ot used to live in a liquor store parking lot. With us he was a 100% indoor cat. He figured out very quickly how well he'd landed (Fresh, species-appropriate food at predictable intervals! Unlimited lap sits! Skritches dispensed on demand! Climate control!) and never so much as glanced at the door.
posted by jesourie at 12:37 PM on December 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If the cat loves people, honestly it will most likely be a great inside cat. The fact it is so comfortable snuggling on your lap makes me think it's not the cats first time & it has probably been inside before. Just because a cat is outside doesn't mean it's happy or it is the cats preference to be there, it's just doing what animals do living in the moment which at this point is outside. Also honestly warmth, good food & lots of pats would outweigh any of the questionable "joys" of outdoor living for most cats.

If it helps think of it as fostering her. If for some unlikely reason she really doesn't work out, you can get to know her better which will help her find another home and you won't have to rush to find her anything but a perfect home. But seriously just do slow & steady cat introductions and I suspect she'll go through that door into your flat & never look back.
posted by wwax at 1:02 PM on December 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: For what it's worth, I don't believe "kill shelters" are a thing in the UK and I would never put an animal in one if they did exist.

Just to warn you that a few years back we found out that most shelters in London would euthanise unwanted animals. We weren't aware of this until we started looking and things may have changed. But it took us a while to find a place with space that also had a no-kill policy. Here's the link. Good luck whatever you choose to do!
posted by mkdirusername at 2:09 PM on December 27, 2018

We recently adopted a semi-feral/stray cat who was unaltered when he was brought to animal control. He's had zero interest in going outside, although he does have to have 2 play sessions a day or he's bitey and ornery. He's five and spent an unknown amount of time outside (long enough to get FIV and lose his eartips and get hit by something so he has crooked teeth and makes sounds when he breaths) and basically only wants to sleep on the couch and eat cat food with gravy.

Outside cats can definitely adapt to indoor only life.
posted by fiercekitten at 5:03 PM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Out of all the cats I've had in my life, nearly all were originally indoor/outdoor, and moved to indoor-only at various ages.

One absolutely refused to stay in, and constantly escaped. he'd go missing for a few days at a time. Finally he disappeared permanently. Or so we thought.

Months later, we discovered where he went... to visit, and then move in with, a neighbor's teenage son. As an indoor-only cat. They thought he was a stray, and never noticed our MISSING signs. [sigh]
posted by stormyteal at 7:24 PM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh... almost forgot. Take his house with him, at least on a temporary basis. He'll feel much better with his familiar safe place present.
posted by stormyteal at 7:25 PM on December 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

It sounds like Sid is a homeless pet, rather than a feral cat. Bring her inside, see if she and Gutenburg can adjust to each other, and go from there.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:33 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Metafilter, I adopted her.

Thank you, everyone, for reminding me that life isn’t lived in absolutes. I brought Sid down to London today and she is currently curled up in the spare bedroom, purring like a train and drooling all over herself. Gutenberg is outraged about the presence of a closed bedroom door - but doesn’t seem to have clocked the other cat yet.

If London doesn’t suit her, or she doesn’t suit Gutenberg, then we’ll roll with it, and I feel better prepared for that now.

Thanks to everyone who told me what I wanted to hear (ya bunch of softies!) and especially everyone who told me something I hadn’t thought of. You’re the best.
posted by citands at 12:12 PM on December 29, 2018 [11 favorites]

Yay Sid! If you haven't already,8
I would also take her to a vet to get her shots and get checked out for FIV/FIP/ringworm/etc. before she and your other kitty are regularly sneezing on each other.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:18 PM on December 31, 2018

« Older Help Instagram Gurus.   |   Can we drink the bubbly from last NYE? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.