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Do You Play With Your Cat Outdoors?

My cat waited all winter to get back on her leash, but having her outside really stresses me out.

Heather Marcoux  |  Apr 21st 2015


Springtime weather has finally arrived in my part of the world, and my Ghost Cat couldn’t be happier. Now that only one little patch of backyard ice remains, my husband and I have dusted off Ghosty’s leash in order to cure her cabin fever, taking her outside for some well-supervised adventures.

Ghost Cat loves playing in the leaves that were covered in snow for so long.

Ghost Cat loves playing in the leaves that were covered in snow for so long.

The cat leash and harness allows Ghost Cat to get what she wants, but it’s still no guarantee of absolute outdoor safety, and that makes me nervous. I always worry about what could happen if one of us accidentally dropped the leash at the same time that something spooked her. I imagine her sprinting off, her leash trailing behind her. I imagine her getting hit by a car as she darts across the street, or attacked by a dog who doesn’t love her like ours do. I desperately want to keep Ghost Cat safe while she enjoys her outdoor time, and that’s why I keep a tight grip on that leash and keep her confined to our yard.

Everything around here is still more brown than green, but Ghost Cat loves it.

Everything around here is still more brown than green, but Ghost Cat loves it.

Over the past week, my husband and I have both (separately) brought Ghost Cat outside so that she can roll in the leaves and explore under the apple trees. Due to work schedules, Ghosty has had more outdoor time with my husband than with me so far this spring. While I would trust my husband with my life, I’m starting to wonder if I should trust him with Ghosty’s.

Ghost Cat has been loving all the outdoor adventures she’s been having with her dad, but his more relaxed style of cat supervision is making me a little nervous.

My husband’s been babysitting a lot lately, and his young charge loves Ghost Cat, so outdoor cat time is the perfect activity for everyone. A few days ago my husband and the kid took Ghost Cat and the dogs out to play in our (unfenced) front yard. According to my guy, all three animals seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to play in the grass (although I still don’t understand why they couldn’t do that in our fenced backyard).

The kid loves Ghost Cat, and always wants to hold her leash.

The kid loves Ghost Cat, and always wants to hold her leash.

At some point my husband and the kid got the idea to take the dogs for a walk, and they figured they would just clip Ghost Cat’s leash to the dogs’ tandem leash so all three animals could strut together. Let me just say for the record that if I had been home this would never have happened, because it is one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard. Ghost Cat didn’t even make it past our front lawn.

“Once we started getting to the edge of the yard she started freaking out,” my husband recalled when he later explained this fiasco to me.

Everything that's happening in this picture is a bad idea.

Everything that’s happening in this picture is a bad idea.

Poor Ghosty. As if leaving the lawn wasn’t scary enough, our big Lab mix, GhostBuster, started dragging her toward our next door neighbor’s yard so that he could pee on a landscaping rock. GhostBuster pulled poor Ghosty right towards a street signpost that sits in the middle of our two yards.

“It was like a cartoon,” my husband said. “Ghost Cat finally stopped just before the post.”

Thankfully, my husband clued in that this interspecies walk was a bad idea, so he put Ghosty back in our house before continuing on his way with the dogs and the kid. She may have missed the walk, but Ghost Cat’s outdoor adventures weren’t over yet. My husband and his young friend took Ghost Cat for more adventures in the following days. I saw pictures of their escapades after the fact, and I must say Ghost Cat looked absolutely adorable in the handmade cloth harness we bought her last summer. Unfortunately, this harness it is not a safe as it looks, because according to my husband, Ghost Cat has learned how to escape it.

“She just Houdinied right out of her harness, in like one movement,” my husband explained, adding that a neighbor had spooked her. “I’ve never seen her move so fast, and then she just ran back to the house.”

Hearing about these adventures secondhand makes me way more nervous about Ghosty going outside. I’ve decided we need some ground rules to ensure Ghost Cat is as safe as can be when enjoying her time outside. First off, she’s got a new harness. It’s not as cute, but she can’t wiggle out of it at the first sign of trouble. Secondly, I think the backyard is the best place for her adventures — the front yard just has too many distractions. My third rule is so simple I almost shouldn’t have to make it, but I did anyway: Ghost Cat is not to be the third animal wheel on dog walks. I cannot imagine how that would have ever gone smoothly.

I can't deny Ghosty her outdoor time, but the backyard is much safer for her than the front.

I can’t deny Ghosty her outdoor time, but the backyard is much safer for her than the front.

Now that I’ve laid down some rules, I feel a little better about Ghosty going outside when I’m not home, but it still makes me nervous. Sometimes I wish Ghost Cat were more like our younger cat Specter, who loves to hang out in the sunroom but doesn’t really care for the actual outdoors. I can wish all I want, but Ghost Cat will likely never lose her lust for the outside. She loves fresh air and dirt and grass so much, and that’s why I just can’t deny her some outdoor time — even if it makes me super nervous.

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About the author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kittenGhostBuster the Lab and her newest dog, Marshmallow, make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google +