I consider myself a pretty lenient cat mom. I let my girls, Ghost Cat and Specter, pretty much rule the roost around here. They have the run of the house and a can get away with a lot more than any other member of the household (just ask my dogs). They steal my stuff, demand treats in the middle of the night, and refuse to give me any privacy in the bathroom. I let them get away with just about anything that won’t hurt them, but when it comes to the great outdoors, I’m very strict. When Ghost Cat whines at the front door, she hears something she’s not used to hearing from me — a firm “no.” My kitties will never be allowed to go outside unsupervised, because as much as I would like to give in to their every whim, I also want to keep them alive.
You can call me a helicopter cat mom, but the truth is, the outside world is no place for my pampered kitty cats, and according to a couple of the humane societies in my area (Alberta, Canada), the outdoors isn’t really safe for any felines, no matter how tough they think they are. A few weeks ago the Calgary Humane Society asked citizens to keep cats indoors after several kitties were found “mutilated, severely injured or killed.” The warning came after about a dozen suspicious cat deaths, and news stories about cats with severed spines.
Although Calgary is a bit south of where my cats and I live, the thought of kitties being intentionally killed so close to home hurt my heart. Like so many other cat lovers reading those headlines, I wondered what was happening to the deceased cats. I told my husband (who is not quite as over-protective as I am) to be extra careful going in and out of the house to make sure neither of our girls could get out and get lost. What if there some kind of kitty serial killer on the loose?
The sadness continued as the Edmonton Humane Society (just north of us) issued a similar warning, urging cat owners to keep their pets inside after three cat mutilations in that area. Media reports initially suggested people were to blame for these horrors, but the police eventually figured out that all three cats had been killed by coyotes, not humans. While I was relieved to hear that the Edmonton-area cat deaths weren’t the work of humans, I’m certainly not going to be letting Ghost Cat and Speck go outdoors unsupervised any time soon.
According to a 2009 study conducted in Arizona, free-roaming cats have about a 53-percent chance of being killed if they come across a coyote. Those really are not great odds, and according to the Humane Society of the United States, “coyotes aren’t the only threat cats face when they go outside—there are far greater dangers.”
Diseases, predators, traps, poison, disturbed and horrible people — there are so many dangers out there that I’m pretty sure outdoor cats could star in their own version of the TV show 1000 Ways To Die.
Even when people aren’t actively trying to kill cats, it sometimes happens anyway. When I’m driving and I see a cat squished on the road, my soul aches for the family who is waiting in vain for their fluffy friend to come home. My eyes tear up when I imagine one of my cats meeting the same fate, and I do everything I can to avoid being the driver who takes a feline life. There’s one particular intersection in my neighborhood that I just don’t take anymore because a tuxedo cat who lives on the corner likes to dash across without looking both ways. He doesn’t even use the crosswalk.
I often think of that handsome jay-walking kitty when I explain to people why I don’t let my girls go outside. I’ve been told by many that not giving my cats the freedom to explore the neighborhood is cruel, but the humane societies are on my side. According to the Calgary Humane Society, keeping a cat from roaming freely doesn’t decrease his or her quality of life, but preserves it.
So when my spoiled girl Ghost Cat wants to go outside, I harness her and hover like the helicopter cat mom I am (luckily my other cat, Speck, is content to sit inside on a window sill), and my husband often lets her off-leash in our fenced backyard. That’s about as much outdoor freedom as I will let Ghosty have. I know that not everyone agrees with my hard stance on this issue (my own parents live in the country and have a happy cat who comes and goes as she pleases) but I need to do what’s right for my furry family.
The unfortunate truth is there are a lot of things out there that can hurt our cats — cruelty, cars, and coyotes are just the tip of the iceberg. If your cat goes missing, you might not ever find out what happened. The faded “missing cat” posters stapled up in neighborhoods across North America attest to this.
The way I see it, I need to do everything in my power to make sure Ghosty and Speck never end up on a missing poster or as a cautionary tale — and that means they’ll never be alone during outdoor play.
Do you ever let your cats outside? Tell us why in the comments.
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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 kitten, GhostBuster 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 +.