Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Feline Invasion October 16, 2008

Filed under: digressions — greenwalks @ 10:19 am
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I love cats. We don’t have any at home at the moment, but our previous feline person was so wonderful, and is so missed, that it’s almost hard to contemplate starting over with someone new.

Hank was adopted from the San Francisco SPCA, the model in this country for a no-kill animal shelter. He came to us as a one year old, having been found on the street as a kitten, cared for by foster parents, adopted by someone, and then returned to the shelter (for spraying, since the adopter didn’t honor the signed contract to have him neutered FOR FREE, and also, inexplicably, for being “too affectionate”!?!). Needless to say, he was a very confused kitty when we brought him home. For cats, territory is (practically) everything, and one animal behaviorist told us that when you move a cat to a new territory, it’s like you burned down his house. But gradually, with lots of love and patience, he relaxed into his new family, and before (and after) we had a human child, he was our furry baby. We often imagined how hilarious he would be as a shrunken old-man kitty of 17, so when he was diagnosed with incurable lymphoma and had to be euthanized at the age of only 8, it just seemed like we hadn’t had him for even half the amount of time we we’d expected. Needless to say, we were heartbroken.

All of this is to preface today’s topic, the random neighborhood cats who consider my garden their own territory because we don’t have any animals policing it to tell them otherwise. I looked out my living room window the other day to see what looked like a cat convention on my front steps.

Cat party?

Some of these guys are familiar, but the bigger, longer-haired of the two gray and white kitties was new to me. I’m not a big fan of interfering in wildlife conflicts, but I’ve had to break up enough cat fights that I wanted to make sure this wasn’t something brewing. When I went out to see what they were up to, they turned and looked at me like I was some kind of alien interloper.

Ew, a human!

That made the two short-haired ones disappear, but the other guy stood his ground. I went over to see if he was willing to be friendly, and he started making some scary growling noises so I politely invited him to take his dominant, trespassing self somewhere else.

Lord of the jungle

Later that same day, I saw this large and furry fellow poking around in the neighbor’s yard. He arrived in the neighborhood recently and has been beating up a lot of other cats – he’s big and mean, and he has no respect for territory or boundaries. He’s a kitty Napoleon, except for the size aspect.

Spooky kitty

I could hardly believe it when my daughter looked out her window just a few hours later, still the same day, to say that one of the cats from the morning’s pow-wow was posing like a statue on the rock wall near her room. His eyes were halfway open and he was looking right at her, it freaked her out a bit even though she loves cats.

Statue cat

In Seattle, there is a leash law for dogs but cats are legally able to roam free unless they are causing a problem (specifically, from the City of Seattle web site, “it is unlawful for any owner to allow their cat to damage the private property of another or be a threat to public peace, health or safety.”) Personally, I am a big believer in keeping cats indoors, both for their own safety and to protect wildlife. That said, my childhood pet cat was out and about for most of every day but was far too cross-eyed and lovably incompetent to catch anything (well, he did find a dead snake once, and also brought in a bird that had hit the window and was stunned). But I have seen neighborhood cats catch juncos and other ground-feeding birds, and it makes me so sad – these are very well-fed cats who are just doing it for sport and the enjoyment of the hunt. Bells help sometimes but none of these guys wears one. It’s not the cats’ fault – I just wish their humans would be more responsible!

Hank was an indoor kitty his entire life. Friends and family sometimes chided us for keeping him inside, listing all the things they felt were missing from his existence, like sniffing the fresh air not just through a window, chasing butterflies, and napping under a tree. The payoff was supposed to be a long and peaceful life, but things didn’t turn out that way. I still think we did the right thing – he was a happy kitty until he got sick, and he never suffered from fang bites, rabies, or any of the other awful fates that can befall an outdoor animal. We miss him terribly, but are starting to feel like it might be time to head down to the shelter and find ourselves a new furry baby.

Hank, Poised to Pounce

What do you favor, free-range or indoor kitties?


9 Responses to “Feline Invasion”

  1. Megan Says:

    The Oregon Humane Society has been successful with a policy where they don’t adopt cats or dogs until they’ve been spayed and neutered, and they have an extremely high adoption rate (about 90% compared to the 30% national average). It’s been a big help reducing the number of unwanted animals, but there are still overwhelming numbers of homeless pets out there.
    I keep my cats inside inside, but now that one is old and a total pain in the house, I let him out where he stands on the porch for a few minutes before he cries to come back inside.
    It’s dangerous out there for kitties, and I would just die if he caught one of the birds. I definitely wouldn’t have an entirely outdoor cat.

  2. Racquel Says:

    My cat is an inside/outside cat. He doesn’t have claws on the front so he just lays in the yard during the day & comes in at night to sleep. 🙂

  3. Georgia Says:

    We don’t have a cat due to allergies but we love them. However, a neighborhood, free-range cat has adopted me. She hangs around the back stoop and enjoys the bowls of milk left for her. For allergic humans, an outdoor cat is a boon but there is the other side to this, as you mentioned, cat-wild bird conflicts.

  4. alwaysbuddy Says:

    love cats, only have one due to the size of my apartment. those are some handsome kitties. cheers.

  5. Curmudgeon Says:

    Oh! I feel a rant coming on… I’ll try to restrain myself. You know where we live. Our street gets tons of traffic. Our upstairs neighbors let their 16 week old kitten run loose outside. “Oh, it just wants to go outside.” It didn’t even have all its shots yet! Guess who ended up scraping that adorable little kittent off the road early one morning–US. it’s going on two months now that it was killed and I still get furious when I think about it. How can people be so irresponsible and cruel??? BTW, was that a BIG cat convention on your front walk? They sure do look well-fed. LOL! To answer your question, I think in an urban setting where the population density is so high, the most considerate and responsible thing is to keep your animals indoors.

  6. Shibaguyz Says:

    Indoors without a doubt or hesitation. Domestic cats are not meant to be outside. Ask your vet. They will tell you the same thing. It is totally irresponsible of cat owners to let them run through the neighborhood getting into other people’s gardens, homes and, yes, in the road where they are often killed. I’ll stop before my rant gets worse… GGGRRRR!!

  7. Michele Says:

    Indoors only! They kill too much wildlife, poop in flowerbeds, fight, spread disease. Its safer for the cat and wildlife. I think the tide is turning and outdoor cats will be banned soon. This topic comes up more and more and some cities will start making rules. Good luck!

  8. jean Says:

    Indoor cats vs outdoor cats is such an emotional subject as you can see from the comments you have received.

    I have always had outdoor cats but got a kitten last year who likes to hunt birds. I have been heartbroken every time she brings home a poor dead thing to this vegetarian, animal-loving home. I resolve to keep her indoors as much as possible but she howls and scratches at the door until I am sick with sadness. It is also difficult logistically as our door is opened and closed so many times a day. How do people do this? Your blog post is timely as I have been so troubled by this lately. I have been letting her out at night when the birds are asleep. Sigh. Thanks for your post.

  9. SusanO Says:

    Hank looks lovely – you must have been very lucky.

    I had two indoor cats and they both lived long lives – 14 and 17 years. My current neighbourhood has lots of outdoor kitties – I get the occasional poop in my garden (ergh) and they really rile up my 2 dogs, but after reading all your squirrel woes (I don’t have any squirrel woes) I gotta wonder if they’re providing a useful service!

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