Sunday, April 10, 2005

Indoors or Outdoors?

This is a great way to pick a fight on some Internet forums, but that's not my goal here. We're getting ready to launch a series of pieces on walking your Bengal, and I wanted to start off with some background on where we're coming from.

I grew up in farm country. Our cats came and went as they liked and we didn't even have litter boxes. But as an adult I've lived in more populated areas, and I've always kept my cats inside. The reason is that, of all the cats I had on that farm as a kid, not one died of old age. In fact, I only knew what happened to one of them, who managed to get hit by a car in front of our house. All the others simply went out one day and never came back. To my mind, this isn't a good thing.

I know there are a lot of people who hate the idea of cooping up a cat inside because they want to be free to explore and hunt mice and all that. Even in the densely populated, semi-urban area where I live now, a lot of people let their cats roam. On my more or less daily walks through our neighborhood I'll see them curled up on front porches, or darting across the street in front of me. They seem content.

But I also can't take that walk without running across a new spate of "missing cat" flyers - each with photocopied pictures, plaintive descriptions and tear-off phone number tags - up on the light poles.

He wouldn't have caught that chipmunk anyway. Damn thing was just too smart for him.

Once, when I was in college, I actually found someone's missing cat. I saw a strange cat hanging out in some bushes near the library one day. The next day, he was still there. Then, on my way home, I came on a missing cat flyer on a light pole, and darn if it wasn't that cat. So I got my wife and we took the car back to campus, picked him up and got him back to his owner.

That was one. But it's never happened since. You know almost all of those cats aren't going to be coming home, and it's sad. Between the traffic, other cats, free-roaming dogs and even wildlife species that have adapted to scavenging human trash, it's a dangerous place out there for a cat.

My last cat, Max, lived eighteen years and died peacefully at home with me to take care of him. For my money, that's a better deal all around. He wouldn't have caught that chipmunk anyway. Damn thing was just too smart for him.

So Leela - especially Leela, who on top of all these other factors is valuable enough to be worth stealing - stays inside. But we'd read that Bengal cats are easier to leash train than regular cats. And so we tried it. Over several upcoming posts, I'll talk about how we went about that, how it worked, and how you can get strange looks from passersby too...


At April 13, 2005 at 10:54 AM, Blogger Rene said...

My Bengal cat Rasheed is walking on a leash for over four months now. He loves to go out. However, he isn't used to strangers and a bit scared for new things (like bikers and cars). Rasheed is now at a point that he allows people across the street if there are not too busy.

I guess he was a bit too old when I started his training (almost 2 years), out of necisity (he was too energetic indoors and needed much more distraction than I or my two other cats could give him). Now I am walking him several times a day, he is more lovable to the other cats.

Like you, I'm afraid my cats will be hit by a car or get stolen. I also noticed that some people have strong negative feelings about cats and don't want your cat near their gardens, even if it is on a leash.

Poor Rasheed was scared when this man came rushing out his house to tell me about his aversion against cats and meanwhile Rasheed was trying forcefully to get out of there. This insensitive man kept babbling about cats littering his garden, while I tried to get past him, while preventing Rasheed to put his claws in this man -- just out of fear. What a predicament...

Now we wisely avoid that man's house, just to avoid future arguments with this cat-unfriendly person.

Of course, most people who don't own cats are annoyed by typical cat behavior, like scratching and littering, but IMO that's only true for free roaming cats, not for cats on leashes with their owners present...

At April 13, 2005 at 11:24 AM, Blogger Blueyes said...

I used to put my cat on a leash to let her play outside in the grass adn sun sometimes. But then she'd come back in because it was safer. She's no longer with me now but ah the memories.

At April 17, 2005 at 10:00 AM, Blogger Nicolette said...

Inside vs Outside can be a comtroversial issue. My cat stay inside, and my belief is that this is best.

Now, with a cat on the leash, there is supervision. Obviously it's not the same as roaming loose. My only issue, and this is what I advised potential adoptors at the shelter, is that taking a cat out on a leash give them a "taste" for going out, and might cause them to want to dart outside.

Ideally I like cats to think of the outside as a big scary place that they want to avoid.

I had a cat that liked to sneak out. One time she got out and we had no idea! We only realized when we heard one of our dogs barking frantically and went to investigate. The shepherd and husky in the next yard were passing her back and forth like a toy! She escaped, and went up a tree. She was covered in dog spit. She was also reformed and never even thought of sneaking out again.

When I was a child everyone let their cats roam - and my experience was like yours - one day the cats would stop coming home. Every indoor cat I've had has been long-lived. (I have 3 cats currently in the 12 to 14 year range.)

At April 17, 2005 at 10:05 AM, Blogger Nicolette said...

I wanted to add that in the years I was at the shelter I saw thousands of stray cats and RARELY were they claimed. People get complacent and don't even think to look for their indoor/outdoor cat until it's been missing a while.

For anyone who has a cat get a collar AND pay have him/her microchipped for about $40. Many, many shelters scan for chips which will trace back to you. This CAN save your cat's life.

Your sweet kitty can act like a tiger in the chaos of a busy shelter and, if this is the case, be unable to be placed up for adoption. ID is crucial!


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