A dog... or maybe a cat? Maybe both?
If so, perhaps you can relate.
My husband and I both grew up with animals. When we got our first apartment in Hoboken we both wanted to adopt a cat. Over time, and many moves, we picked up cats wherever we settled. The first two cats lived mostly inside with us as we lived in high rises and multiple-unit dwellings. By the time the third cat was added to our brood, we owned our own home in the 'burbs. All three cats quickly adapted to the indoor/outdoor routine. They'd sleep inside at night, and lounge in the sun on the hot slate during the day.
Eventually we were, in fact, that crazy couple with the big house and five cats and a dog. Yup. No human offspring, but those pets were our family. Eventually, our son and daughter were born, our family grew.
And if truth be told, when all of our original cats (16 or so years down the line) and our dog moved on to the great big barn in the sky -- as much as we missed our companions, we secretly relished the time we had with no kitty litter to scoop -- and no daily hairballs to vacuum.
But something was missing.
About two years ago a 4 week old kitten came into our lives. It had been found wandering in someone's backyard. That person brought the kitten in a box to his doctor (a cat lover) and in turn, Buddy came to live with us. A few short months later, while picking up cat food at Pet Smart, the lovely gray kitty you see, Daffodil, left the shelter and joined us. She was just 6 months old.
Neither cat is declawed. For the most part, they live inside. But since we live in a fairly quiet neighborhood, we let our cats be, well, cats.
You're still with me? Bet you are wondering where I am going with this.
Well, I have been reading articles deriding cat owners who let their pets roam outdoors. For example, this article in the New York Times explains how cats are killing machines and they are wiping out the rodent and bird populations. There are 1000 comments and so many of them come from people who are incredibly judgemental. There is a very angry group of people who call those of us who have indoor/outdoor cats "irresponsible."
Both cats are neutered. They visit the vet at least 2x/year -- usually to board if we are away more than a few days. That gives them a chance to been seen by the vet for a quick exam and they get their teeth cleaned or nails clipped or shots or whatever is necessary.
Our felines love to sit outside in the sun -- and often, they like to play in the snow! They sit and the door and beg to go out. And watching them sniff the air and chase after leaves in the wind is delightful.
Do they kill small rodents? Yes. Moles, especially. Birds? Yes, a few are irresistable. But more often than not, they lay in the grass and play with the moths. To our delight, they chase the crows away. And when it's dark out, we shake the treat bag and call their names and they come back in. We do our best to get them in every evening as there are coyotes that roam in the hills nearby -- but there are some hot summer nights where it is just too exciting for them to return. As we make our coffee when the sun rises, a hungry cat will show up for a snack, a head butt, and a long nap.
I think animals, like people, are not designed to live exclusively indoors. I think that life itself is greatly improved by being outside in nature. Would a cat live longer if he didn't have access to a busy road? Sure. Would I be safer if I never left my house? Sure. But what kind of life would that be for either of us?
I know. They are natural born killers. They hunt for fun. But to be honest, I'm glad they keep the moles out of my garden. I am thrilled when they catch a field mouse that has found it's way under my dishwasher. That's what cats do!
I think to taking creatures that are born to roam and locking them behind screen doors is selfish. Whose life is better? Yours or the cats? I'd rather my cat have 8 exciting lives than 10 behind bars. But that's just my opinion. What about yours?