In Britain we like to let our cats go outside. It is the default arrangement. Most cat owners don’t even think about alternatives. The domestic cat is allowed out of the home and that is it. There is no further discussion about it. We are known for it and our behaviour is in stark contrast to a large percentage of Americans.
This means that Brits are accepting the sometimes considerable risk that their cat will be hit by a car. They appear to accept this risk on behalf of their cat as a way of life and as a reasonable risk as a trade off for a more enjoyable and stimulating life for their cat.
It does make me think. I was at a cat rescue Christmas party yesterday evening and a very nice couple who foster cats recounted a story of how their cat had lost an eye in a road traffic accident. It was all part and parcel of life’s rich pageant of events.
The person in charge of the organisation had recommended that I let Gabriel outside before his mealtime to ensure that he came back as he’d be hungry.
Good idea, I thought but I won’t do it because I am too concerned for the safety of my young cat despite living in a place which is far from a major road. Perhaps an older cat is more reliable in his ability to find his way home. Some cats don’t even want to be in a person’s home. They respond to their inner call of the wild and go to it.
As for young cats, it seems to me that they are quite likely to become confused and frightened if let outside without extremely close supervision. Frightened cats can do silly, life-threatening and unexpected things.
Personally, I can’t take the risk and I am thinking both of myself and my cat when I say that. I couldn’t live with myself if Gabriel was hurt, killed or lost outside. It would be my fault. The reason why I am so sensitive to the prospect of a domestic cat being killed on the road is because it has happened to me and a cat I loved more than 20 years ago. It will never happen again.
It was my fault that she was killed by a car. I was careless. I was thoughtless. I didn’t sense the risk. I knew there was a risk but my experience of cat caretaking was not so well developed. I lacked awareness. Do some Brits lack the awareness and sensitivity?
I am not saying that cat caretakers who let their cat go outside at their own will (freely) are being automatically careless because there are many situations where it is wholly acceptable to let a cat go outside.
However, I was meeting people who live in London at the party. The potential for a cat to be run over on a road in London is high.
A neighbour of mine let her cats run around freely. One day she was driving home and she saw her female black cat run over by the car in front of her. I used to feed that cat because she visited me. I named her Pippa. The woman who owned these cats was extremely careless and stupid in my view as she lived in a big house next to a busy road. This was a situation where she had the facilities and means to keep her cats secure and safe. She failed and accepted without question the risk of her cats being run over.
I wonder if some Brits are too accepting of this particular risk.