British animal rescue organisation insists that adopted cats are free to roam outside

A British animal rescue organisation, which I can’t name today, insists that cats adopted from them are allowed to roam outside entirely freely. On what I have heard first hand, it makes no difference if you live in London or if you live in a place where there are many other dangers for a cat.

And it also appears to make no difference if your cat is 4 months of age, still not fully socialised and not fully grown despite the fact there are unneutered toms, foxes and dogs in the area. Of course, there is always the possibility of being run over even if the road is 400 yards away.

I have discovered that where I live there have been a number of attacks by an unneutered tomcat on other cats including my late and loved Charlie. A neighbour has lost two cats. In the past, many years ago I have lost a cat on the road, which has altered my views. I think a cat caretaker has to experience that to fully understand the potential dangers to free-roaming cats in urban areas in England. This is not a criticism of people who allow their cat to roam because each owner makes their own decisions and those decisions should be respected.

The rescue organisation’s spokeswoman told me that if they’d known my plans for Gabriel, they wouldn’t have allowed me to adopt him. This was deeply upsetting to me. I was his foster carer when he first came to me at about 6 weeks of age. He was semi-feral. It took countless hours of play and interaction to socialise him. I achieved a lot and praise from the rescue organisation. In fact my cat is better socialised than his sister who is being cared from by the organisation’s senior employee. However, he is still not fully socialised and he may never be fully socialised in the way we would like cats to be (relaxed with anyone and other animals).

Because of the genuine dangers for a cat where I live, despite the wonderful and extensive grounds, I plan to keep my cat inside until he is a few months older and thereafter, leash train him (if possible) and simultaneously build a decent sized mobile-enclosure outside in the back garden until I can move to a house with a good sized enclosed garden (quarter acre). That is what I consider to be a thoughtful plan with cat welfare uppermost in my mind at my expense.

I have plans to move to the country in the summer where I can ensure my cat has a good-sized, safe outside space. If the area where I buy is obviously safe for a cat and if my cat behaves in a way which reassures me that he will be as safe as possible, I’ll let him wander outside but even then I will supervise to a certain extent.

All this is unacceptable to the rescue organisation. They simply insist on free-roaming outside cats. For me this is a ridiculous policy which lacks refinement. Whether a cat is allowed free access to the outside depends on where the cat lives. That is obvious but from the organisation’s spokeswoman’s perspective “accidents happen” and even if Gabriel were to be killed roaming outside within the first 6 months this is preferable, according to her, than doing what I plan to do. That cannot be correct and tens of millions of Americans would agree with me.

In addition, provided the adopter complies with the contract (and I have) the organisation have no right to lecture a cat caretaker/guardian on day to day cat care after the adoption has taken place.

They have the responsibility to make a decision on adoption at the time of the adoption. They can’t go back on that. There are no rights to do that under the contract.

So, having had a nasty experience at the hands of what I consider to be a strident, argumentative and even bullying spokesperson for the animal rescue organisation, I am deeply despondent. It has undermined the whole foster/adoption process and even my relationship with my cat.

I realise that many people will say I am being overly protective but each cat guardian must make their own decisions based on the circumstances that they face. Provided the decisions are well thought through and respect for the cat respect and the cat’s welfare are a priority, they should be accepted.

The photo, taken today by me, is of Gabriel.

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15 thoughts on “British animal rescue organisation insists that adopted cats are free to roam outside”

  1. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    This is crazy! They are saying that Gabriel must be allowed outside no matter that he might get attacked or run over or lost, what sort of organisation stipulates that! Kittens should never be let outside before their vaccination course is complete and before they are neutered. Then in a safe place they should be accompanied into the garden to learn the scents and then a bit further so that they know exactly where home is and will return if they wander a bit further. But in a busy place like London this can’t apply, surely a large, secure, cat friendly garden with high perches and plenty of stimulation is the next best thing. Yes it’s depriving cats of their right to roam but more importantly it’s keeping them safe and this world is becoming more unsafe every day.
    I agree with Babz, tell those people and their chosen vet who wanted to neuter Gabriel too young, to sod off, go to your own vet and pay yourself for what he needs and what you are happy with for him.

  2. Michael, good to hear the contract is in your favour.

    As you are the legal owner of Gabriel, surely they cannot neuter him unless you sign the vet’s consent form for the surgery to go ahead? Perhaps you should have a friend accompany you to the next appointment for moral support.

    If the situation becomes confrontational when you take him for his 2nd booster or you feel they are ganging up on you, another option is to simply walk away and find another vet. I realise this would mean that Gabriel would probably have to start his round of vaccinations again. However that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is strong evidence to suggest that many kittens don’t mount sufficient immune response after the usual 2 rounds of injections. Having this 3rd injection ensures kittens are protected and also increases their chances of being immune for life.

  3. Surely at this stage when Gabriel has been legally adopted by you it is nothing to do with the rescue organisation he came from, it would be different if you were still fostering him but as he is now your cat they should have no say in his future. Every cat carer has to decide for themselves of it is safe to let their cat outdoors, and when, we have never let any of ours out under 6 months and not until neutered, at around 6 months of age. We have been lucky to live in cat friendly places, but I cannot imagine letting a cat, kitten in fact, roam free in London under any circumstances. Your idea for an outdoor enclosure sound the safest until you find your dream home, better he be enclosed than lost and frightened or attacked by another cat or animal. Please don’t deprive yourself of Gabriel and don’t sentence him to being returned to the regime of whichever organisation you had him from, if it was me I would gently but firmly tell the spokesperson to sod off, and go to a different vet for the second vaccination.

  4. God knows that I don’t want to make a comment here, but…

    Do you have a copy of your adoption contract that you can post here?

    You are a solicitor, right? If the adoption contract doesn’t specify that Gabrielle should be free-roaming at any point in time, you should know enough to hang up the phone or not go to their office. Why have contact at all? You are the caretaker. The adoption is a done deal. It’s a big f-ck you to them unless you are looking for an excuse to back out of the adoption.

  5. I think I understand what the unmentioned rescue is trying to do, let cats live more “natural” lifestyles, but this is ridiculous. We have taken away any “natural” habitat and therefore lifestyle by domesticating the cat, that was kind of the purpose. Sure, in a perfect world our cats could roam free, free of care and dangers that lurk nearly everywhere in the real world. Urban or countryside, at least here in Missouri, there are ALOT more “bugs” to worry about once you get out of the cities, and other natural predators.

    I think an easy, brutal, even disgusting…but effective and affective “solution” to their “roaming” policy, is to make each proponent have to go “clean up” a feline that has been hit by a car. It is a traumatizing experience, especially if the cat is still alive, in pain, and obviously terminal. I have had to do some very horrible things because people let their cats roam the streets, things I care not to remember..but cannot forget. Cars are obviously not the only danger as mentioned…many terrible fates lie outside the safety of ones home, particularly to a “good” cat. My cat will trust ANYONE I let into my house, but if you even try to take him outdoors he will fight you with claws, they ONLY time he will fight you like that really. For that, I am very thankful.

    I know it sounds rather cynical, but perhaps the unmentioned agency has this policy to increase adoptions because I bet there is a higher mortality rate for their “roaming” cats versus our indoors only cats. That organization or at least that representative sounds pretty shady…

    Any chance you think we can change their minds? The fact that many breeders make you sign a contract confirming the exact opposite, that is the cat must remain indoors, or the contract is violated, and here they can an will come get the cat back for breach of contract in a court of law; only further confounds me with that unnamed organizations said roaming policy….its nonsense. What justification do they give for this “roaming” requirement?

    1. The fact that many breeders make you sign a contract confirming the exact opposite,

      This is very strange because as you say in the USA cat breeders and perhaps some rescue centers demand the exact opposite: that the cat is kept indoors.

      I think policy of this rescue organisation is misconceived and naive. There are places where a cat can roam free and be pretty safe but in London, if we are honest, there are no such places except for a large garden which is securely enclosed.

      I am waiting on them to get back to me. They are discussing me!

      I agree that it is important to give our cats as natural a life as we can but safety comes first and there has to be a balance between safety, health and welfare and freedom to roam outside.

      1. Michael, many of the UK cat rescues prefer cats be given free access to some time outside during the day. Though from experience, they’ve always insisted the cat be at least 6 months old and be spayed/neutered and vaccinated first. I’ve heard that rescues may also refuse to re-home in areas with heavy local traffic if it poses a danger to free-roaming cats. They consider that an indoor-only lifestyle is best suited to cats with a disability or health issues.

        I’m surprised that the organisation you’ve been dealing with didn’t mention their policy earlier. Surely if this is something they feel strongly about, they should have discussed the matter when you decided to officially adopt Gabriel? Perhaps they just assumed that like the majority of the people in the UK, you’d be allowing him out when he’d been neutered?

        1. I am sure they assumed I’d let him out. I might let him out when he is older but she wants me to let him out after his second vaccination and she insists of neutering him even before 4 months – now essentially. I can see him getting lost, confused and frightened. The problem is if he was killed or permanently lost I couldn’t live with myself.

          In retrospect I sometimes feel that I should not have adopted him because this dispute is spoiling the process. I have thought about handing Gabriel back. I know that sounds hard but it has crossed my mind. We are very close though.

          1. Although I do allow my adult cats the choice to go out, I would never let a kitten as young as Gabriel outside – especially unsupervised. I don’t begin introducing mine to the garden until they are at least 6 months. Although it could be later depending on the weather outside. Even then, they only go out under my supervision until they gain the confidence to want to explore on their own.

            Please don’t allow this rescue to bully you into surrendering Gabriel. You’ve already adopted him, so they should not be attempting to dictate ownership terms at this late stage. What they should be doing is listening to your concerns about the safety of your neighbourhood and respecting your reasons for keeping him indoors.

            Stand firm Michael. Gabriel is worth fighting for and we’re all right behind you on this 🙂

            1. Thanks Michele for the support. It has quite upset me really because I will do my very best to let him enjoy the outside safely and he was a semi-feral kitten with the prospect of an early death awaiting him this winter but now has a loving, safe home full of stimulation as I am at home a great deal. They have forgotten that simple narrative. It is success story but they want to undermine it and rehome him. They’d take him back in a flash. Weird.

                1. Thanks Michele. I have a contract by I am not in breach of it, and as you say there is nothing they can do. Even though I want to do things my way for Gabriel’s sake and mine I will always make decisions within the terms of the contract. In fact, the contract is defective because the box where it states I have to neuter by a certain time has been left blank. Despite that and despite the fact Gabriel is 3.7 months of age I was bullied by the vet and the rescue manager to have him neutered now.

                  I worried that when he goes back for his second vaccination jab that they will gang up on me and try and abduct him.

  6. Michael, what is most interesting to me, is that you mention your need, always there, in place, waiting to “POUNCE!” upon it like a …i don’t know what. Recently I had a mouse run up my pantleg? after rescuing it from Meowth, a favorite neighborhood cat, and ok, my keyboard is giving up on me.

  7. Michael, I don’t know about your needs, but I believe with all my heart and soul, that you have had that most humble experience of being unconditionally one whole being with your feline companions, Your Cats. What else can we ask for from any species? <3.

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