Do You Wonder What Your Cat Is Up To Outside The House? You Should.

Do you wonder what your cat does when he or she goes outside the house? Of course I’m talking about indoor/outdoor cats of which there are still many millions in America where cats or often kept indoors permanently. In Europe the default situation is that cats are allowed outside. I wonder whether people actually worry about what their cat is up to. If they don’t worry they should be worried and I’m not talking about the usual dangers such as road traffic in this instance.

Blue Siamese outdoors
Blue Siamese outdoors. Photo by martinak15. Purebreds are particularly susceptible to being casually and informally adopted by others.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

I’m talking about a cat making friends with another family and then gradually that family may take over ownership. It doesn’t seem to matter whether a person is a good cat caretaker or not. Some cats just like to wander and visit other households and when they do so they get to know the members of that household and become friends with them and then secretly to the cat’s owner, their cat has two caretakers.

Sometimes you can tell if your cat has adopted another woman a part-time caretaker because you can smell her perfume on your cat’s fur when she returns. The unknown woman will have petted your cat and quite possibly and almost certainly fed your cat and in doing so, if she wears perfume, deposited it on your cat’s coat whereupon it is quite noticeable when you bury your head in your cat’s fur as a lot of people like to do. That should concern you because you might be in the process of losing your cat, not by anything that you have done particularly but simply because it is the way of the independent-minded domestic cat.

Note left on cat visiting another home
Note left on cat visiting another home

In this recent story, one such cat who visited a neighbour for food and comfort returned to her legal owner with a note attached. I’m not sure how the note was attached to this cat but it was and you can see that it explains that she is much loved in the other household where she is petted and fed. She is quite choosy in the food she likes. In fact her part-time “owner” wrote:

“I don’t know who this cat belongs to but she comes visits us every few weeks. She will meow outside our back door until we let her in, she winds itself around our legs, walks around the house like it’s hers, waits at the fridge until my husband or I feed her baloney [sic]. She doesn’t like just cat food very much! We look forward to her visits. We lost our 21-year-old cat this year.”

What about my cat? I don’t know where he visits and it concerns me quite a lot. It creates a conflict in me as to whether I should let it outside or not. I don’t think that he goes far. How do I know that? One indicator is that when I come home and am at the kitchen sink which faces onto the back garden, he sometimes comes inside because he has seen me. Also, near my apartment are some garages within the complex and I think he hunts mice in and around the garages which I am presuming is about as far as he goes. However, a presumption isn’t really good enough when it comes to a cat’s safety.

In general, the urban domestic cat does not travel that far because their area of operation or their home territory is, by wild cat species standards, relatively small. It might be no more than 1 acre perhaps to 5 acres or so. In Australia, feral cats have huge home territories amounting to perhaps several square kilometres but that is an entirely different kettle of fish.

In January 2015 this website reported on a Cat Tracker Project which took place in America in order to find out where cats went when they went outside. The cats are fitted with GPS collars. And in the UK and excellent study helps us to understand how far cats do. If people lose their cat they should look nearby. It sounds obvious but the chances are she has not gone far.

The moral of this article is that people should be concerned about their cat sharing time with a neighbour. Would that concern you? It would certainly concern me. It would embarrass me, in fact. It would make me feel as if I had not done my duty with respect to caring for my cat. Perhaps that sentiment would be inaccurate but it would be a feeling that I would have. Sometimes I sniff my cat to see whether I can smell perfume! So far I haven’t 😉 .

8 thoughts on “Do You Wonder What Your Cat Is Up To Outside The House? You Should.”

  1. I, recently, spotted one of my free roaming cats perched in a window of my neighbor.
    I was surprised because she only eats and goes here.
    They and I spoke and have agreed to “share” and, because I am her caretaker, I would supply food to them when she visits. I think that she prefers the quietness of their home as opposed to mine where chaos abounds.

  2. If I had a free roaming cat, I might attach a small camera to a collar, just to see where he wonders.

    The mention of garages means cars, and cars mean potential danger.

    My cat has a fenced porch, and a cat door which provides choice for her. So I never worry if she’s out when I leave because she can come in at will.

    • I am thinking of attaching a GPS collar if I can get one. The garages are very quiet and used mainly for storage fortunately so I feel he is safe there. Any cars that go there (very few) are travelling very slowly. But it is not completely satisfactory.

  3. Build him an enclosure like Monty has. Then he can get the outside experience and hunt and you do not have to worry so much. I still keep an eye on Monty out there. I walk through his enclosure periodically just to make sure he will be safe and everything is ok for him out there.

    Two Sundays ago I forgot him out there when we left for church. It was warm out– 40 degrees Fahrenheit. But while we were out for breakfast after church it started raining. My poor boy was stuck out there in the rain. He can stay somewhat dry if he gets right up next to the door, but not completely. Also, he plays in the rain and then asks to be let in when he is tired of it. So he may have allowed himself to get quite wet not knowing the warmth of the house was not immediately available to him. During breakfast after church it dawned on me that he had gone out and I may not have let him back in. When we finally got home (seemed to take forever) I ran straight to the back of the house, looked through his fence and there he was outside the back door. MEOW!!! he said. I ran I through the house and opened the door for him and picked up his wet little body, hugging him close to me.

    He seems to recover from the trauma more quickly than I did. I still feel bad about it. He still goes out and does not seem to be concerned about getting left out there again. At least it was warm out. But had it been cold he would have been near the door right away instead of playing in the back. I did look at the back door and not seeing him I thought I must have let him in. He goes in and out so much it is hard to keep track sometimes.

    When I was a kid out cats went out unsupervised much more– they were more like outdoor cats who came in now and then. Monty is an indoor cat who occasionally goes out in his enclosure.

    • Unfortunately I can’t build an enclosure because the lease disallows it. However, I have long thought of buying a house with a fully enclosed garden – walled perhaps. That would be my last move.

      • A house with a walled garden sounds lovely. That’s sort of what we have. It would be easy to make modifications so he could not get out. You would feel so much better, Michael. I think it would improve your quality of life if you knew Gabriel was safe outside– as safe as possible. There is always some risk, but I feel it is worth a small amount of risk to give Monty as full a life as possible. Also, he would drive me crazy if he couldn’t go out. Luckily, we have had a mild winter. Usually he is trying to climb the walls from boredom by this time (literally.) But not only have the temperatures been warm, it rained and then froze so all our snow was one solid white expanse of glare ice. He could walk all over without his feet sinking in the snow. So could I– it was unusual. Also, we forgot to put the picnic table away and the snow had melted off the top of it, giving him a place to sit in the sun. Today he went out despite the new snow, coming in with huge white flakes all over his black coat.


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