Give your cat safe outside time

A Wyoming man decided that he had enough of his neighbor’s cat coming on to his property. Instead of talking out the problem with his neighbor, he decided to trap the cat and hold it for $50 ransom.

The distressed cat owner heard her feline howling from the shed next door and called police. They arrested the cat-napper on misdemeanor larceny charges – after he refused to release the cat and ran from officers. Brunswick, the kitty behind all the fuss, was returned to his owner.

“You have the right to call animal control if you have an unwanted animal in your yard,” the cat’s owner, Leah Vader, told the Associated Press. “You don’t have the right to hold him for ransom.”

It sounds like this man may have been overreacting – but if you think that, you fail to understand how much an unwanted cat in the yard can distress some folks.

Pet cats, unfortunately, are not harmless wanderers. They catch birds and small animals, often teasing their prey rather than quickly killing it as wild cats do. They bury their waste in the neighbor’s flower beds. And they can fight with other cats and animals, making a rather unpleasant ruckus.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to keep your cat indoors every moment. While indoor-only cats do have longer life spans and aren’t bothering the neighbors – it is definitely an option worth considering – it is possible for some cats to enjoy limited time outdoors under the eye of responsible owners.

  • Spay or neuter your pet. Overpopulation of cats means that healthy animals are euthanized on a regular basis in Oregon. You don’t want to contribute to that problem. It’s not enough to leave your male cat intact because you know he won’t be giving birth under the porch – it takes two to tango, and you have an equal responsibility to make sure your pet won’t reproduce.
    But besides preventing pregnancy, spaying or neutering makes your cat less likely to wander. The earlier you get this procedure done, the better, because you won’t have a cat used to roaming the neighborhood and protecting territory.
  • Vaccinate your cat. Feline leukemia, FIV and distemper are all risks to cats, and those risks increase when a cat is allowed outdoors. Even if your cat stays in your yard 100 percent of the time, other cats may enter your property. FIV, for example, is usually spread through biting – and your docile homebody may attack if a strange cat comes around.
  • Put identification on your cat. A collar with a tag is best, because it is easiest for anyone who finds your pet. In addition, a microchip is highly recommended because some cats are skilled at removing collars. As well, if your cat is ever trapped and taken to a shelter or veterinarian, your odds of getting it returned are much higher. (I have heard of disgruntled neighbors trapping cats, removing their ID tags, and taking them to distant shelters.) Make sure that you keep your records updated with the microchip registry.
  • Talk to your neighbors. Often your neighbors are reluctant to say anything until a major problem develops. If you are proactive and talk to those around you about any issues they may have with your cat, you may be able to prevent a disaster like the one in Wyoming. Find out if your cat spends any time in neighbors’ yards and how they feel about that.
    There are several reasons for wanting cats to stay away that go beyond mere dislike of cats. As the pet owner, it is your responsiblity to know where your cat is and keep it off other people’s property.
    One person I know loves cats but is highly allergic to them. Her neighbor’s felines routinely come into her yard and climb around the patio furniture, making it impossible for her to sit in or around it and enjoy her own yard. Another person may be a devoted gardener who hates finding your cat’s waste near her flowers – or a pregnant woman, who should not come into contact with the feces of an unknown cat. A bird aficionado may not appreciate her feathered flock being chased off or killed by your pet.
  • Look into cat containment systems. If you have a fenced yard, investigate a product like Cat Fence-In (available at www.catfencein.com or by calling 888-738-9099). Cat Fence-In can also keep other cats out of the yard and is relatively easy to install, though it gets expensive for a larger yard. I won’t lie and say it’s the most attractive thing in the world – it works by keeping netting along the fence tops and around trees and utility poles – but it is a great way to keep the cat happy by letting it in the yard, keep the neighbors happy by preventing the cat from entering their yards, and keeping you happy by reducing the risk to your cat that could lead to disease or high vet bills.
    The company that makes this product guarantees it 100 percent for one year for any cat. I won’t go that far, as I’ve seen some extremely smart cats, but at least you can get your money back if it doesn’t work for you.
    If you want to fence in your cat completely – in essence, make a big pen in your yard for your cat to play in – try Best Friend Fence at www.bestfriendfence.com or 888-280-4066.
    One note: I would never recommend an electric fence or system of any kind for a cat. Not only is it – at least in my opinion – cruel to shock an animal, it doesn’t always deter a determined cat.