My cat, the frumious bandersnatch, has been an indoor cat for much of her life. Often due to circumstances she had limited living space. At Patton Asylum, my last house, she spent some time exploring but had very little interest in going far from my bedroom and never got near the door. But since moving to Avocasa, she’s had her first taste of freedom. She’s gotten outside and enjoyed the ecstasy of rolling around in a huge pile of dirt. Now that she’s tasted freedom she often wants to return outdoors.
Some people believe you should keep cats indoors because of better health and longer lives. But I’ve also heard others say it doesn’t feel right to force them to stay indoors when they want to explore. On the one hand, living with cats has convinced me that they are sentient beings with their own emotions and desires, albeit very different ones from those of humans. On the other hand, domesticated animals have some of their wild instincts suppressed and there’s no way to explain to them the dangers of the outside world. Can pets make an informed decision about their own safety?
Kristen, the owner of Avocasa, lets her pets roam outside at will through a cat door (which the bandersnatch hasn’t figured out how to use yet) even though she lost one of hers to a car. Pet (the human one, that is), has vet training and seems to think we get to decide what to do with our animals. Every time that the bandersnatch stands by the door demanding to go out with angry meows and sharp claws, Mizz Honey J makes jokes about how she’s going to Occupy my room.
On the one hand I see Pet’s point. Animals are different from us in some ways, and we own them and are expected to be responsible for them for a reason. That’s always been my opinion in the past. Yet it’s hard to face down a beloved companion’s angry determination to run and play. Especially in light of my involvement with the Occupy movement — weirdly perhaps, it’s making me think more about the rights of all things.
And the reality is I’m just not sure. We have a quiet, partially fenced yard but I can’t ignore the danger presented. Our street is not a very busy one, but we’re a block from Cesar Chavez, which is sometimes high traffic. There are also dogs, raccoons, and other wildlife. At the same time, my cat is old — about 12 — and already has a tumor (probably benign) which needs removal if I can find the money; she has a better health plan than me (I have none) but it still isn’t cheap. Though she is otherwise in good health, she already can’t live forever.
Is it better for her to spend her time indoors and avoid all chance of injury by automobile and other outside dangers and live a little longer, or to let her do as she wills and perhaps shorten her life a little?
For now, neither of us seems to be winning. I let her wander the house with the door shut since the cat door confuses her even when she sees other cats use it. I ignore most of her demands to go out, but when she escapes on her own and I know I’ll be at the house for a while I let her go till she comes back inside.
What do you think?