Friday, April 26, 2013

When to bring in friendly cat and when to leave cat outside

Tiffany when she lived outdoors
The subject of community cats (also known as colony cats or neighborhood cats) is still largely unknown. While the cat may be the number one pet in the U.S., the average resident has low awareness of the plight of  homeless cats, the causes, the challenges and even the solutions.

One of the questions we often receive is "Well if you brought in one friendly outdoor cat, why not bring them all indoors and find them permanent homes?".  Good question. The best way to answer is to illustrate with a real life example. First, there are 20 neighborhood cats here at the Riverfront. "Bringing them in" is no walk in the park. It requires time, patience and routine to socialize them and get them accustomed to living indoors.

Another scenario is about a  family of four black cats--Nikki (mother) and her offspring, Sonny, Leroy and Tiffany. These were Riverfront Cats that live and roam on both the Florida Power & Light (FPL) yard and the neighboring Riverfront condos.  All four cats were managed (cared for and fed) by two kind men at FPL and RC volunteers. The black cats were all friendly, and welcomed petting and regular feedings.

Sadly, on a cold winter night a couple of years ago, the mother Nikki, was found dead in the transformer room at the FPL yard.  She was electrocuted.  This is an installation where small mammals can crawl in including opossums and racoons. They find warmth on the electric coils.  A month later, Sonny, was found dead inside the substation.  As a knee jerk reaction, I brought in Tiffany.  She was the smallest and quite affectionate.  But upon bringing her in, Tiffany had difficulty adjusting.  She no longer exhibited that carefree spirit and one could detect her longing to be outdoors whenever she heard the sounds when I opened the balcony door. A strange environment, other alien cats, and walls all around...this is daunting for a cat that has lived outdoors. Simply put, cats do not like change.
Tiffany eating outdoors--she is pictured in our graphic image on home page.

 Transition takes time and developing new routines is important. While Tiffany learned our household routine and was assured she would have shelter free from ants, mosquitoes, extreme heat, humidity and occasional cold front, and provided clean litter and regular meals, there was a trace of sadness in her eyes. I had stripped her of her freedom to run, climb and explore and detached her from the only family she knew--her brother Sonny and friend Lion King and the other feeders/caregivers. "Did I do the right thing?" I asked a longtime cat rescuer and caretaker.  "Sometimes it's best to leave them outdoors. It's their home. The cats know the area and they always have food and know where to seek shelter from storms.". With that, I decided to leave Leroy outdoors with an expensive all wood cat house. At the same time, I was determined to uplift Tiffany.  She clearly had energy and needed more space beyond the confines of a two bedroom condo. I went on a mission to find her a permanent large home. And I did.  She is happily living in a two- story home in Baltimore, MD with a loving couple, stairs to climb, a large window with a view to the outdoors and a playmate that has wholeheartedly accepted her and they play constantly. It is the perfect ending to that chapter.

Tiffany indoors

The answer to the original question is not clear cut. It is a case-by-case basis. The guardian has to assess each case based on many factors--location, potential hazards, level of danger, and resources for feeding and vet care.  Resources must be carefully weighed. In our case I invested time in nurturing Tiffany, sticking to routine and showering her with affection. Moreso, I invested time and money to find her a new home and transport her by airline to Baltimore. "Socializing" an outdoor cat and finding them permanent homes is very challenging.  So I felt confident leaving Leroy outdoors was best until...

At the time of this posting, Leroy was discovered with a horrific hind leg injury. The vet surmises a type of chemical burn. Yet there are no chemicals in the visible areas where he roams.

The bill to date is $700. If amputation is needed, that's another $1800.  In this case, the vet care is astronomical. City streets are no place for a cat. The dangers exist.  Perhaps taking in friendly cats, one by one, socializing them, finding them homes will now become our new protocol.

Fanny is a sweet outdoor cat.
We would love to bring her in, socialize her and find her permanent home

Never feel guilty about the decision you made. You do the best you can knowing you did everything in your power. We are here to listen to your case and offer insight and suggestions to help make a difference. The goal is for the cats not to suffer. There is always a solution.


  1. I sure wish we could do more to help all of them, they all so deserve the love.

  2. All you can do is you best and sometimes it works out and some times it doesn't