I grew up with a mess of kids on the same block, and we hung out outside all day: we rang each other’s bells, sat in front of the America Legion hall, played manhunt in the alleys. There are no kids playing on that block anymore, or any other, really. (Even as a teenager we sat on stoops and played guitars!) And you know what else you see very little of? Cats! As parents have locked away their kids, so too have pet owners locked away their pets. I recently adopted a stray kitten, and before he was old enough to go outside he was going outside, surveying the backyard. He’s still not an adult, but he goes outside several times a day, has staked out a small territory with the house in the center, and patrols it. Or sits in the sun. Or watches traffic go by. Or attacks dogs that walk by (which, lol!)
He’s happy, and I’m happy. (I don’t have to worry about a litter box!) But whenever I tell people that I let my cat outside they look at me like I’m insane: like I put a small child on the subway and wished it well. Like I put the cat in a burlap sack, drove it to the next town over, and tossed the sack into the woods. Like I tied the cat to the roof of a car and went on vacation. It’s a cat! You try keeping this cat inside; I’d have to build a series of security doors to make sure he didn’t run by my feet as I left or came home.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published a story about the inventors of the Kittywalk, an elaborate green mesh enclosure that allows your cat to walk around outside but not actually be outside. And people look at me like I’m crazy? Describing the owners: “They’d inherited a cat from their daughter, who couldn’t keep it at college. One day they discovered the animal scratching at the door to go out—like a dog might. ‘Lise said, “This cat needs to go out,”‘ Jeff remembered. ‘She put the cage by the pool. The cat hated the cage.'” Hahaha, just open the door and let the cat outside! Ahhhh! “Why should domestic cats be confined to the house any more than the rest of us?” columnist Ralph Gardner Jr. asks. “What makes us think they’d prefer to be outdoors on a lovely spring day any less?” HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND???
Let’s address a few popular concerns about releasing a cat to the out-of-doors.