From when I was a very little girl, I was lucky to always have cats in my life. But I was a city kid, and growing up in an apartment meant that my family didn’t have a big house on sprawling property, complete with numerous critters and barn cats.
So for me, living with indoor-only cats was (and continues to be) the only reality I’ve ever known. Over the years, I’ve met people who think it’s better and healthier for their cats to be able to come and go as they please — and in some cases, I’m sure that’s the truth.
However, we all know by now that indoor cats live longer, healthier and safer lives. Yes, it’s up to us to find ways to enrich their lifestyles to avoid boredom, obesity and bad habits. And it’s also our responsibility to find ways that help us to coexist happily — for example, providing a desirable scratching post for the cats to exercise their right to scratch without sacrificing the nice furniture that we enjoy (see related article on page 3 of this issue).
I recently moved into a Victorian house in New York’s Hudson Valley with my two cats, and while the “indoor-only” status is never going to change, a couple of things happened recently that opened my eyes. One cozy night, as we hunkered down on the couch to watch a movie, I was startled to see something flying around in the dining room.
My cat, Puja, was rather intrigued by the unexpected action in the other room — not that I could pay much attention from beneath the comforter, shrieking at the sight of this … brown bat. I never realized that such a small creature could elicit such terror, but I literally felt paralyzed with fear. Luckily, a friend was over who had more gumption and fortitude to deal with such situations. (And my other cat, Rocky, was more like me — looking for anywhere to go but here!)
The bat was relocated as safely as possible, but it raised the question of those rabies vaccinations that I never really understood the need for since my cats lived exclusively indoors. During our years of apartment dwelling, the odds of a bat finding its way into our home seemed ridiculously small.
But that concept has changed, obviously. The same can be said of my perception of the risk of heartworm disease in cats (see page 5). I admit that I was among the people who assumed that indoor cats were safe from this dangerous health hazard. Not so fast!
So our new home brings with it some updated planning for the health and welfare of the cats. And while I know that the bats are very important for our environment, I merely ask that they remain sight unseen and go about their job with a little less fanfare for this timid city girl!