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rec.pets.cats: Cats and the Outside World FAQ

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Archive-name: cats-faq/outside-world
Last-modified: 16 Jul 1999

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                               The Outside World
   Note: Please see the [1]Table of Contents FAQ for a complete list of

   Originally written 1991 & updated through 1997 by Cindy Tittle Moore.
   Maintained by the Fanciers website as of July 1999.
Indoor and Outdoor Cats

  Pros and cons
   There are a good many arguments for keeping them inside. They will
   live longer since the chances of being hit by a car, hurt by other
   people or animals, or infected with contagious diseases from feral
   cats will be minimized. On the other hand, cats derive much pleasure
   from exploring around outside.
   Often, a satisfactory compromise is to allow the cat out under
   supervision. This can be done by either letting them out into a fenced
   yard (although if you leave them out there, they will probably
   eventually climb the fence), or using a harness and leash. To use the
   latter, accustom them to the harness first, in the same way as a
   collar. Then accustom them to the leash by leaving it on for short
   periods of time. Then take them outside, and follow them where they go
   (do not try to take them "on a walk").
   Sometimes you can proof your backyard against escape (or quick escape)
   with either an "invisible fence" arrangement (these are usually for
   dogs, but some models have been adapted for cats) or with reinforcing
   material on the fence to prevent escape. Corrugated fiberglass on the
   fence makes it difficultor impossible to get a purchase for climbing
   over. An inward tilted addition to the top of the fence also helps
   contain cats. Or an entirely enclosed structure outside can be made.
  Pet doors
   Pet doors are a good solution for people tired of letting cats in and
   out. There are many kinds of doors, including those that fit into
   patio doors without requiring a hole cut through the wall or door.
   You may have trouble with other animals coming in the door, or want to
   let your dog but not your cat use the pet door. The solution is an
   electronic pet door. The door has a lock that is deactivated by a
   magnet that selected pets wear on their collar. Look under Pet
   Supplies in the yellow pages. If you can't get one locally, call
   "America's Pet Door Store" toll free at 1-800-826-2871 for a catalog.
   Electronic pet doors are installed much like a regular pet door, but
   you plug them in. The door itself needs a firmer push to open than
   most. A great feature is the 4-way lock. The lock can be set so the
   cat can 1) go both in and out 2) go in only - great if you want to
   catch them 3) out only 4) totally locked. Doors cost about
  Invisible Fences
   Used most often with dogs, there are some invisible fence systems made
   for cats. These systems use a special collar, a buried wire, and a
   beep tone to warn the cats they are approaching the boundary
   (indicated by the wire). A mild shock, adjustable in intensity, is
   administered if the cat continues to approach after the warning beep.
   According to people who have used it, it works fairly well -- the cats
   learn quickly to avoid it. It is NOT recommended that the cats be left
   unsupervised on this system for long periods of time. The people who
   use this system generally are outside with the cats as well; they
   simply don't have to worry about chasing after the cat. Note that this
   system will not prevent your neighbor's cat from coming into the yard
   unless it has a collar too!
Dealing with Landlords

   A number of landlords initially say "no pets" but change their minds
   when assured that the cat was well-behaved and assured of an extra
   damage deposit if necessary.
   Also, it seems like many landlords are more likely to approve of a cat
   if you make it a condition of signing the lease, rather than if you
   ask if it's OK to get one after you've already moved in, or if you try
   to sneak one in without asking.
   Try to prove that you are a responsible owner (photos of last house,
   references, vet records, etc.) to help win your case.
   For more ideas and tips, look up Dog Fancy, Volume 22, No. 8, August
   1991, "Breaking Barriers: How to find an apartment that allows dogs,"
   by Amanda Wray. The tips can be easily adapted for cat owners.
Pet Identification

   Every cat should wear ID tags, whether or not it is an indoor or
   outdoor cat. A "strangleproof" or "breakaway" cat collar with elastic
   section is safest; tags attached with small keyrings won't fall off
   and get lost.
   When a kitten gets a new collar, it should be put on tighter than
   usual until she/he gets used to it. You should be able to slip 1 or 2
   fingers under the collar, but it shouldn't be loose enough for the
   kitten to get its jaw hooked. Of course, this means the kitten also
   won't be able to get the collar over its head if it gets caught on
   something, so you need to supervise more closely - especially outside.
   Kittens grow fast, so you need to check the fit often. Once the kitty
   is quite used to the collar and no longer tries to play with it or get
   it off, you can loosen it up a bit. It usually doesn't take very long
   for a kitten to get used to a collar.
   Most common way to get the tag: mail order services that advertise at
   pet shops and vet waiting rooms. Prices go from $3 to $8 per tag. The
   cat's name is the least important thing on the tag. The most important
   is your name and phone number. Home address and work number are
   desirable. Some areas offer cat licensing; consider it as another way
   of getting a tag. Another alternative is to write the name and phone
   number on a flea collar or on a cloth collar. Don't forget to update
   the information on the tag when you move! Tabby Tags offer a way to
   attach information to the cat's collar without dangling tags. Inquire
   at Tabby Tags, 4546 El Camino Real, B-10, Suite 340, Los Altos, CA
   ID's should be worn for the following reasons:
     * In case the cat, even an indoors one, gets lost or strays.
     * If your cat is injured outside and a kind stranger takes it to the
       vet, the vet is more likely to treat the cat if it has tags.
     * People won't think your cat is a stray and take it home and keep
     * Let your neighbors know whose cat is whose, and what their names
   You can get your cat tattooed in the ear or the leg and register the
   tattoo number with a national registry. The basic problem with this
   approach is that few people will look for a tattoo and know where to
   call. Vets, though, usually know about this. Microchips are being
   increasingly used, but you need a scanner to be able to read this
   (although vets and animal shelters will check for these).
   If you have found a stray cat that you are not sure is really stray,
   put a plastic collar on it and write your phone number and any message
   on it. If it has an owner, the owner may call you or at least remove
   the collar.
Clever Hiding Places At Home

   Cats are extremely good at finding hiding places. Before you assume
   your cat got outside and is missing, check these places:
     * All drawers, even the ones that are too small for your cat and
       haven't been opened in the last hundred years (they can get behind
       the dresser, underneath the partition and climb up the back of the
     * In and around file cabinets.
     * Inside suitcases.
     * Behind the books in a bookcase.
     * Boxsprings and mattresses: if there is a small hole or tear in the
       lining, they can climb in and be nearly undetectable.
     * Anywhere they might be able to get into walls/floors/ceiling (eg,
       forced-air ducts, plumbing, etc).
     * Behind and under appliances, such as the refrigerater or stove.
     * All cabinets; cats can often open them and slip inside.
     * Inside the refrigerator (this can happen!).
     * Closets, even closed ones.
     * Inside reclining chairs. They often have a ledge that supports the
       footrest when its out, so you have to look inside it, not just
       check for kitty paws on the floor under it.
       Chimneys! You may want to keep those flues closed whenever
   Cats can squeeze themselves into spots you'd never think they'd fit,
   so don't overlook any spots that you think are "too small."
Finding A Lost Cat

   Things to try when the cat is lost outside.
     * Make up flyers with picture(s) and description. Rubberband them to
       the doors of the houses in the immediate area. Use a radius that
       it twice as far as your cat has wandered before.
     * Take the flyers to local vets, feed stores, and animal shelters,
       and any other likely place, like the laundromat or the local Y.
     * If there are other cities close, don't forget their shelters.
       Check with the shelters that you know about to see if there are
       others that you don't know about.
     * Flier copies on trees/telephone poles within an extended radius (
       2-3 miles ).
     * Check the local streets every day and and ask the garbage men and
       mailmen for the neighborhood if they've seen anything.
     * Ad in the paper
     * Regular checks of the animal shelters near you.
     * Register with Pet-Track
     * Check out any "closed" spaces : were you in the attic ? the shed ?
       could she have gotten into the neighbor's garage ?
     * Long walks through the neighborhood, calling the cat. Look
       carefully, as the cat may be hiding, lost, and unwilling or too
       scared to move.
     * Leave used articles of the cat's favorite person's laundry outside
       to let the cat know that this is "home" : if the previous step
       above didn't convince your neighbors that you were weird, nailing
       your dirty socks and teeshirts to the fence definately will. A
       pile of the kitty's used litter might also let the cat know this
       is *it*.
     * As soon as you're sure that the cat is lost, go for a long
       barefoot walk : out and back, out and back, out and back, to leave
       scent trails leading to home.
     * Contact relevant breed organizations, if applicable.
     * Visualize the cat returning. Light candles to the deit(y,ies} of
     * Rent a humane trap and bait it with the cat's favorite foodstuff.
       You may wind up trapping other peoples' pets or stray wild
       animals, but one poster caught their own lost and terrified cat.
     * Don't give up right away: one person had success running an ad for
       4 weeks.
     * Collar and tag the rest of the wanna-be escape artists, even if
       you don't think it could ever happen to them. Your cats may be
       indoor only, but what would happen if the screen came out on a
       sunny day?
     * Under the heading of "be prepared," have multiple copies of a good
       color photo of your cat on hand. You will be able to make -- and
       distribute -- posters that much more quickly.
     * If your neighborhood has a population of elementary school
       children, place posters at their school. Kids seem to be acutely
       aware of the animals they encounter, and they tend to be out and
       about in the neighborhood. Offering a reward might even mobilize a
       small army of searchers.
Catching Feral Cats

   On occasion, you may want to catch feral cats. They can be very
   difficult to catch. When it seems to be impossible, call your local
   humane society or SPCA to see if you can borrow a humane animal trap.
   Some places allow you to "check out" such traps, just like books from
   the library. A little food for bait, and you've got 'em.
Finding A Home for a Cat

   For whatever reason, you may need to find a home for a cat. List
   everywhere: newspaper, bulletin boards, computer bulletin boards,
   newsletters, anywhere you like. But limit sharply: don't adopt out if
   they don't meet standards. Minimal standards: will neuter as soon as
   the cat's old enough, committed to a 20 year responsibility, they have
   a home or apartment that permits pets, knowledgeable about cat health
   and behavior or committed to become so. Do charge a nominal fee, at
   least US$10, unless you know the adopter well; this keeps away those
   collecting animals for research or to feed to other animals. (You can
   donate all or part of the money to animal causes if you like.)

   Cats generally don't like travelling in cars. For short trips, put
   them in carriers to prevent accidents such as getting in the driver's
   way, or escaping when the door is opened. Some cats are more calm if
   kept in a pillowcase or a soft gym-bag type of carrier. For long trips
   (all day or more), use cat carriers, minimize food intake beforehand,
   and give water every time you stop. Consider getting harnesses and
   leashes for when you stop. Most motels allow cats. Sometimes you can
   use temporary fencing to block off the back of your car to give them a
   roomier "cage"; you can usually then put litterboxes down instead of
   keeping them for pit stops. Tranquilizers can be obtained from the
   vet, but not all cats react well to them, and they may make a trip
   worse than it would have been otherwise (test the cat's reaction to
   them beforehand). Many cats will sack out after a few hours on the
   For long-distance trips, make sure the motels take cats beforehand.
   Some do not, and are very nasty about it if you try to beg a room. AAA
   lists motels that accept pets.
   You might want to carry along water from your home, especially if you
   are traveling between states. Ice cubes in the water dish allow your
   cats to have water without it spilling while you're driving (and helps
   if its hot, too).
   If you're traveling in the summer, make sure the cats get lots of air
   or air conditioning in the car. carry an umbrella or other
   shade-making device in case you have a breakdown. Keep alert to where
   the sun is shining in your car (i.e., is it beating down on the back
   seat where the cats are?)
   Trains vary widely whether or not animals are allowed on passenger
   cars. Amtrack does not. British Rail permits cats in a basket or cage
   placed on the floor, seat or luggage rack. The Swedish railway company
   allows pets in the smoking section of the car, although pet/non-smoker
   compartments have been recently introduced.
   Many major airlines allow cats that fit with carrier underseat
   according to the same dimension limits as for underseat baggage. Most
   airlines will tell you the cat has to be able to stand up in that
   carrier but won't enforce this. The pet area is not cargo, it's
   pressurized but possibly not heated or cooled. Get direct flights
   since the airplane has little climate control for pets or passengers
   while on the ground (note: "non-stop" and "direct" flights are *not*
   the same thing, some "nonstop" flights do indeed land, even tho the
   passenger may never leave the plane). Airlines aren't permitted to
   take more than one cat per carrier except for kittens. You must call
   ahead, usually only one carrier is allowed in the cabin, the rest must
   go into the pet area. Tips:
     * Try not to travel when temperatures are outside the 40-80 degrees
       F range at either end of the flight or at any stops in between.
     * Try to travel at off-peak times to minimize delays.
     * Use a sturdy kennel with proper ventilation and room for your cat
       to stand, turn around, and lie down.
     * Try not to tranquilize your cat unless absolutely necessary.
   Some airlines are better than others. Delta and United have failed to
   follow standard procedures to protect animals in inclement weather and
   as a result many animals have died on their flights. They are being
   fined $300,000 for this negligence by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
   American, Continental, Pan Am, and TWA have also been fined. The ASPCA
   has brought charges in about 50 cases in the past five years. Much of
   this information can be found in "Pets on Planes: Too Often it's a
   Rough Ride," _Conde Nast Traveler_ magazine, June 1992.
International Travel

   A partial list: most states require a health certificate and proof of
   rabies vaccination for pets crossing state lines. Most airlines will
   require this regardless.
   Quarantines are usually required by Island countries (eg Britain,
   Japan) or states (eg Hawaii) or subcontinents (eg Australia). Always
   check with the country in question if you are contemplating importing
   an animal. Exact lengths of quarantines have been changing rapidly
   over the last few years, so checking is doubly necessary. Hawaii now
   has a 30 day quarantine. Britain has a six month quarantine (except on
   dogs from other rabies free countries such as Australia). Australia
   has a four month quarantine with similar exceptions from other rabies
   free countries. Even if the destination country does not have a
   quarantine (eg United States, much of Europe, Canada), health
   certificates may be required by either or both the country and the
   airline you use to ship the animal. Plan ahead several months so you
   have all the information you need to proceed without a hitch. And
   don't try to get around the quarantines. That could mean the life of
   your pet.

   One of the most common claimed reasons cats are left at shelters in
   the United States is because the owners are moving and either can't or
   don't want to take their cat with them. Moving can be difficult for a
   cat, but it isn't impossible. If you are considering not taking your
   cat with you and taking it to a shelter, keep in mind that your cat
   will only of many others in a shelter given up for the same reason. No
   one will take pity on your cat in particular, or consider it an
   especially 'good' potential adoptee just because it came from a home
   There are a variety of responses to a change in home location. Some
   cats do well, others are a nervous wreck for several weeks.
   You might consider keeping your cat at someone else's home during the
   actual move-out. This way you will keep it out of the way, prevent
   accidental escape or injury, and spare the cat the trauma of seeing
   its world picked up and carried out. Otherwise consider keeping it
   confined to a crate or a single room to prevent accidental escape in
   the chaos of moving.
   Once at the new place, keeping it for a day or so in one room of the
   new place before allowing it out to explore the rest of the house will
   alleviate its anxiety. In any case, be prepared for up to several
   weeks of "slinking" and hiding until becoming accustomed to the new
   If you have a cat that goes outside, you will want to keep it indoors
   for about a month at your new place before you let it out. Cats have a
   homing instinct that takes about a month to "reset". If you let it out
   before this time, the cat may become disoriented and get lost, or make
   a beeline for the old home.

   When you go on vacation or otherwise will be absent for some period of
   time, you must make provisions for your cat.
   It is a good idea, whichever solution you use, to inform your vet that
   you're on vacation and to take care of your cats in any case that
   comes up and you will settle the bill when you get back. Let the
   sitters know, too.
  Leave at home
   In most cases, you will be able to leave your cat alone for three to
   four days with no supervision provided that it has an adequate supply
   of food and water. If your cat does not free-feed, this may not be at
   all possible.
  Pet sitters
   Find a friend (or a company that provides this service) who will drop
   by your house at least once a day to feed it, water it, and generally
   check up and play with it. This is the least traumatic method for the
   cat since it will stay in familiar territory and has the added bonus
   of your house looking occupied. Check to make sure that the
   professional service you use is bonded, and interview the person
   beforehand. Check references that they supply.
   You can call the local humane society, animal rights groups or vets to
   find a recommended sitter. These groups can often recommend good
   sitters, and just as important, warn you off particular companies that
   have had complaints.
   Experiences have ranged from good to satisfactory to terrible with
   kenneling cats. It will depend a good deal on your cat's personality
   and the kennel. Look for a kennel that is clean and is attentive to
   its boarders. Look for personnel that like playing and otherwise
   caring for animals. Be wary of kennels that are not clean and
   cheerful. Some have reported that their animals came home with
   diseases; check the kennel's policy regarding these matters. Some may
   involuntarily dip their clients; check for this also. Check for noise,
  Take Cat With You
   See Travel.
  Leave with Someone Else
   Find someone willing to take your cat in while you are gone. Your cat
   will have to stay somewhere new for a while, but this can be
   convenient, and especially if it always stays with that person while
   you're gone, its adjustment can be quick.
    The Outside World FAQ


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