In my career, I have cared for many cats that spent time outdoors. Some divided their time equally between being in the home and roaming the neighborhood. Others hardly came into the house at all, but came for meals, and often for some affection. I have seen many elaborately designed and heated cat houses that, here on the East coast, served to ease the chill of winter. Winter was the season that most of these cats opted for extended indoor visits, and an opportunity for me to see them, in the office, or in their homes, because they were simply easier to catch and examine, vaccinate, or treat.
It became obvious early on, that these predominantly outdoor cats were perceived as the family pets of multiple families. One case was Jeremy, also known. as Bubba. Jeremy’s family brought him in for vaccines and I recognized his unique scar along his left front leg. It was familiar because I had personally performed the surgery to repair a bite wound the prior winter, on a cat named Bubba. Checking the record proved that Jeremy and Bubba’s families were neighbors, living only houses apart from one another. When I confirmed with a microchip scanner that Jeremy was, in fact, Bubba, I feared an ugly confrontation. Surprisingly, both families were friends, and they seemed perfectly happy to co-parent Jeremy/Bubba. I skipped the vaccines that were due, as they had been given already during the other family’s visit, and everyone went away happy.
These situations did not always end on a happy note. In fact, legally in most states, pets lost by one family and “found” by another were regarded as property and the court decisions favored the “finder”. These laws have been slowly changing. Luckily, the sharing of this cat did not escalate into a situation involving the courts.
Another, less amicable situation involved house call clients with their two cats and two dogs. Or should I say, they had two cats… Murderra and Killa were siblings (you can’t make up these names… unless you are their parents and you did, in fact, make up these names). One year, I returned to examine them, and Killa was missing. I was told that he had been abducted by the neighbors. To my shock and dismay, not only had the next door neighbors insisted that he was their cat, but he was sitting on their window sill staring out at all of us in the driveway! I asked how it was possible that they agreed to let them keep the cat, and they said that the other neighbors legitimately thought that Killa had “adopted” them as parents, having come daily for food and affection. They seemed strangely at peace with the resolution, and were ok with waving at him whenever they saw him in the window. Immediately we microchipped Murderra, and kept him as an exclusively indoor cat thereafter.
Yet another similar house call client story comes to mind. My patient Hazel is an elderly cat, and was a 100% outdoor cat until two winters ago, when she suffered from a severe bite wound requiring multiple surgeries and hospitalizations. To avoid this recurring, we all decided that being an indoor cat was in her best interest, but worried about the emotional adjustment. The first winter went surprisingly well, but come early spring, Hazel began to vocalize and escaped out the front or back door every opportunity that she had. Collectively we decided that she needed to have a better quality of life by being an indoor/outdoor cat, even if it might risk her quantity of life. Yet, she had gotten a taste of the indoors and the perks that it offered, and opted to spend a considerable amount of time inside… on her terms of course.
Hazel loved Christmas. Christmas trees to be exact. She was not alone in that fascination, but to her credit, she did not jump on them, nor climb on them, destroying the decorations and eating dangerous ornaments or tinsel like countless other cats. She was content to sit below them and seemingly stare up at the lights.
Hazel lived in a neighborhood where the homes were spaced an acre or so apart. Her parents had a holiday part last year, which their neighbors attended. During the party, the neighbors nuzzled up with Hazel, whom they understood to be their cat Frisky! It appears that both families thought that Hazel/Frisky was their own cat. Evidently she quoted enjoyed sitting under their Christmas tree as well, and continues to divide her time between the two families equally.
These stories are just a few examples of the clever resourcefulness of cats. It never ceases to amaze me how they easily can manipulate the lives of those that love them. Only a cat could figure out a way to be pampered by more than one family, on their own tents. It is one of the reasons I adore them, and enjoy hearing these stories, first and, as their veterinarian.
I hope you enjoyed them as well.
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