Last week, I contributed an essay to an article in the Washington Post on whether cats should be allowed outdoors. Given the controversial subject nature, I was surprised to see that all of the experts the Post contacted agreed with me: Cats, if at all possible, should have access to the outdoors. Below, is my essay in full (which was abridged in the Post version). To my readers, I want to make one thing clear: Even though I let my own cats out, I fully understand the reasons for keeping cats indoors, and it is not my intent to shame or disparage those who do so. I am merely offering my perspective on the matter. I should also note that I supervise my cats when I let them out, both for their own protection and for the protection of wildlife.
What do you do with your own cats and why? Please let me know in the comments!
When my wife and I first snapped a harness on our cat Jasper in 2005, we didn’t quite realize the ethical quandary we were getting ourselves into. We had just adopted him and his sister Jezebel from a shelter, and we felt they should have access to the great outdoors, even though we lived in Baltimore City. So we did what any crazy cat owners would do: We bought two harnesses made for tiny dogs and strapped them on our kittens.
Jasper and Jezebel didn’t take kindly to their “outfits”, as we called them. As soon as we put them on, the cats froze, then fell on their sides, as though they had been hit by a stun gun. It took a week—and lots of treats—just to get them to stand upright. Walking them was even harder: Cats, as you might expect, don’t take to a leash like dogs. You can’t follow or lead them; you just need to let them do their thing and hope for the best. Sometimes they’ll take a few steps, and you can actually pretend you’re on a walk. But more often they’ll stand next to a tree for ten minutes to chatter at a bird, or slip under a car or through a fence, forcing you to perform some pretty extreme yoga to get them back. I’m not sure if other people found our cat walks amusing or insane, but someone stopped us almost every day to chat or take a picture. If nothing else, it was a great way to meet our neighbors.