Feline-Specific Choices for Behavioral Well-Being

Question:
Last week in your column you answered my letter about Russell, the cat about town. Well, we opened the door and he gradually got used to being in the house. He acquired his own chair, wakes up, and goes to the door to be let out.  One cold night we put him in the laundry room. When we opened the door in the morning he yelled at us and walked out the front door. He still likes to spend most of his days in our house. His latest adventure involved a black cat in our neighborhood who is Russell’s nemesis. They had a disagreement and Russell had a puncture wound. The veterinarian said there was no infection and sent us all home. Russell didn’t seem to object to being examined and jumped in my lap when we got home for some chin rubbing.

Dr. Nichol:
Now that Russell is comfortable at your house he can choose whether he wants to hang out under a pile of leaves outside or snuggle up by the fire with a Baileys and coffee. He is an assertive fellow and a good communicator. Not a little person in a furry suit, Russell a member of a different species. He should never feel trapped.  You are doing the right thing by caring for his behavioral well-being.

There is a flip side to allowing Russell to enjoy the great outdoors. Infectious diseases and injuries, like cat fight wounds, are risks that you’ll have to balance against the benefits of his enjoyment of life as a quasi-free-living cat. He was born to be wild-literally. Confining him exclusively to the indoors would drive him stir crazy, potentially leading to behavior problems like house soiling or even self-mutilation. You are striking a good balance for this fortunate kitty by letting him to make his own choices.

On my facebook page (facebook.com/drjeffnichol) there’s a great photo of this party animal chillin’ at home. Russell is his own man.