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Labor of Cat Love

If you love cats, sharing makes us purrrr :-)


In honor of Labor Day, this post is dedicated to the legions of passionate people who rescue and help all cats in need but especially ML from the awesome Cat Blogosphere


Every Saturday is Cat Saturday when we post the latest antics of the Cat Wisdom 101 team, but we’d like to say a few words about having cats who go outdoors like us. We are exceptionally fortunate to have a large amount of space with only road far from the house. All the cats are trained not to go near the road and don’t. All are supervised and we feel comfortable with our choice.

This week I’d left the door open, getting ready to get everyone indoors when who was sitting on the porch but our foster gal Ling Ling who is strictly an indoor cat. She’d never expressed any interest and I didn’t want to encourage or discourage her. I let her sniff around for a few minutes and she went inside on her own accord with no further interest.

She’s adjusting well but targeting Gris Gris with her aggression. It’s short-lived and thankfully he doesn’t engage in battle. Merlin has relaxed his territorial behavior and the two have them can co-exist in the same room. Most nights we leave all the doors open and no fur flies but Ling Ling remains a neurotic Siamese with OCD tendencies. Playing with the Neko fly toy is her new favorite and helps distract her when she begins walking in circles on one specific rug. I believe she’d be less neurotic if she’d been introduced to the outdoors earlier in life.

Some cats need and thrive with the extra stimulation of the outdoors. Odin is a prime example. He’s a highly intelligent but high strung crazy cat. Since enjoying more outdoor time to burn off the extra energy, he has less behavioral issues and sleeps more soundly than any cat I’ve ever seen.

One of our favorite games is tree tag. He runs up and down trees all over the property as if doing an agility training course or parkour. This was yesterday’s course: six trees, 300 hundred yards in six minutes.


Unlike most other countries in the world, North America leans towards keeping cats indoors exclusively. We agree in principle, but for us it’s a question of balancing risk against the benefits of allowing natural feline behavior. Many lifestyles and environments prohibit the opportunity for outdoor experiences except maybe leash walking. Leash training is rarely successful on an older cat and many others simply refuse. Catios or screened-in porches are a safe substitute but they don’t come close to the real thing.

I have no doubt many behavioral issues stem from cats being deprived from doing what comes naturally. It’s why daily enriched play with humans and a variety of toys and games is key to happy indoor cats. All my cats (and I’ve had cats all my life) have mostly been indoor/outdoor. I’ve learned more about cat behavior from observing them in nature than any book. I’m not suggesting that you suddenly open the door to your garden and say, go play. All cats before venturing outdoors need to be trained to respond to a “come” command. It’s a good idea in any case, since we never know when a cat may escape or be let out inadvertently, like a client’s cat sitter did recently.

I’ll be sharing some of my training tips next week.

These are a few reasons why my cats go outdoors: To see cats run across the lawn and leap into the air in pure joy, to stalk real or imaginary prey like leaves blowing in the wind, to sniff the millions of smells we can’t even detect, their eyes bright with excitement, to see them scent-mark a tree with urine and a self-satisfied flick of their tail, to hide in the bushes playing jungle cat or writhe on the ground, paws up in ecstasy, to languorously scratch a tree root and then sunbathe on the porch like Merlin here playing Goldilocks.

For me, it comes down to offering a quality of life as close as possible to a cat’s true nature. There is no definitive right or wrong answer but one based on the environment and the individual cat’s inclination.


Gris Gris, a haunted, hyper, almost feral former basement cat for his entire life has transformed so much in his new life, I hardly recognize him. He’s happy loving and at peace. When I see him streak across the lawn and jump for joy, my heart leaps in with a joy of my own. If he were to meet his end tomorrow outdoors, I would do nothing differently.


My greatest joy this week is about feral big boy Domino who had made huge strides in transformation. He finally let me pet him this week and not just pet him but allow me to give deep tissue massage. I gave him the nickname “The Refrigerator” ages ago, but when I felt his massive neck muscles, I thought bulldog. Don’t tell him I compared him to a dog but he is truly the most muscular cat I’ve ever touched.

you may pet me now-hai-cat-domino


  • Oldcat

    Julius, one of my cats, is one who needs that outdoor touch. The others like it, and are content to stay in our small walled backyard but Julie jumps up on the wall to look around and goes hunting for lizards or mice and such. Once I tried to keep him in and he started racing out the garage door while I was driving in (the litter boxes are in the garage and they have a cat door to it). I figured the trouble he could get into outside was less than him racing my car and then going outside.

    When I get hom he wants to go out more than be fed. He tends to come home before my usual bedtime each night and doesn’t get too grumpy as long as he gets out every few days or so in good weather.

  • Tom the Church Cat

    I admire your ability to have your cats enjoy the outdoors and you’re very lucky to be able to give them that freedom!
    Having me outside is too much of a risk, so I sit on the windowsill and imagine..

    Have a good weekend!


  • Judi

    Great post and photos. Your guys look like they are certainly enjoying life, as it should be. My two are apartment cats and will only go out on the deck if I’m close by. Hope they aren’t too unhappy.

    Happy Labor Day!

  • Julia Williams

    I struggle with the indoor/outdoor decision daily. Two of my three cats are miserable in the winter when they don’t get to go outside (really by choice because of the snow and cold, but still) but I love having them indoors because I always know where they are and that they are safe. I always ask myself which is better, having a miserable indoor cat who is safe, or a happy cat who is allowed outdoors and could potentially get sick or injured. I make them come in at dark, and for the rest of the time they do get to be outdoors.

  • Admiral Hestorb

    Just another thought and opinion, if that is alright. I have had indoor only cats and indoor outdoor. My in/out cats met sad times..struck by vehicles, one was poisoned. They are safer indoors in my opinion. No diseases gotten nor ticks, no fleas, no toxic drops for same ( they make my cat sick) ..and most of us tend to live in populated areas with roads right outside making it perilous for the cat re: people who chase and hate cats, poisons left out, gettting hit by cars, fights.

    I agree with you in that if the perils are way off in the distance and you’re able to supervise the cat, all is well. Here where I live..she would be killed by a car in no time. I hope you don’t mind this opinion.

  • Pat Curry

    This post has great information for us cat lovers. Many years ago we made the mistake of removing the claws of our adopted barn kitten in PA. He was kept completely indoors despite his obvious longing to be free. When we moved back home to Florida, he escaped and was totally unprepared for living in the wild. He came home decimated from flea and tick bites and nearly dead from hunger and anemia. He lived 13 years but most were filled with anxieties and finally madness. Please warn your readers to NOT de-claw their adoptees. If he’d had his claws he could have at least climbed a tree.

  • Vicky

    I’m in the camp that believes one has to weigh the benefits versus the risks and make the best decision they can as a pet owner. When my cats were young, all were indoor/outdoor. Our Maine Coon would spend countless days on the river hunting rabbits. We were aware of the risks of him being on the river, but truly believed that he would not be the cat we loved if he forced to remain inside.

    Then we moved to an area where it simply wasn’t safe to let the cats outdoors. They spent six-and-a-half years as indoor-only cats, as we knew they would never survive the traffic in our new neighborhood after previously living on a dead-end street.

    Now we’re again in a home on a dead-end street with a very large, fenced backyard. The cats are now 15, 14 and 12. All go out in the backyard when it’s daylight out. No one has any interest in the front yard or the neighboring yards, and all are brought in at night. They love feeling the grass under their toes, the breeze in their fur and the unfiltered sun on their face. It may not be the right choice for everyone, but it is definitely the right choice for us.

  • Marg

    This is such a great post and as you know, I totally agree with you. A cat cannot be a cat unless they can get outside. Now saying that, I do have few that stay inside for health reasons.But boy they really want to go out. True there are dangers out there and it also really depends on where you live. If you live in town on a busy street, the cats should stay inside. But cats are so much healthier and happier outside. It is really hard to keep an indoor cat entertained and happy all the time.

  • Katnip Lounge

    Our cats stay in, mainly because of coyotes, eagles and hawks. But they love our large catio, which (of course) was designed for them to leap and run and do catty things. When we lived in Illinois we had indoor/outdoor felines and they were trained to come to a whistle; actually, they all still are whistle-trained.

    • boomermuse

      Your cats have an awesome catio and with mega predators, you can’t take any chances. Good that they’re still whistle trained.

  • Kathy

    My mother moved in with us two and a half years ago. Gunther was a supervised cat outside. Instead of having Mom fall when trying to keep Gunther in, we said let him go. He is so much happier being able to come and go. He does the running up the tree exercises at a young 13 years of age. He is also a cow cat just like Odin. I find that those can be fun and lovable. The saying around our house is “Everybody Loves Gunther”. I have a basement foster cat called Little Boy. I will think about the outdoors and how to introduce that into his taming.

  • Deb Barnes - Zee and Zoey

    I have had a few painful memories of cats of mine when I was younger that were let outside without my permission only to have tragic results. So, for me, the indoor rule was mandatory. That is, until now. I am currently blessed to live in a tropical paradise and we have a large fenced in backyard that is the ultimate smorgasbord of tantalizing sights and smells for a cat to revel and delight in. Dan and I enjoy a cup of coffee every Saturday morning as we supervise our gang of seven and let them explore this intoxicating world.

    The cats know when it is Saturday and it is the highlight of their week. The brief joy we provide them so that they may release their inner cats is amazing to witness. They come back into the house completely exhausted, but clearly satisfied with the ability to use all of their senses to the fullest extent. I realize it is a subject that causes much debate, but if you can allow a safe and supervised environment, it really is such a gift to give back to your cat who gives you the gift of their unconditional love each and every day.

    • boomermuse

      Deb, you put it perfectly: it’s a gift and not easy to do. To supervise three cats requires two people, time and effort. Hubby takes his coffee and Blackberry and I usually take my camera.

      • Deb Barnes - Zee and Zoey

        Yes, it is a gift and not always easy or possible to do. If I lived in a setting without the safety of my fence and the close supervision, the indoor rule would be strictly mandated by me! I am not a fan of cats wandering the streets, it is far too dangerous in my opinion, but I realize that some cats just can’t be tamed. I agree with Ingrid, if you do have indoor cats, they can be extremely happy and satisfied if you provide them with a stimulating,cat-centric environment! It’s the least you can do for them! I am just very lucky to finally have that ideal setting for my babies!

  • Ingrid King

    I’m so thrilled that you were able to pet Domino! Yes!!!

    As you know, I come down on the opposite side of the indoor vs. outdoor debate. I believe that cats live much safer and longer, and yes, happier lives, when kept indoors. In an ideal world, and your situation is as close to ideal as any can be, all cats would be allowed to go outside, but most situations are not that ideal. And even in an ideal situation, supervision and training are great, but disaster can be only one second of irresistible distraction away. I’ve seen too many outdoor cats who were hit by cars or mauled by wild animals in my years in veterinary medicine to ever be comfortable with the idea that outdoor cats are better off.

    Indoor cats can be just as happy as cats who go outside, as long as they have an enriched environment and get plenty of attention and interaction with either humans or other cats.

    Happy Labor Day weekend to you and the gang!

    • boomermuse

      Ingrid, finally petting Domino was truly a thrill and now he demands it all the time! I know and respect your stance on the indoor cat issue. I agree about indoor cats being happy if they get enough attention and enriched play but sadly most indoor cats don’t. More education on that front is needed. Purrs to you and your gang!

  • Pam Kimmell

    What a lovely piece Layla. I watch Sam outside and know that he’s happiest when smelling fresh air, watching birds, butterflies and bugs up close and personal….and while I also know he’s happy when he’s inside curled up in a lap or snoring in the sun, he is, after all, one of nature’s own. We’ve found a happy medium I think and it’s one he himself is happy with. That’s what it’s all about after all….Love the photos as always. Very happy to hear Dom has finally allowed himself to enjoy the loving touch of a human – perhaps his first pawsitive experience! Happy long weekend.

    Pam and Sam

  • CATachresis

    Thanks Layla, great post. To be honest I didn’t realise that in North America the feeling was to keep cats indoors! In UK and Europe cats go out because, well, that’s what they do!

    Austin is very much like Odin, highly strung with excess energy. He needs the stimulation of being outside – unless it’s raining like today. He doesn’t like getting wet, but his frustration at being inside is quite apparent. He is manifesting what I call “extreme patience” and it’s hilarious to watch!

    Looking forward to reading your training tips x

    • boomermuse

      This is exactly why I wrote this post today. There is such a cultural divide between North America and other countries when it comes to the indoor/outdoor cat issue.

  • Cheysuli

    We had one cat who had to go outside otherwise he would urinate on the floor. He loved being outdoors and so sometimes he did get to go out. For some cats it’s not an option. In our case, Ichiro runs from the front door and the humans tried to take him out on a leash but he got so scared he got out of his harness and ran inside and hid under the bed! They do not expect him to ever go out again!

  • Kathryn

    oh hai, this is the bestest yet. gris gris is a happy boy! and dom dom and odin! and ling ling – interesting they all have double name names.

    If we had some country rather than more city, we’d keep ours outdoors.

    Happy Labor Day!

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