» Subscribe Today!
The Power of Information
Home
The Ledger - EST. 1978 - Nashville Edition
X
Skip Navigation LinksHome > Article
VOL. 45 | NO. 29 | Friday, July 16, 2021

Sure, you could let your cat roam, but why?

Print | Front Page | Email this story

The notice on the community bulletin board was, unfortunately, not unusual: A missing cat, gone for two days from its home in a neighborhood near ours.

A photo of an orange, well-fed tabby reclining on a doormat accompanied the notice. He looked, as cats tend to, indifferent. Then again, he wasn’t missing when the photo was taken.

I’m always sad to see such news about any animal, but particularly about cats, since that’s my pet species of choice. My standard optimism leaves me, and I fear the worst for all involved.

Cats are natural escape artists, possessed, as I’ve noted before, with Klingon-worthy cloaking devices. But this cat hadn’t escaped. He has apparently been allowed to roam, and to come home when the mood strikes. And, to make things worse, he had just been moved to an unfamiliar area.

“We are new to the neighborhood and we’re afraid he might be lost,” the owner wrote.

I don’t think cats should be allowed to roam. At least, not urban cats.

Dogs aren’t. Metro Code is clear on the subject: “It is unlawful for any person to allow a dog belonging to him or under his control, or who keeps or harbors a dog, or who has it in his care, or acts as its custodian, or that may be habitually found on premises occupied by him, to run at large.”

But the code is silent on at-large cats.

Knoxville and Chattanooga ordinances go a step further, barring at-large animals but making a specific exemption for “community cats” and, in the case of Chattanooga, feral cats.

Knoxville defines community cat thusly: “[A]ny free roaming cat that has been ear-tipped, sterilized, and has received at least one (1) vaccination against rabies.”

In my experience, cat rescue agencies refuse adoptions for people who plan to let a cat go outside. When we got Chai and Mai, our Long Island-born tuxedos, we had to sign paperwork promising not to do so. Nashville Cat Rescue has the same policy.

“All of our cats are indoors only,” Megan Brodbine, a co-founder of the rescue organization, told me. “We require that in our contract because there’s just too many dangers.”

I assumed the Nashville Humane Association did, as well. I assumed wrong.

“NHA focuses our adoptions on indoor, companion pets, however, we also understand that some animals do better as ‘working animals,’ or indoor/outdoor animals,” Laura Baker, executive director of Nashville Humane, told me in an email.

“An animal’s pathway through our program is all dependent on what is best for them.”

Animal welfare practices have advanced since the days when trapping and euthanizing was the accepted approach, Baker noted. You can’t argue with that.

But I’m not arguing for a mass extermination. It just seems that we’d be better off – and so would the cats – if city ordinances encouraged owners to keep them inside. I asked Baker why cats shouldn’t be treated the same as dogs.

“We believe that cats are very different than dogs,” she responded. “We support pathways that work for the community, the animal, and the agency.

“Allowing cats, who were born in the wild or in the community, to be vaccinated, ear tipped and sterilized and put back in the community with community caretakers is an acceptable practice and best practice currently in the animal welfare field.”

Baker also sent me links to three articles addressing “myths” about community cats, intended primarily to counter the arguments that they should be rounded up and exterminated.

“Community cats are used to living outdoors, and are naturally skilled at finding shelter and food on their own,” Alley Cat Allies asserts. “Studies show community cats are just as healthy as indoor cats, with equally low disease rates. Community cats can also live just as long as indoor cats.”

That sounds good. But I can’t help being suspicious of some of those claims.

The missing cat notice I mentioned is just the latest that has prompted my concern about roaming cats. And there’s more to it than that: In addition to our two indoor cats, we’re now feeding three outdoor cats that roam the area.

They stop by from time to time, sometimes individually, sometimes in a pair. They’re all friendly, indicating that they have been, or are, someone’s pets. (Alas, one, an unneutered male, has taken to preying on the birds we also feed.) And every time I see one, I worry that the next time I see it will be an unhappy occasion.

I don’t believe that every home needs a cat. But I do believe that every cat needs a home. To stay inside.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter & RSS:
Sign-Up For Our FREE email edition
Get the news first with our free weekly email
Name
Email  
TNLedger.com Knoxville Editon
RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 0 0
MORTGAGES 0 0 0
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 0
BUILDING PERMITS 0 0 0
BANKRUPTCIES 0 0 0
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 0 0
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0