Everyone who has cats that spend time outside knows that there are risks involved with letting them be outside. Cars, other cats, dogs, small predators — even humans — can pose a danger to cats. But for people who live in the mountains in the USA, the dangers are greater and the predators bigger. Most cats become savvy and expert at avoiding danger . . . but their people always worry, even though they know it’s their cat’s choice to run the risk.
I spoke with Nancy about her cat Oscar at a fair in Colorado. Nancy said she’d always had indoor cats, due to the dangers outside in Colorado. But things changed when her cat Oscar entered her life. Oscar made it clear to Nancy that he wanted to spend time outside. Nancy didn’t want to stifle Oscar or make him unhappy, so she started letting him go outside — but only under her strict supervision. Oscar was allowed to go out on the patio and run around in the fenced back yard but only when Nancy was watching him. Oscar loved his new freedom and enjoyed every minute of outdoor play and looked forward to each chance to get outdoors.
Then Nancy moved to a new house closer to the mountains in Colorado. In the new house, Oscar discovered the dog door and began to let himself out into the yard. Oscar was totally loving the new freedom he had — but Nancy was worried. The new yard was fenced, but backed up to a hiking trail and Nancy had seen fox, bear, coyotes and even mountain lions in the trail area. Any of these could make a meal of Oscar.
Nancy told me she had seen Oscar go over the fence in the backyard, into the trail area. I asked Oscar about this. He admitted to going over the fence, but only once. In fact, he showed me that he spent most of his time sitting on the roof of the shed near the fence, watching the trail activity.
Nancy confirmed that Oscar had spent a lot of time on the shed roof, watching the woods and trail. She also said that she’d only found Oscar missing on one occasion. But she was very worried that if Oscar didn’t stay in the yard, he would be killed by predators.
I explained to Oscar that it was very important to stay in the yard. I told him that there were big animals (I showed him images of foxes, coyotes, bear and mountain lions) that would end his life and cause him to go to Spirit. I told him that Nancy was very worried about him and didn’t want this to happen — so it was very, very important that he stayed in the yard.
Oscar told me he understood the dangers. He said, “I’ve seen some really bad things happen out there to other animals.” The images Oscar showed me were of predators killing and eating other animals. He’d seen this the day he was missing from the yard and he’d seen it again from the roof of the shed on another occasion. He was shocked and clearly scared by what he’d seen. Oscar told me that because of what he’d seen, he was never going to leave the yard again. Oscar knew it wasn’t safe outside the fence. He told me he knew he was safe inside the yard because Nancy’s three dogs would protect him.
Nancy said that Oscar was welcome to use the dog door to go out whenever he wanted to, but he needed to stay in the fenced yard. She said it was OK for Oscar to go on the shed roof if he wanted to. I told Oscar this and while he was more than happy to agree to stay in the yard, he said he didn’t think he’d spend much time on the shed roof any more — not after what he’d seen.
I heard from Nancy a year or so later. She reported that Oscar continues to keep his promise to stay in the yard and hasn’t been sitting on the roof of the shed. Nancy said Oscar is happy to watch the birds, scout for mice and look through the fence into the neighbor’s yard.
“I am so relieved that Oscar has kept his promise and stays in the yard. Hearing Oscar’s promise directly – through Sky, along with his behavior verifying this, is such a relief to me. I want Oscar to be happy and free but not at the expense of his safety. Thanks, Sky for helping protect my loved ones!” — Nancy J., CO.
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