I am interested in getting a cat for my family. However, due to my wife’s allergies, the cat could only live outdoors. I see cats outside all the time, but am not sure if these particular cats ever go indoors. Can cats stay outdoors all day, every day? Do they like it? I have no problem buying a little "cat home" and providing what is necessary, but I’m not interested if the cat won’t be happy.
While we certainly would love for every cat to live in a safe and enriched home with plenty of beds, toys and opportunities to cuddle, many, many cats started their lives as outdoor cats with little human interaction and do not thrive as indoor pets. Many shelters have cats who are made available for adoption as “barn cats” or similar. These are cats who otherwise would not make it out of the shelters, as they are simply unlikely to flourish as indoor pets.
While the outdoors is not the safest full-time environment for cats, there are things we can do to increase their safety and comfort. Make sure your cat is neutered or spayed before bringing him/her home. The cat should wear a collar and personalized ID tag so everyone in the neighborhood knows he is your cat. You should also provide a safe shelter—yup, a little cat home!—that’s well-protected from the elements, as well as clean, fresh water and food.
He should be kept on a strict feeding schedule: Feed him a little bit first thing in the morning, but give him his big meal in the evening. That way, you will have an easy time bringing him into a safe, indoor space for the night. Nighttime can be a dangerous time for cats in many suburban/rural areas where predators lurk, so using his dinner to lure him inside an enclosed garage or other safe place will keep him safe overnight.
When you first bring your cat home, it is vital that he spend time in that safe, indoor space for at least a few days so he becomes comfortable in the space, learns where his food is and can get to know you. Your local shelter should be able to provide you with resources to introduce your new cat to his outdoor home. Good luck!
We are an all-volunteer, no-kill rescue group. We have 36 cats/kittens. Should we be testing for feline leukemia virus? We are on a shoestring budget and are worried about the expense, but do not want to spread the virus. How contagious is it and what precautions can we take?
Whether your small rescue group should invest in feline leukemia virus (FeLV) testing is a good question, and there is not a black-and-white response. The American Association of Feline Practitioners and Association of Shelter Veterinarians both state that the status of all cats should be known—so ideally, each individual cat would be tested. However, there are a few things worth considering:
- Accurate testing and interpretation of tests is vital. Especially in a shelter setting, where results of the tests may change how we re-home cats, it’s really important to be sure that it is understood that no test is perfect. A single test for FeLV or FIV is not considered sufficient to confirm either positive or negative status. Cats require regular testing at intervals depending on their risk for infection.
- In shelters where cats are housed individually throughout their stay, the risk of FeLV spread is minimal and testing is considered optional.
- In shelters where cats are group-housed, testing is recommended because of the risk of transmission cat-to-cat.
- It’s always recommended to inform adopters of shelter policies so that they are aware in case they are adopting a cat who has unknown retroviral status, and to recommend that they discuss further testing with their veterinarian before introducing a new cat to their current cats.
- If your program does a lot of foster home-based care, testing of cats and kittens prior to placement in foster (as well as of foster families’ own cats) might be a consideration.
- If your group provides extensive medical care, testing cats entering treatment would also be a consideration.
Regarding how FeLV transmits: Cats typically acquire the virus through the oro-nasal route. Cats shed infectious viruses in multiple body fluids, including saliva, nasal secretions, feces and urine, and milk. Examples of activities that might allow FeLV transmission include grooming, fighting/biting, blood transfusions between untested animals, use of unsterilized surgical equipment, or transfer during pregnancy and nursing. Transmission through use of shared litterboxes or feeding dishes is possible, but less common. You may sometimes hear FeLV called the “friendly cat” disease because it can be transmitted by grooming and cohabitating without overt fighting.
For more information on shelter medicine and infectious disease prevention in your program, check out the ASPCApro website: http://www.aspcapro.org/shelter-medicine.php
My question is about adopting a second cat. I found one on my local humane society's website, visited her in person, and we cuddled for an hour. During that time, I noticed that her fur was rough, she was skinny and shed a lot. She also sneezed about 10 times, and once, a bubble came out her nose. The other cat in the enclosure had none of these signs. I'm concerned about possible FIP, but this cat may just have had the bad effects of being sheltered for a while. The vet tech on staff said that her sneezing was just a regular upper respiratory infection, similar to kennel cough in dogs.
At the time, I didn't know about FIP and I submitted the adoption paper. Now, I am very concerned about possibly bringing this cat home to my healthy boy and getting him sick? The adoption comes with an initial vet visit, but if anything happened to my cat at home from my actions, even nice ones as in adopting a sister, I would be doubly heartbroken! What should I do?
It sounds like your potential sister cat has a fairly serious “cat cold.” This should be treated by antibiotics, decreasing stress, and any other therapies your veterinarian suggests after seeing her (if you adopt her, she should be seen by your vet as soon as possible). Shedding is common when cats are stressed, and she may not be eating well due to the cold.
As for FIP: there are no real tests for it, but this would not be a typical picture of a cat with that disease. Also, while a common virus is involved, FIP is a very uncommon disease. Cats don’t get sick from that virus until their own immune system responds badly to the infection. That is what causes FIP, not the virus itself.
If you decide to go ahead adopt the new cat, she should be put in an isolated location (like a bathroom or spare bedroom) away from your other cat for a period of time so he gets used to the idea of a new cat in the house and the new girl can have some quiet time to adjust to your home and the cold to get better.
“Cat colds” can take a while to go away and sometimes can recur if the cat is very stressed. I can tell you that my brother adopted a cat with a cold, and while it took several weeks for his cat to recover, it was well worth it! He turned out to be a wonderful cat who might not have otherwise been adopted.