Monday, August 10, 2015

When cat rescuers attack! 3 ways to keep your senior cats safe outdoors

Beorn is sleeping in this photo, but this cat does look sickly.
With the dog days of summer upon us, Beorn spends a lot of the day looking just like this. He's sound asleep in the shade of the laurel hedge on my property. To him, he's in just the right spot. He's cool, he's outside and he's at home.

But to a cat rescuer, he might look like a thin, stray, sickly kitty that needs medical attention, ASAP. And that could mean Beorn's nap might end up in a trip to the cat shelter.

It's happened in this neighborhood before, and while I understand why a rescuer might be moved to save first and ask questions later, it makes me a little nervous. After all, for fragile guys like Beorn, a trip to the shelter could mean exposure to life-threatening illnesses. He just doesn't have the energy stores he needs to fight off something serious.

But since I can't move him inside (for reasons I've explained here), I need to do my part to make sure my neighbors are aware that Beorn just isn't homeless and ill. And there are a couple of ways to tackle that issue.

Beorn isn't a homeless cat. He has water dishes and brushes available.

I try to keep Beorn's accessories in open, easy-to-see spaces. On the back deck, for example, he has several water bowls, two cat beds, a cat brush and cat treats. Three of those things are in this photo.

Anyone walking by my back desk who might see Beorn will also see all of the cat beds and cat things I need in order to keep him healthy and happy. That person might then reasonably assume that the cat lives next to all of these things. That person might then leave Beorn alone, or ask me about him before doing anything to him.

If Beorn would wear a collar for more than 5 minutes (grrr), I could put a few words about his medical condition on his tag. I might say something like "senior cat" or "frail cat" above my address, so anyone who looked at him would know that I am aware of his condition and that I am treating it. That's another way to signal to a rescuer that Beorn does have a home and doesn't need to be saved.

Senior cats have no problem with meowing loudly and showing off their teeth

I can also follow Beorn's example here and open up my mouth to communicate. When I stop and chat with neighbors, I remind them that I have cats that live outside, and that I am taking care of them. I remind my neighbors of what these cats look like, how old they are and what medical conditions they have. I try to point them out to my neighbors, too. That way, these same neighbors won't be compelled to think of these guys as strays. They'll hear me discuss them, and they'll know to ask me for questions.

In general, I love living in a community in which rescue plays such a big role. It's awesome to think that community cats have a group of humans ready to help them when they need that assistance. But by following these few steps, I can ensure that my cats don't become part of the problem my neighbors are trying to solve. And in the end, that's best for everyone involved.

Did I miss anything? What else do you guys do to protect your outdoor cats?


  1. Here in the Chicago area feral or outdoor cats are ear-tipped to let other rescuers and community members know that they have been fixed and are part of a managed colony. I know this is a bit different than what you are talking about. Maybe having signs up on your fence or around your yard?

    1. They ear tip here, too, and I agree that it's a smart way to mark a feral cat population (esp so they don't get signed up for repeated surgeries!).

      The sign idea is a good one!

  2. The comment above seems to sum it up. Is he microchipped not that some shelters even check. I think a sign might work especially one saying Do Not Trespass.

    BTW, stop by Friday and see your Foto Frenzy pick.

    1. The sign idea is a good one. In fact, I passed that along to my neighbors awhile back. They were the inspiration for this post! Their very old cat was scooped up by a well-meaning rescuer, and the kitty spent the evening in a clinic. I advised signs that said, "Let sleeping cats lie! She lives here and is cared for." Thankfully, Beorn doesn't sleep out in the open, like she does. :)