Do Cats Lead Double Lives?

CatChannel expert Jeanne Adlon, professional cat sitter, discusses cats who wander.

By Jeanne Adlon | Posted: May 14, 2010, 3 a.m. EST

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Q: My outdoor cat disappears for long periods of time but returns safe and well. Do cats lead double lives?

A: It’s best to keep your cat indoors, but I think it’s very possible that our outdoor feline friends lead double lives.

Let me tell you about a cat named Sally, a cute calico with very distinctive markings. Sally was a stray that a friend of mine took in. Though she now had a loving home she must have missed life on the street because she became frantic if she wasn’t allowed to go outside. To my friend’s dismay, she felt she had to let Sally out. Sometimes she would disappear for hours but she always returned home looking none the worse for wear.

However, Sally seemed to be uninterested in her food, which worried my friend until one day when she was walking down a quiet street in her suburban neighborhood and spotted Sally on a neighbor’s porch. Just at that moment the owner of the house came out with a big bowl of cat food, which Sally had been patiently waiting for. It appears that in her journeys around the neighborhood, the curious calico had become acquainted with several cat-loving neighbors who she would visit regularly to see who had the most tempting cuisine. This explained her regular disappearances and solved the mystery of her finicky appetite at home. My friend could only laugh and accept the fact that Sally liked the menu better elsewhere.

Cats wander because they like to explore and this can lead them to other places for food and attention. I have heard of some leading genuine double lives, going back and forth between two families, neither of which is aware they are sharing a cat. Our kitties constantly surprise us and all I can say is aren’t they great!

It has been my observation that male cats tend to wander more than females. For your cat’s safety and longevity, I suggest not letting him out. Though Sally’s story is a cute one, I always feel cats are better off at home and out of harm’s way. However, if your cat does go out, please make sure she is microchipped and has an ID tag to ensure a safe return if she is lost or decides to try out a new family. As always I welcome your comments and stories.

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Reader Comments

KinKy    Lake City, FL

5/20/2010 6:57:18 PM

Oh, and they DON'T 'go crazy' if they aren't allowed outside. It's up to us as their caretakers to keep them entertained with toys and other interactions inside, for their best health!

KinKy    Lake City, FL

5/20/2010 6:54:45 PM

Nope, I ONLY let my 9 catZ outside WITH ME and that's only every week or so. They will never be out alone and roaming the neighborhood, where there are bullies; cars; dogs; wild animals; and trashy food they can get into that will make them sick. They are my family and I'm responsible for their well being. No other way!

Holly    Stouffville, ON

5/19/2010 8:12:55 PM

My kitties are only allowed outside if my husband and I are outside with them to make sure they don't run away. It's too dangerous to just let your cats outside alone. I've read the average life span of an outdoor cat is somewhere around 4 years, while an indoor cat can live 15-20 years...... yeah..... I think I'll stick with the indoors for my kitties unless I'm outside to monitor their whereabouts!

Sue    Three Oaks, MI

5/19/2010 8:09:03 PM

Some cats go crazy if they don't get to go out sometimes. It's natural for them to want to explore the outdoors.

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