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Off the farm, let cats roam indoors only

Q: Our Persian cat passed away after 20 years just about a year ago. My husband has allergies but learned to co-exist with the cat indoors. He grew up on a farm and has a different attitude about animals' place in the world. He says they should be outside, period. I miss having a cat, and this time I'd like to rescue an older cat accustomed to being outside. We have two Labradors who live in the shed and garage when not inside the house. If I created a door to the shed, do you think the cat would adjust to life outside with our dogs in a quiet residential neighborhood?

A: In my world, cats belong indoors (unless they're "working" cats on a farm). You wouldn't allow your Labs to roam the neighborhood (I hope), so why your cat? Cars kill a lot of cats. There are also public health and public nuisance issues to consider. Cats prey on small animals, including songbirds. And they may use a neighbor's lawn as a regular litter box. Also, too many indoor/outdoor cats aren't appropriately vaccinated.

People who favor cats living indoor/outdoor lives talk about quality of life, but death isn't a very appealing quality of life. Leaving a relatively slow-moving, long-haired Persian outdoors, especially in the summer, would be downright inhumane, so I'm glad you kept your previous cat indoors. As a result, the pet enjoyed a long life. Now I'll hear from folks with indoor/outdoor cats who've lived to age 20 or longer. But those cats are the exceptions; statistically, most indoor/outdoor cats barely live half that long.

As I understand it, you're proposing keeping any new cat outdoors all the time. If that's the case, what's the point of having a pet? Also, as much as I appreciate your willingness to adopt an adult shelter cat, I can't imagine many shelters would allow this, knowing your intent for the cat's lifestyle.

It seems as if you, at least periodically, allow your dogs indoors, so why not a cat? Sadly, you're not alone. Even though there are more pet cats than dogs, we tend to treat cats as second-class citizens. In an attempt to figure out why, and what to do about it, industry, veterinary and shelter leaders gathered this month for a CATylist summit at a meeting of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. Learn more at

Perhaps it's your husband who needs some education. He may have grown up on a farm, but you don't live on a farm now. I hope you do adopt a cat, but I also hope you treat your new pet as a member of the family, sharing your life, your home, and dare I say, even your bed.

Make fleas flee

Q: Smokey, my 5-year-old cat, has fleas, and so does my sister's dog, who shares the same home with us. We've sprayed the environment and used brewers' yeast to keep the fleas at bay. I've been told garlic can also help. We're reluctant to use an over-the-counter option. What do you suggest?

A: Dr. Michael Dryden, a veterinary parasitologist at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Manhattan, says he doesn't blame you for not opting for an over-the-counter option. "In general, they don't work as well as veterinary-purchased products, which are more consistent. Clearly, you need year-round protection where you are (in Olympia, Wash). Fleas love mild temperatures with lots of rain. As for the garlic, well, it might taste good for you, but garlic hasn't proven to deter fleas. In our lab, we actually use brewers' yeast to increase flea populations by 15 to 20 percent. Obviously, what you're doing now isn't working. Environment controls can be helpful, but it's products suggested by your veterinarian which will get the job done."

Send questions to Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207 or e-mail

Off the farm, let cats roam indoors only 02/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:00am]
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