Last week, my already neutered cat, Kato, was taken off for a re-neutering.

He’d been missing since Monday night. We are that family in your neighborhood that still lets cats mouse and hunt. He leapt out the back door when Bill got home from work and didn’t come back. Not during the thunderstorm overnight, the pouring down rain the next day, nor into the following evening.

It’s common, by the end of the summer, for them to be smug in their hunting prowess, sleeping under the deck or out in the woods, ignoring our calls and promises of treats.

By the second night, we knew something was wrong. I posted his picture and description on the Livingston County Humane Society’s website and prayed for a phone call.

We had a false alarm, some man in Howell who wanted me to come right then and pick up a kitty that had been around his house for two months. He clearly had not read my post. I assured him that my cat would’ve needed more than two days to travel the 13 miles to Chilson Road. He finally agreed and wished me luck finding our true cat, who “sounded like a good one.”

Friday morning, I got a call at work from a neighbor. Pictures were exchanged over phones. He’d been found across the street and two backyards away. I drove home to fetch him.

In the three days in which my neighbor had care of Kato, here is what happened to him:

  • He went to the the Ann Arbor Human Society for neutering.  He stayed overnight. They knocked him out, clipped his ear – the visible sign that a feral cat is spayed/neutered, prepped and shaved him,  and realized he was already neutered. When she picked him up, they “forgot” to tell her about that. They made her promise to bring back vet papers for a full refund.
  • He had a fever, after his stay, so he went to Town & Country Veterinary Hospital (which is, coincidentally, where he goes, when he does) for an antibiotic. His exam totaled $105.82.
  • He bunked down in her garage because her two house cats are “mean” and couldn’t stand him in the house.

And then, our neighbor saw our post. She said she assumed he was feral, because he’d eaten a can of cat food on her deck for two months. It did not occur to her that Kato simply came for the free lunch. I put him in my lap and drove him around the corner to his home.

Having never been sick in his life, even with the wide variety of rodent life he’s consumed (albiet an occasional hairball), he proceeded to recover from a cat cold, but not before passing it on to our second cat, Kota. DSC01816Two sick cats pace the floor, one with a clipped ear and a “high and tight” cut on his backside. They climb the French door screen to indicate their desire to travel. The chipmunk population is laughing giddily.

It’s not safe to stray anymore. Our freedoms, even in the cat kingdom, are more and more restricted.

Oh, we’ve developed all sorts of safe zones – snap-off collars for identity tags, micro-chipping – but most people just pull out their front claws when they’re kittens and keep them inside. Kato in the leaves.An outdoor cat has a 6-7 year expected life span, but those indoor kitties live 14 years and upward.

The thing is, for wandering “feral” cats, there’s a shoot-to-kill ordinance if they trespass into your yard.

Doesn’t matter; if you think they’re feral and they’re on your grass, you can grab your gun and kill them.

This is a modern convention. My mother-in-law, who’s 89, heard the story and was dismayed. Her childhood cats always roamed and wandered, as they performed the job to which they were bred. My own grandfather’s farm had barn cats, always on the prowl. At my brother and sister-in-law’s farm, today, they’ve taken in each cat for a clipped ear, euphemistically speaking, while they keep the mice from eating expensive feed.

Gone are those lazy, summer days with soft sunlight dappling the woods, with two cats roaming and protecting our attic and basement from pesky mice. It’s not safe to stray, and in all our worldly ways of man-made protection, we’ve successfully reduced freedoms.

Cats are not the only ones to which this is happening. We’re just too smug to see it and return home.

The pictures are of our cats outdoors: Kato is grey and Kota is black.