Somewhere along the way, I became the cat expert in my friend group. I’ve read a lot about actual cat behavior and spent time learning how to talk to cats in their language. At some point, I was helping a friend with an outdoor cat and the best analogy I had heard along the way for making sure an indoor/outdoor cat didn’t run away was to “make sure you have the best hotel.” If you meet the cats needs with food, fresh water, clean litter and enough* attention, they will make your home their safe space, even if they roam for miles away from home.
This is the real reason cats bring their kills home. It’s not to teach us how to hunt, even though it’s a cute thought (although I do have a cute anecdote about that I’ll share in a bit). Their instincts are to bring a kill back to their safe space to eat. Most of the time, they realize that live food doesn’t taste as good as most commercial cat food. Cat’s digestive systems are super inefficient, so most cat food is packed with sugar in order to up their caloric intake.
To illustrate this, during one of my first business trips back to Austin after I moved in with B, Mineou demanded that B make food for him. Shortly after I moved in with B, we installed a cat door in on of the back windows. This was the first place where Spirit and Mineou were able to roam freely, as I lived in an apartment in Austin. We often found dead mice in the back room, and occasionally didn’t find them in my office (ewww). I have an auto feeder that typically lasts 10 days, but I must not have filled it up before I left, and B didn’t know to check it as he’d never had to before this point. Mineou woke B up one morning, got B to follow him, went and picked up a dead mouse and dropped it next to the feeder. B says it was like he was asking him to turn the mouse into cat food.
One year I kept a running tally of the number of animals brought back to the house, and made it to 50 before I stopped. That included 2 live chipmunks** (Y’all! Did you know that chipmunks sounds like birds?!), a few (actual) birds, a juvenile squirrel and a skink. Tug took to the best hotel concept well. He’s not as bright as Mineou, or I suppose a kinder way to put it is that his is much more bold than Mineou. He has come home with a concussion and ripped nails (no other damage, so maybe a fall from a tree) and we had to take him to the emergency vet for a snake bite once.
When Mineou was diagnosed with IHMA, the reco was to keep him inside. That lasted though the winter, and then both cats moped and cried until I convinced the vet it was a quality of life issue for them. B and I discussed that when we moved we may try to keep them indoors again, and that’s what we have done. We have made it longer this time, but that is also due to the very large 5 lane street that is a quarter mile down the road. Tug is too bold for such adventures, and we fear that he will not adapt well to a busy street so close to home.
I’ve always prided myself on having the best cat hotel, but now it’s hotel catifornia.
*Each cat will have its own definition of “enough” attention as some cats won’t want a lot, want attention only on their terms (initiated by them) and some will be glued to your side.
**I rescued and returned to the great outdoors those that I could, and disposed of those I could not.