Indoor or outdoor cats?

Back in June, I came across a post titled “Saving or capturing?” in an Italian Facebook cat group to which I belong.

I wish I’d never read beyond the title, but, unfortunately, I did.

The anonymous author, evidently connected to one of the local cat shelters here in Florence, perhaps a volunteer?, claimed that if you are out and about, and a seemingly healthy kitten runs up to you and looks lost, you should not presume that its mother isn’t nearby, you should not pick it up, you should not take it home with you…

You have to leave it where it is.

Now, that would have been sort of acceptable had the author stopped there.

That didn’t happen.

Happy cats, the author rambled on, are only those that are free to roam around outside. The worst thing that can happen to a cat is to be taken home by some perhaps well-meaning person and turned into a housecat. Not all cats, the author argued, like to sleep on a couch all day (I actually agree with that statement: my cats like to sleep on our bed…on a variety of armchairs…in hammocks hanging on the cat towers…on the dining room table while we are eating, and so on… 😉 ).

Keeping cats indoors, the author continued, is like sentencing them to prison for life.

The post-writer further illustrated her (I have the feeling the post was written by a woman) point by comparing the life of an “imprisoned” housecat to what we humans went through during Italy’s lockdown period (March-May 2020), when we were all forced to stay indoors…for obvious and very good reasons, I would like to add (note: the post author chose to ignore those good reasons…).

In short, the author believes that the only happy cats are cats that live out in the open.

Apart from almost of of  its content, one of the problems I had with this post were some of the words used, which were unnecessarily aggressive, such as “capture, condemn, eternal imprisonment.” Really? Eternal imprisonment? Is the life of a housecat that bad?

The author of this post treated us (humans who live with cats that don’t go outside for a variety of reasons) with complete disregard and disrespect, as though we were crazy, serial cat hoarders patrolling the streets in search of kittens and cats to capture, take home, and condemn to a life of misery.

Potter, August 2020

I was offended. I was angry. And I was not alone. My irritation was matched by that of other group members who, like me, live with indoor cats and have rescued many from certain death. In the days that followed the publication of this superficial (at best) post, a bunch of us wrote comment after comment, expressing our displeasure and requesting that the post be taken down (it hasn’t, for the record. I checked just a few days ago).

I would like to point out that the “other side” remained silent, yet she must have read our comments. That’s another thing that I found incredibly irritating. I mean, if you truly believe that YOU are right, and that WE are wrong, then defend your position, for crying out loud. Or say you are sorry, if you realize that you made a mistake. None of that happened.

I guess it’s obvious that this “indoor-outdoor” topic is close to my heart. I’ve thought about it for years now. Of course, if I could let my cats outside into a safe, protected environment, like a catio space, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so. But our garden isn’t set up for a project like that (we’ve looked into it). So, they stay inside.

And now I would like to list many of the dangers that cats encounter in the outside world and that can easily shorten their lifespan, sometimes in horrible ways:

  • diseases that cats can get from other cats, such as Feline Leukemia, Feline AIDS, abscesses, and upper respiratory infections
  • ingestion of toxic plants (poinsettia, lilies, etc.), toxic substances, rat poison, slug pellets, etc.
  • dogs
  • injuries sustained by miscalculating a jump or whatnot
  • cars, traffic
  • getting trapped somewhere, in a basement or a car engine
  • exposure to parasites
  • extreme cold, extreme heat
  • hunters, predatory animals

I think my list is self-explanatory, but I do have a few more remarks.

Statistic: housecats can live to the age of 17, on average, whereas outside cats live only 2-5 years. With all the above-listed dangers, it’s no wonder why…

My next-door neighbor, whom I love dearly, has three male (uncastrated) golden retrievers, whom I also love dearly. Wonderful dogs. Wonderful…except that they go absolutely bonkers whenever they see a cat. Luckily, my neighbors are very careful, and all these dogs can do is bark at cats. But my neighbor told me that they would kill a cat if they had the opportunity. Now, with that knowledge, how could I possibly let any of my cats go outdoors, free to roam around the neighborhood? One mistake, one little mistake, and they could end up in the jaws of these dogs…I don’t even want to think about it.

I have a recent story concerning toxic substances. One of my best friends, who lives in a top floor apartment here in Florence, has a young cat who, a couple of months ago, seems to have swallowed some sort of toxic liquid on her roof terrace. The kitty stopped eating and was clearly in distress, so my friend didn’t waste any time but took her to the vet clinic where she remained for weeks. We weren’t sure she was going to make it. The vets couldn’t figure out what had caused all these terrible problems, which ranged from mouth and throat ulcers to gastritis. She nearly died…luckily, she didn’t. And yet this is a cat who is let out on my friend’s roof terrace only during the day. But even in that relatively protected space, she managed to injure herself very seriously. The only reason she didn’t die is because she lives with my friend (who, btw, was horrified and devastated by what happened and still cannot figure out what her cat swallowed even after examining every inch of that terrace…). A stray cat, however, one of those “free and happy” cats described in the post, would certainly have died an agonizing death…

Traffic. Someone I used to know kept adopting one cat after another throughout the years. Inside-outside cats. Her garden led down to a terribly busy street that her cats liked to run across. Well, they were all regularly run over and killed. When I adopted my Canadian cat, Keshé, from a cat shelter in Toronto, and kept her indoors, this person told me I was cruel.

Do people really believe that we are cruel not to let our cats go outside?

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the topic of BIRDS (Stefano and I are birdwatchers, whenever possible) and all the creatures that cats, even well-fed indoor-outdoor cats, kill out in the open…

I think I’ve made a good case for keeping cats indoors unless you have a protected catio space or live in the countryside where there are no dangers around (the above-mentioned hunters and predatory animals…Years ago, one of my aunt’s cats was shot and killed by a hunter who had trespassed on her property here in Tuscany)…

But it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Cats are not objects. They are very curious animals…They need to play, run aroundm, climb, interact with their humans, with other cats, etc. In short, they need to be stimulated and entertained. To be honest, it would be easier for me to have indoor-outdoor cats/catio. In that case, all I’d have to do to keep my cats entertained would be to open the door and let them out. Much easier.

Well, I’ll get to the topic “how to entertain a housecat” in another post. This one is already way too long. 😉 

Crawling spiders and Google Search issues

I created my first blog, the health blog, in 2007. My co-administrator/site manager, a fabulous generous person!!!, did most of the truly boring (read: technical) stuff for me, such as setting my blog up with Google Analytics, getting it to be indexed properly by Google, and so on. I never asked her to show me how to do any of that stuff. I thought I’d never need to know.

My blogging assistant…

But now, here I am, years later, with a second blog. This time, I’m going to give all this technical setup stuff a go on my own.

Now, since my blog still doesn’t show up in a Google search, I need to learn how to get my blog “indexed” by Google, a very complicated procedure for someone who barely knows how to turn on the computer and freaks out when her new kitten turns off the sound (how does he do that???), and she can’t figure out what he did and how to undo it…🙂 

At any rate, this morning I did a few (read: many) searches on Google where I found this, er, explanation (?):

For content to show up on Google Search, it has to go through spiders. No, not real spiders, but a program called spider. The spider will start with a link, which it will then crawl through the content. If they see another link embedded in the content, they will crawl it too, and the process repeats. Crawled contents, or web pages, are then stored in Google’s index. When a user made a query, answers are pulled from the index. So in order for your content to show on Google Search, you have to first make sure your website is crawlable by Google’s crawler called Googlebot. Then you have to make sure it’s indexed correctly by the indexer which is called Caffeine. Then only will you see your content or website appearing on Google Search.”

“Crawling spiders”????? Couldn’t Google have come up with something cuter, such as “Purring kittens”? Oh well.

I just installed the Google Analytics plugin, and now I need some, er, Caffeine. Off I go…By the way, if you have any suggestions as to how I can get my blog crawled by Google, I’d be glad to receive ’em! 😉 

The great thing about having a cat blog

Pixie, July 2019

The great thing about having a cat blog is that if you don’t have time to write a post, or don’t feel like writing a post (today, it’s the latter), you can just publish a photo of a cat.

I decided to publish a couple of photos of our Pixie today. I took the first one, on the right, last summer…the second, just a couple of months ago.

Pixie has just turned 3 years old and is one of the sweetest kitties I’ve ever had.

She also does some really funny things, like lie on her back with her paws waving in the air.

Pixie, June 2020

I have heaps of photos of her in this position.

She often falls asleep like this, too, on our bed, paws frozen in one position.

Sweet, adorable Pixie!

Cats like potato chips?????

When I first glanced at this article (see below link to the Fully Feline blog), this is how I read the first sentence:

“Apparently, cats like potato chips.”


Wait, whaaaaaat? Cats LIKE potato chips??? Impossible! I began having visions of feeding potato chip as treats to my cats… 😯

Oh, wait, no, phew, my mistake.

The sentence actually reads as follows: Apparently, cats are LIKE potato chips…In other words, if you have one cat, you must have another, and so on. Okay, that makes total sense (writes a woman who has SEVEN cats…).

And, in fact, the article states that most people have at least two cats…2.4 cats to be exact (a bit scary to imagine what that .4 cat looks like, eh! Just kidding!).

Okay, enough with the silliness…

The “Fully Feline” article tells us about the social behavior of cats and offers some good advice for people who have more than one cat.

Now, since I don’t have much time to write today, I’ll just go ahead and post the link to the article and hope that you’ll find it interesting, too:

Photos and grief

The other day, while looking for older photos of Pavarotta, I found some photos of the cats who are no longer with us. I managed to finish and publish the post…with photos…but…

…simply put, I was overcome by sadness. Grief. All over again.

Piccolo (left) and Puzzola, 2007

It doesn’t matter how many years go by, how many other cats come into your life: you will always grieve for the ones who died. I’ve read that the grief you feel after losing a beloved cat, or a pet in general, is similar to that of losing a close family member. There are many articles online on this topic, including this one:

In the time that Stefano and I have been together, we have lost:

  • Keshé, my Canadian cat, who was with me in grad school and who traveled all the way from Toronto to Italy only to die a few months later (this must have been in 2001) from undiagnosed renal failure. She was only 5 years old. (No digital photos of her, unfortunately.)
  • Puzzola, who died in June of 2014 at the age of 16-17, was the first cat that Stefano and I adopted together after moving into our new home in 2001.
  • Piccolo, my sweet boy, who died a few months later, in September of 2014, at the age of 14.
  • Priscilla, who died at age 14.5 in January 2020. Her death was totally unexpected…hit us like a ton of bricks…

    Priscilla, 2018

I was particularly attached to Piccolo. I just did a search of my health blog to have a look at the post I wrote about Piccolo after he died. (

Oh no, big mistake. Tears began running down my cheeks, and I got very upset (stuffy nose, too!). As time goes by, you may think you’re over the pain, or you can deal with it, but it can come flooding back when a memory pops up or, as in this case, when you read something you wrote about your cat. That’s why Stefano never wants to talk about the kitties that are “gone,” and that’s why he will probably never read this post. Too painful.

I do, however, want to write about this topic at some point. It’s important for people to know that it’s okay to grieve after you lose a beloved pet. And those who don’t have pets have to respect that grief and be supportive.

Whenever one of my cats died, I remember wanting to “share” my grief with some of my closest friends, but they just didn’t understand. They didn’t have pets, and animals were just animals, bluntly put. In the end, I simply hid my pain and pretended that things were okay, even though they weren’t.

But that’s enough for today. I’ll write a happier post tomorrow or the day after…my Peekaboo post! 🙂

Pavarotta, our singing kitty

Pavarotta, September 2017

In April 2014, one of our neighbors here in Florence sold his house and moved to another city in northern Italy, near Venice. He took his dog with him and promised to come back as soon as possible for one of his cats — a female “inside but mostly outside” cat, named la Bionda (or, “the Blonde one”), that had lived with him and his family for her entire life.

I remember la Bionda as a young cat, passing through the neighbors’ gardens, including mine. She would often come over to say hello and be petted. She was usually accompanied by her sister, a less friendly but pretty grey tabby with long limbs and big, beautiful green eyes. Sadly, the sister disappeared early on…who knows what happened to her…I even remember looking around for her back then (incidentally, that’s one BIG reason my cats stay indoors…too many dangers out there, even in the best of neighborhoods…).

Anyway, fast forward to 2014, when la Bionda must have been about ten years old. After our neighbor packed his bags and left, my next-door neighbor and I took turns feeding la Bionda, but I took over 100% when we realized that it would be too dangerous for the kitty because of my neighbor’s non-cat-friendly dogs (another good reason to have indoor cats, don’t you think?).

I became quite taken with her, such a friendly, sweet kitty. Every time I’d go out on the terrace, she’d come running toward me, with her tail straight up in the air, and she’d push against my legs, purring madly. Irresistible.

At the time, I had no reason to believe that my former neighbor wouldn’t return to retrieve his kitty. After all, she’d been with his family cat forever. He couldn’t possibly abandon her, right?

But the summer months went by, and there was no sign of him, no phone calls…nothing. She’d clearly been abandoned. You can imagine the comments we, his neighbors, made about this situation…what a rascal, he should be reported to the authorities, blablabla. In the end, though, as we will soon see, he did us a favor.

The weather began changing. Cooler days and nights…winter was approaching. Stefano and I made up our minds. We already had other four cats, but we couldn’t bear the thought of leaving this lovely kitty out in the cold.

And so, with our entire neighborhood’s approval (we’re all quite close, which is really nice), Stefano and I decided to adopt the little lady. Funny thing: our neighbors bet that she wouldn’t adapt to (only) indoor life, whereas we bet that she would. I’m happy to say that they lost the bet. I would also like to note that if, in the end, she’d been too unhappy about being an inside cat, we were prepared to let her live outside. We do not keep any prisoners in our home!

Anyway, we said we’d give it at least a couple of weeks.

And so, one day, we brought her inside. We had to give her another name that began with a P, to follow our “P” tradition. We have actually changed her name a few times during the years, finally settling on Pavarotta because she is quite vocal…She doesn’t meow, but chirps and sings…so funny.

Until she went to the vet, though, we kept her separate from our other cats, as a precaution, even though she looked extremely healthy. So I slept with her in the guest room.That first night, I barely got a wink of sleep — Pavarotta kept kneading me from head to toe, climbing all over me, and purring and chirping loudly in my ears…

Pavarotta and Pinga, 2017

The happiest kitty in the world. And I was happy that SHE was happy.

The following day we took her to the vet. She was in good health, generally speaking. She just had some minor issues such as ear mites, which are very common in outside cats and also very contagious to other cats. She also had a rather bad case of gingivitis, which the vet told me would probably have killed her if we hadn’t brought her in. Gingivitis is so painful that outdoor cats, stray cats, of course, simply stop eating. And you know what that means…Luckily, Pavarotta’s case had a happy ending. We treated the minor issues, which took about a week, as I recall, and then introduced her to the other cats.  I’ll write a post about introducing new cats to resident cats, even though there are a million blogs and websites that provide heaps of information. My information concerns only my cats, of course…We’ve tried a bunch of strategies…some work, some don’t. But that’s for a future post.

Back to Pavarotta’s story. We soon discovered that she was a miniature Houdini. After we got home from the vet, Stefano took her up to the guestroom, let her out of the cat carrier, and left the room, shutting the door, of course. About 5 minutes later I went upstairs to check on her. The window was open, but the screen was pulled down. Everything looked normal, except…Pavarotta was nowhere to be seen. I looked for her everywhere, under every piece of furniture, but no, she was gone. How???

Pavarotta, 2020

Stefano and I finally discovered that she had somehow managed, using her claws like a knife, to cut through the mosquito netting in a corner of one of the screens, making an L-shaped hole just wide enough for her to get through. Then she had jumped onto the magnolia tree in our front yard, and, from there, reached the street. The L-shaped hole had snapped back into place, so you couldn’t tell there was a hole until you touched it. What a clever kitty!

But I didn’t have time to admire her handiwork, or claw-work. I panicked. I called my neighbors, and we all went around looking for her. But she was gone…I didn’t know if she’d come back again. Very upsetting.

The following morning, though, there she was. Sitting on our back terrace and waiting for me to go out and feed her. I laughed, relieved, picked her up and brought her inside. She hasn’t been outside since. Actually, she hasn’t even tried!

I admit, it wasn’t easy in the beginning. For several days she’d go to the terrace door about once or twice a day and cry to be let out. I would distract her with a good scratching and a cuddle. Evidently, that worked. Now, whenever I open the terrace door, she looks the other way. She knows it’s a tough life out there, and she has become very attached to us. She knows, I hope!, that we will never abandon her…

Okay, time to go fix dinner!!! 🙂

Why now?

Friends have asked me: “a cat blog, Margaret? Why? You write about your cats on your other blog, too, so why start another one?

That’s true. I have written a lot about my life in Tuscany with Stefano and the kitties, and I will continue to do so. 

But recently I began fidgeting a bit, perhaps because I’m staying more at home than I did before March 2020, when Italy went into a full Covid-19-caused lockdown. The lockdown has been over since May 2020, but even now I try to avoid unnecessary outings because of my impaired immune system. Coronavirus, unfortunately, is still alive and well, so we must all be careful…

Pandora (left) kissing her sister Pixie on March 24 2020, during the Italian lockdown

Point is: I’m home a lot, and I have more free time than I had before the pandemic…

Another reason to have a separate blog: I’ve also gotten a bit tired of reading scientific and medical articles for Margaret’s Corner. I’ve done that, happily!, for years (and will continue to do so), and I’m certain that my research has saved my life, but everyone needs a break every once in a while. And what could be better than thinking and writing only about cats for a few minutes a day? 🙂

And now for the most important reason: Potter. Our new kitten, 4 months old today, has inspired me to pick up my pen again (well, okay, to put my fingers back on the keyboard!). I’d almost completely lost my desire to write during the coronavirus pandemic…

Oh, didn’t I just say that I wanted to think and write only about cats? Hah! I will, I will…I just wanted to make a few preliminary comments…

Tomorrow, providing I have the time, I’ll write and post Pavarotta’s story, a story of abandonment, but with a happy ending…