ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: I have two cats, 10 months old. We have recently let them go outside. A few days ago, another cat showed up in our garden. I took my cats inside as I was afraid they were going to fight. They kept hissing at each other through the window. When I went outside to shoo the new cat away, she turned out to be very friendly. Should I let my cats outside and see what happens?
Dr. Nichol: Your fuzzy visitor knows the difference between a kindly human and a couple of scaredy cats holed up behind a window. She has you on her A-list, but she regards your kitties as low-end competitors. She’d have them for lunch.
Indoor cats lead sheltered lives, protected from cars, dogs and infectious diseases, not to mention real-life lessons in neighbor relations. Unlike their free-roaming adversary, your two cats have limited knowledge and experience in feline street talk. They just don’t understand how to handle themselves around strangers from other yards and cultures.
Your cats are also easily frightened; they feel trapped by the windows and walls of their bunker. With no escape route, they’ve become defensive-aggressive. With the local floozy talking smack at them, your two will always associate hostility with the sight of her. I don’t see a quilting bee in their future.
You can shift your cats’ attitudes from dread to disdain by covering the lower portions of your windows and glass door with window film. When your cats are on the floor they won’t have to look at their next-door nemesis. If you locate a floor-to-ceiling cat tree against a window, they’ll put on airs while looking down on that vagrant. I know this sounds classist, but cats are happier when they believe they control the world than when they’re cowering in a fish tank.
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Do your pets crack under holiday pressure? You can ask me anything or just listen in during my Facebook Live event, called “Pet Angst: Naughty or Nice?” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19. Go to Facebook.com/drjeffnichol. Invite your friends. Together, we’ll reach peace on Earth.
Each week, Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109.