June 27, 2012

Helicopter pet owners?

Since people treat their pets a lot like their own children, have they started to confine their animals indoors all the time too? I walk all over several neighborhoods in a typical week, and I almost never see the critters out anymore -- unsupervised, I mean. There's the occasional yip-yip dog on the other side of a fence, but even that's pretty rare these days.

People hover over their dogs a whole lot more than before, and not just walking them around to do their business. Even if it's just out in the yard, the owner feels compelled to be there, and right over them too, not merely keeping an eye on them from a distance and letting them do their own thing.

You see the same behavior at dog parks as you do at kid parks, with the owner or parent hovering over the pet or kid the whole time. And no dogs or kids can approach each other without the owners also approaching each other, just to make sure they check out. Such an abysmal lack of trust where one dog can't just go over and sniff another dog's butt without a chaperon.

Cats should be even more out and about, and I see them only rarely. My cats when I was little used to roam all over. One really fat one preferred to flop right on the sidewalk all day long. Once the animal rescue people picked him up because they thought he'd landed there after getting hit by a car. Another cat actually did get killed by a car, although at the time our parents didn't have the heart to tell us and said she had run away.

I can't remember the last time I saw a cat outside dodging traffic... or even having to get rescued down out of a tree. That used to be such a cliche, right? Last time I had to climb a tree to get a cat down was sometime in the mid-'90s. I guess if children aren't allowed outside to climb trees, neither are cats.

What made me really wonder about this is that I passed a cat on the way home tonight a little before midnight, and it was really affectionate. Almost aggressive in rubbing the side of her mouth on my knuckles, sometimes trying to stand herself on my knee when I was crouched down, and so on. One good turn deserves another, so when I got home I mashed up some sardines for her, and headed back (just a couple minutes away).

By then she'd gone up to rest on a bench that stood on someone's porch, so I figured that was her owner, and felt relieved that she had a home. She didn't wolf down the sardines as though she had been starving, so someone has been feeding her, or perhaps she's a good hunter and scavenger. Anyway, on the way home I thought how little sense it made to see her outside so late at night, when just about everyone keeps their pets indoors all day, especially at night, or only allows them out with supervision. She probably was an alley cat after all. Sometimes a pattern doesn't jump out until you see an apparent exception.

Too bad my landlord doesn't allow pets. She'd definitely make an eager and appreciative lap cat, and those are hard to find. I decided to call her Seenie, after the Senior Center I found her in front of. Maybe Seenie Sardini if she takes to me feeding her.


  1. What are cats' nighttime habits? They're mostly nocturnal, I know, but ours prefers to be out during the day, with the night being a mixed bag. She just comes and goes as she pleases

    She was one of two cats, but our other one ran away very quickly after we got them and despite being neutered.

    The bad side of being lax. Adults seem to love their animals so much more nowadays than when I was a kid that losing one like we did would be intolerable to them.

    One of my daughters named the cats and the one who ran off was "George Washington". After he left, she referred to him as "Benedict Arnold" :)

  2. How would your landlord know? It's not like they bark! ;)

  3. That's so sweet (about the cat).

  4. The radio veterinarian at the local CBC station admitted recently that indoor cats show much higher stress levels than outdoor cats (measuring cortisol, etc.), but she still recommended keeping cats indoors. Quantity of life over quality of life, I guess.


You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."