Charlie stayed indoors for a few weeks while we decided what to do. We had never suspected that our cat would have issues with a neighbour cat and it was difficult to imagine how Charlie could continue to live on the same street as the Tabby. The best thing we could do was to keep the cats apart. How are we going to manage that, I thought, when they are our next door neighbours?
In need of some advice, I wrote to Cats Protection to ask if they had any experience of this situation. They immediately recognised the difficulty we were facing and referred us to their cat behaviourist. The behaviourist offered some great advice about playtime and food enrichment activities to take up some of Charlie’s excess energy in case this might help him to lose interest in the Tabby outdoors.
DIY feeding enrichment
I started by taking an egg box and putting some of Charlie’s normal biscuits in. This worked well until I stepped up the difficulty level by putting some scrunched up newspaper on top. I stopped this when I caught Charlie eating the newspaper. You can also make some great treat dispensers using toilet rolls! There are plenty of instructional videos on YouTube.
Catit senses food tree
This is one of the most successful feeders we bought for Charlie as it’s better for low attention span cats. If anything it is possibly a little too easy for him.
This toy works much better for Socks as Charlie doesn’t seem to have the patience to figure it out. He just sits next to it waiting for Socks to hit treats towards him.
The behaviourist stated that Charlie’s behaviour was unlikely to change and that a timeshare or garden-proofing option would be the best way forward. A big part of me was hoping the behaviourist would say that this was all due to his hormones being all over the place since he was neutered and that he would settle down eventually. To hear that he would never change was a big blow. Eventually though, I had to agree with the cat behaviourist. The two options were a time share or keeping them in the garden.
I discussed the option of a timeshare with my neighbours. I found out that their cat doesn’t really have a routine and comes and goes at different times each day. As I didn’t want to let my cats out at night, this would mean they might have limited time slots outside each day. I wasn’t sure if it that was fair on the cats or how it would work.
We then did some investigations into garden proofing to prevent the cats from leaving the garden. My boyfriend was not keen on the look of it at all and we estimated that some of the most expensive options would cost around £2000. I put out a plea on FaceBook to ask if anyone else in the area had a cat-proofed garden. I had a response from a lady who did and was happy to let me come over and have a look. She had used a company called ‘Protectapet’ and she was very pleased with the results.
When we left her house, I had made up my mind that this was the best solution. My boyfriend, however, felt that it was a terrible idea, too expensive and looked like a prison. I could see his point, especially as we only have a small garden. Would it be fair to only allow them to roam such a small area? He also mentioned that other cats could become entrapped in said prison, becoming ‘bait’ for Charlie.
At this stage my thoughts started to turn towards whether we were the right owners for Charlie. One morning, I cried all the way to work at the thought of sending him back. I had only just changed jobs and I felt like I was portraying myself as an emotional wreck. I tried to compose myself in a supermarket loo only to then receive an email with more advice from the charity and start crying again. I thought about all the other types of homes he might end up in. A farmyard where he could go wherever he wanted without bumping into another cat. That would be the dream. But isn’t that what anyone would like for their cat? Or maybe he would end up at a home that didn’t care he was territorial and he would end up getting severely wounded all his life.
That evening, when I got home I told my boyfriend that I didn’t think we could find a solution or give him the life he deserved in this house. I thought he should be re-homed in a rural environment where he can roam without getting injured. I didn’t think Socks would miss him either. She is pretty ruthless in a cat-like way. I was absolutely heartbroken at the thought of taking Charlie back, but I thought it was the fairest thing to do. My boyfriend looked absolutely horrified. “We can’t get rid of him. Look at him. How likely is it that we’d find another cat as nice as him?”
I looked at Charlie, who at this point was lying stretched out on the sofa, oblivious to the discussion around his fate. He is such a lovely cat indoors. He has never swiped or hissed at us, even at the start. He is also incredibly lazy and hardly moves off the garden fence when he goes outside. I decided we would try to make things work… somehow.
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