An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Big Backyard. Indoors or Out: Part 1

I've been exhausted from my appearance in the Edmonton Journal. Calls from old friends and e-mails from new admirers means that my holiday card list will be expanding. But enough about my fame! As the weather changes from that terrible snowstorm to a bearable fall to rainy weather and now back to the possibility of snow just in time for Halloween, I want to deal with the issue of going outdoors.

I'll begin with my credentials related to outdoor experience. I am on the third of my nine lives. The first was as an indoor-only cat and that was fine by me as I knew no other way of being. But after my second, I wandered the streets for about a month until Herself greeted me as I lay on an icy sidewalk in December of 2002. With a sense of sympatico, I rose on my paws and followed her as she opened her front door, letting myself in, willing her to feed me, and then refusing to leave. It was a good decision.

While I enjoy outdoor adventure, I wouldn't wish a stray life on anyone -- even that bushy-haired (admittedly handsome) busybody who hangs out by my gate just to taunt me! Being on your own can be anxiety-provoking --  full of growlers who want to sniff and pounce, big-eyed metal monsters that can knock you flat, not to mention competitors for whatever water and food may be about. It is difficult to find a spot that is secure and warm enough to be able to relax and sleep, especially in the Canadian north.

But there is a good side as well: lots of changes in air and light to make it interesting, animal life with which to practice my hunting skills. In short, it kept me on my paw points -- sharp, strategic and shapely, benefits of which I was not about to let go lightly.

Fortunately my purr-sons had been properly trained in the importance of outdoor ventures by the previous feline residents. I recall long discussions over cold winter nights about building a cat enclosure off the back deck just like my confidant, Kahlua, has. She is a magnificent chocolate-point Siamese with piercing blue eyes and has three outdoor enclosures (though she has to share them with several other cats). They are accessed from cat doors installed in windows at various points in her residence. Each is constructed of small-holed lattice and roofed; from the outside each looks like a high-end gazebo. And the inside is paradise: a variety of shelves on which to perch, with ramp access, fresh grass to roll in, and best of all -- the ever-changing microclimate of breeze and light.  Being a role model for many of the younger felines of her household takes its toll; so Kahlua enjoys the break offered by a safe trip outdoors.

As for me, I got lucky too -- but in a different way. Herself was in favour of such an enclosure and proposed having it installed off the back deck and accessed through the cat flap in the patio door. Himself put his foot down! He couldn't bear being separated from me when he was outside working in the vegetable garden. So he countered with the suggestion of a cat fence around the perimeter of the backyard, to keep me safely inside and all other cats out. They had to install a regular fence first and then add the cat fence on top. It's a bit complicated to explain but you can see it at

I am thrilled to have a cat-free backyard (free from other cats, that is). However I am unable to escape; I was successful at first until they got wise to the two gaps under the fence from which I ventured. Now large rocks are in place that prevent me from leaving!

So what's good about it? I have complete access to a large backyard with several gardens and bushes. There is vole TV between the slats of the compost boxes, aerobics with the birds who stop by to visit the apple trees, and assorted bug and worm life to monitor. I can hide under the junipers and watch the action unseen or make myself known by perching on the deck railing. Thanks to He Who Adores Me, I have the backyard to myself. In return, I supervise the vegetable plantings and I'm particularly vigilant when the soil is freshly tilled, when it is so inviting that I just have to christen it.

Yes, I do go out in the winter and hunker down under the bench once Himself sweeps the snow off the deck. On sunny days I perch on the deck railing, once it has been swept clean. I supervise snow shovelling and look for opportunities to escape out the gate when Himself is trekking out to clean the front walk -- but that's another story.

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