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Posts: 5
is there anybody out there who could speak to dealing with the guilt of letting your cat go outside and having them be killed? There is such radical differences of opinion on this, and people can be so judgy. we live in a quiet neighborhood, with lots of cats roaming around. Our little guy was nine months old, but so confident, and so eager to explore. We have a cat door, and we decided to keep him in with us at nights. and we made him wear two collars, one with the radio locator, and one with GPS, and we got updates whenever he left the yard. He developed a little circuit around the neighborhood but he was usually only gone for 20 minutes or so at a time, and he spent the rest of his time generally asleep in the house. we were mostly concerned with him getting lost, or maybe hit by a car, but he was killed by some kind of animal, possibly a dog, at 8:30 at night. All the collar got us was what was left of his body. he never even strayed from his territory, a loose dog, or some kind of wild animal – we live in Texas – must have come up from the dry creek bed. I don’t know how we could have expected it. There are other cats who have been wandering around for years, in the same area,. I don’t know why it had to be him.

I am tormented by the guilt that we didn’t protect him. Higgins made sense as an outdoor cat, and he was so very bold and energetic. And I guess that’s part of what got him killed, maybe he didn’t recognize danger fast enough. I don’t know if he would have been happy inside, how can you know if thing like that? the only way we could’ve prevented it was to not let him go outside, ever. And I am absolutely sure that we made our decision to let him go outside because we wanted him to have the best life you could. But I feel so so guilty .

Posts: 22
I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve always struggled with the indoor/outdoor debate as I truly believe that indoor-only cats often deal with boredom and an increase in stress-related illnesses (obesity and FLUTD for example). My recently deceased cat, Scooter, lived for his outside time. Of course, going outdoors is dangerous in its own ways. In certain other countries (the UK for one), indoor/outdoor cats are the norm. And they seem to face fewer dangers than cats allowed outside in the US. This is my long-winded way of saying that I understand why you let your cat outside and I would never judge you for it. My husband and I lost a cat 10 years ago from a coyote attack. We also lost a stray that we were trying to bring inside (probably from the same damn coyote). The pain and guilt we felt was immeasurable. When we lost Mimi (who was 14 and as innocent as can be), I wanted to lie down in the desert and die as I didn’t think I could live with myself. I couldn’t stop imagining her last moments.

I want you to know that the pain eventually lessened. In memory of Mimi (and poor Nemo, R.I.P.), we adopted another cat, Tigger, from a high-kill shelter. He is still going strong, although he only goes outside in his fenced-in “catio” or in the yard if we can supervise him. But it helped our grief that we were able to give him a chance to live. Getting a new cat isn’t for everyone, but that’s just how we dealt with our loss.

The most important thing is - you are NOT a bad person for wanting your kitty to live a full and interesting life. Maybe you would make a different choice knowing what you do know. But it’s not fair to judge your past self based off your present knowledge.

Please know that you are not alone. ((((Hugs)))))

Posts: 5
That helps. Thank you.

Posts: 12
Hello Liza

I've been struggling with the same thing over the last 7-8 months. My cat told me quite clearly that he wanted to go outside and to have his own territory and to get into the odd fight and to smell all of the strange smells out there. Just to be a cat and not a prisoner. He was terribly unhappy on the occasions when I kept him inside at dusk or dawn.

On the other hand, if I'd been stronger about it, he would still be alive today, and I would have avoided all of the grief of the last 228 days.

I waver between castigating myself for being a bad owner and telling myself that I was just allowing him to be a natural cat doing all the things that cats do.

It does come down to bad luck as well. You were unfortunate to lose Higgins at such a young age. My cat was 13 years old when he died, but it could easily have happened years earlier.

I am sorry about Higgins.


Posts: 5
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. The indoor/outdoor debate is so hard: I've been thinking about it constantly. It's about risk assessment, our perception of what cats are all about, and ultimately maybe the meaning of life: how valuable is adventure, weighed against risk? I am confident that we treated Higgins's life as valuable, and you did the same for your cat. I am guilty of misjudging the risks, but is that so terrible? I think that Scooter2's idea about judging our past selves from the present is really helpful. 

I want absolution, that I want to be sure that it was worth it to Higgins, to KNOW that he wouldn't have been just as happy inside. So that it's not my fault he's dead. My husband thinks, or is pretending to think,  that we made the right decision regardless, that you have to let a cat be a cat. But he wouldn't have an outdoor cat if we lived on a busy road, and I doubt he'd really refuse to take a cat in on the grounds that an indoor cat's life isn't worth living. Of course it is. So again, it's just a judgement call, and outdoor is I think the more dangerous choice given that you have to live with the consequences if you are wrong or unlucky. 

But of course I didn't really think I'd have to face the consequences, or that Higgins would. I felt like we did what we could to protect him, and then trusted to fate. Optimism I suppose. Or lack of understanding about how coyotes and hawks work. If he had been killed by a car I'd be damning myself for not researching enough how cats learn to cross the road! My father-in-law is a Vietnam vet, and he has somehow learned to accept that 6 men went on a mission and only 2 came back. I don't really understand how anyone can really process that. How do I accept that Higgins could have been hit by a car on his first day out, or lived for 20 years, and neither result is my fault, beyond the initial decision to let him live his best cat life/gamble with his life, depending on how you look at it? You and I did not make the outdoor decision lightly. Letting Higgins go outside was stressful and I worried every day. I'm sure you did too.

Part of me even thinks, well, the cat door was open, it's HIS fault, he should have been more careful. He was too young, too cocky. Perhaps if he'd escaped this encounter at 1 year old he WOULD have lived to 20, because he would have learned. Instead, he's like a teenager driving too fast for conditions (like me)--the first time I spun out from going too fast in the rain it scared me to death and I slowed way down. But if I'd hit a tree and been killed? There's absolutely no reason that didn't happen instead. 6 men go out, 2 come back, I guess. I don't know.

I read somewhere that guilt is a defense mechanism, that you blame yourself for the capriciousness of the universe so you don't have to think about how random and scary the world is and how little control you have over it. I haven't found any comfort in the knowledge that cats, and dogs, and squirrels, and baby birds, and baby EVERYTHING dies constantly, that it's how the world works. We tried to protect our cats from that world. But we also let them make their own (uninformed, cat-brain) decision instead of making it for them. And nature--even if it had been a car or a person that killed your cat--dangerous nature killed them because the world is dangerous.

Maybe we were irresponsible or just wrong. Maybe I didn't have the right to put his life in danger. But sometimes kittens just die, indoors too, because nature. And our neighborhood is full of feral cats who didn't get eaten by whatever killed Higgins. so, chance, again. We do what we can to make the world a kinder place, and to protect our animals from it. I am trying to get to a place where I can be glad I knew Higgins, and that we gave him a home and he was happy with us.  Every time I think of him it's so so sad, still, but maybe that place exists and if it does I really hope you get there too. 

Posts: 5
Thank you for your post and to all the others here who have shared their anguish over losing a beloved pet to a violent death outdoors. My beloved cat was killed two weeks ago by a coyote and I am in anguish much of the time. I know he wanted to be free to be in the fresh air, to proudly bring home his mice and rats, to climb the tress, to sleep,in the grass, to stretch out on the cool stones of our patio on a hot day. And yet he died too young. Snatched in the dark of night. I received comfort from the book Pawprints In Heaven. I pray that Camillo will come to me in a dream and let me know he is happy and at peace, it is hard to find people who understand the pain of this loss. I have never had children. Camillo was the closest I felt to being a Mom. Even kind sensitive friends seem to not understand the depth of loss I feel. If it was a person I lost they would. How long does the anguish continue? When do you know you can love a pet again? A friend told me tonight to get a kitty soon that it will help the grieving. I’m not sure. Thank you for listening.
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