Every once in a while, a topic comes up that is so polarizing, such a detriment to our Constitutional Rights, or such a threat to the Town budget that it elicits hundreds of heated exchanges on The Patch for poor Andy to proofread.   Recently one has come up, that I feel it deserves it’s own place on The Patch, so I thought I’d get the old hair ball rolling and create this blog about cats.  But not just about cats and how they meow and purr, or what they do when we’re asleep, but specifically how we care for cats and by extension, what we feel our responsibilities are as pet owners for our pets and our community.


In full disclosure, I’m not a “cat person.”  I’m more of a “dog person,” but this can include everyone, equestrians and goat herders, snake charmers and bird watchers alike.  What I’d like to discuss is what people think about pet owners who allow their cats to wander about unsupervised, basically, open the screen door and “there ya go Fluffy, have a nice day.  See you when you get back tonight” kind of people.  And maybe you’re that type of pet owner? 


Before you chime in, I’d like you to consider some information I garnered from several sources including the MSPCA, ASPCA, Angel Memorial, amongst others:

Did you know that outdoor cats live less than indoor cats?  That letting your cat wander around is actually bad for it’s health?  In fact it can cut your cat’s lifespan almost 70%.


I’m sure you knew your cat was a great hunter.  They probably left you many a “gift” at your doorstep, but did you ever consider that this is detrimental to the environment?   For every mouse or chipmunk Felix tears to shreds, that’s an owl, a hawk, a fox that doesn’t have a meal.  Too many Felines roaming the neighborhood and that’s a lot of hungry wildlife.


Even though your little Whiskers is a great hunter, while out, he is also on the menu.  Coyotes, fox, even hawks can kill your pet and since Westford is replete with acres of conservation land we have everything from bears to beaver out there, so there’s a risk they could be on the menu. 


Then of course there are the dangers of being hit by a car, but even worse, say a driver swerves to avoid your cat and causes an accident? 


Then there is the matter of worrying about your neighborhood standing.  Your neighbors may not appreciate your cat roaming through their yard.  Not everyone is a pet lover so as a good neighbor maybe keeping your pets contained may prevent any built up animosity?  What’s that old saying…”Fences make the best neighbors?”


Finally, one has to weigh how a break down in civility can cause a lack of freedom.  I don’t know if the rest of you can remember this, but I can remember back when you could pull into a gas station, fill up, and then after filling up, go inside and pay the attendant what you pumped.  But then people began driving off and stealing the gas, so now all of us have to prepay at the pump or in the booth.  Government is no different.  If there’s a problem, the government tries to solve for it and usually when the government comes to solve for something it’s never for free and it usually ends up limiting our freedom. 


So, now that you’ve read all of this info. What is your opinion about pet owners who allow their pets to roam Westford?  And if you are one of those owners, are you planning to change, or are you going to shoot the messenger?  It’s OK.  I’m a big boy.  I can take it.  Just keep it clean because otherwise, I’ll never get to see your post before Andy removes it for violating terms of use.

ehlaser January 10, 2014 at 05:13 PM
I keep all 3 of my cats indoor at all times for the reasons cited. However, is the fact that the author is a "dog person" the reason why there is no mention here of dogs being left to roam unsupervised, getting hit by cars, and annoying the neighbors?
KarenL January 10, 2014 at 09:14 PM
There are quite number of, TRULY feral, cats in my yard. Bobcats...saw one just now, about 35lbs, cruising around the front yard. They hiding places on the edges here and train their kittens to hunt bunnies in my backyard. Have a hissy fit about loose house cats all you want...there will still be roaming cats in Westford ;). And, no, I'm not going to keep them inside, thank you.
Vincent DiRico January 11, 2014 at 01:06 PM
Is it due to him being a "dog person"? ---> Even worse. There was a plea to help find a lost cat. He chimed in that: he knew the cat, the cat is mangy, the owner was irresponsible and all owners of indoor/outdoor cats are irresponsible, ... THEN admitted he had no clue some folks kept indoor/outdoor cats. ---> I called him on it. He could not admit his foolishness and continues to TRY to justify his lecturing a cat owner looking for help. ---> I like to say he wages a "war on indoor/outdoor cats", now he clings to the "experts" thoughts on the matter as if we are all supposed to march in lock step with the "experts". Not very Libertarian in my eyes BUT better than admitting he was WRONG. priceless!
Steven Sadowski January 11, 2014 at 01:52 PM
Ehlaser: The fact I'm a dog person was not why I omitted dogs from the article. I agree dogs getting out can be twice as bad as cats. It's just that we have a leash law here in Westford and if a dog is off leash, there are fines set up to punish irresponsible dog owners vis a vis citations. There are no such citation for cats. The worst that will happen is that the irresponsible cats owners will be asked to pay for costs incurred by the town. And I thank you for being a responsible owner with your cats. Keep up the good work! When I had my dog, we had a dog fence that kept her in my yard, and if she started to bark we brought her in so as not to annoy the neighbors. Happy to know a fellow citizen who tries to be a good neighbor.
Steven Sadowski January 11, 2014 at 02:00 PM
KarenL: Maybe I'm reading your post wrong but are saying feral cats are bobcats? Just to be clear, feral cats are not bobcats. Feral cats are cats that have either been born in the wild, or been outside so long they have reverted to a wild state. Bobcats are their own species. They are in the feline family, but they are a whole different animal. Very very dangerous. If you have Bobcats in your yard I recommend calling AC....####... "Yes" I realize that no matter how many PSA's go out about not texting and driving, people still text and drive. No matter how many times people are told cigarettes cause cancer, people still smoke, so I'm aware that no matter how much evidence I can relay from experts in the field, people will still do what they are going to do with their cats.
Steven Sadowski January 11, 2014 at 02:11 PM
Vincent: Hey welcome aboard and congratulations on not getting your post removed! The facts: I do know Rocky. His old owners used to go on vacation and leave Rocky to wander the neighborhoods, which is probably how Mike became the new owner. I am glad, and have mentioned this several times, that I hope Mike and Rocky hit it off and have many great years together. But it was during this period (old owners to Mike) where I knew Rocky, and during that time he was mangy, dirty, no tags/collar, and I'm glad the 1st thing Mike did was take him to a vet. He needed it....###...Having an outdoor cat is not irresponsible if the cat is in a controlled and safe environment. What's irresponsible is if an owner just lets the cat out to wander Westford (for the reasons mentioned)...###...I don't cling to experts, but one cannot be an expert in all things. This is why plumbers, doctors and lawyers exist. When you don't know how to wire your generator to your subpanel you better call an electrician or you'll burn your house down. I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were a veterinarian. I didn't realize you owned several shelters where you take in all kinds of strays and lost cats, give them medical attention and then try to find them suitable owners. I didn't realize you have several peer reviewed papers on the subject. Where are those so we can all be informed?
Westford Insider January 11, 2014 at 02:45 PM
Vinny supports mangy cats more than hardworking police and furefighterts in town. Priceless
Sam January 11, 2014 at 02:54 PM
Thank God WI and others are starting their town employees disrespect thingy. I was beginning to get bored. I can't wait for Steven to run for the BOS this year. There are two openings and I believe he almost through his hat in last time. How he will take on the pressing issue of outdoor cats in front of The League of Women Voters will be priceless.
Sam January 11, 2014 at 02:59 PM
I am pretty sure KarenL had a wee bit of sarcasm in her comments. Karen, please welcome the ......... :)
Steven Sadowski January 11, 2014 at 03:40 PM
Sam: I'm currently on the Tax Possession and Sales Committee and the Town is forming a new committee to deal with hunting on public land and I threw my hat in to serve on that one, so right now my plate is full volunteering for the town, but after my term is up on TPSC in 2 years, I'll run for School Committee and, voters willing, serve there and then give the BoS another shot. However, I hear Jim Jarvie is going to give the BoS a shot again, so by all means, give him your support.
Cori Ryan January 11, 2014 at 03:41 PM
I may have missed a chapter in the Rocky series, but was Rocky found?
Steven Sadowski January 11, 2014 at 04:00 PM
Cori: Rocky used to belong to a family that just let him wander the Cold Spring/Pine Ridge section of town. They were known to go on vacations and let him to his own devices, everyone knew his name, and felt bad for the cat, but to Rocky's credit, that cat had 9 lives and was able to survive the winters and storms, and fed on rodents and such for food. But then I stopped seeing Rocky. I just figured he became Coyote food. Then one day perusing the Patch I see Rocky and I'm like, "I know this cat!" So I let it be known it was dirty and needed care, needed supervision and a real home. Turns out Rocky was adopted by someone else in the neighborhood, who took him in, got him to a vet and tried to make him be an indoor cat until Rocky busted out where he got "lost"....again. Rocky got found and returned to the new adopted owner and so far so good, but all indications are he is back to being an indoor/outdoor cat. During the exposition of all this, several people who also just let their cats roam about felt defensive, shall we say at the least, and here we are, with tons of inside jokes, jabs and back and forth. Vincent & Co. feel I'm and insensitive jerk for calling pet owners who allow their cats to wander Westford irresponsible (for the reasons outlined in the article), and I find it funny that the same people who are constantly calling for accountability, respect, conservative ideals of self-relaince and discipline, are the very same people saying, "Hey stop calling me irresponsible when I act in contradiction to what the experts say." And so here we are. Welcome to the partaaaaay.
Westford Insider January 11, 2014 at 04:10 PM
Anyone is better on school committee then David Keele, I think even with the lofty privitize schools dream many would vote SS over DK. Maybe every teacher who gets an exemplary rating gets a free stray cat
Vincent DiRico January 11, 2014 at 04:30 PM
Papers vs common sense when it comes to cats, you choose ;) Many who write papers don't have a lick of common sense. ---> The thread on Rocky is easy to look up. It went like this: hello this is Steve your 911 operator, what is your emergency? Hi, I'm Mrs XXX, my bed is on fire, my husband was smoking in bed. Steve: I know your husband, I met him at the market, he is mangy. Don't you know smoking in bed is dangerous? Do you know how many fires are started each year due to smoking in bed? No?, I have some cool links to some charts, papers, ... I will send you, then maybe you will listen to me the expert. Mrs XXX: please send help. Line goes dead.
Steven Sadowski January 11, 2014 at 09:29 PM
Vincent: Nice try, but analogies are not your strong suit. So your spouse's bed is on fire and your first reaction is to call 911? Yeah, OK. You can make 100 poor Vincent analogies that are just as bad. Let's see if I can form a Vincent analogy...."Hi this is 911, what is your emergency? My kid is drowning in our pool. Send somebody over, quick!" Ha. Maybe papers trumps common sense? Education, get some.
Vincent DiRico January 11, 2014 at 09:51 PM
Others have smelled something rotten in your motive and commented on it. Education has its place but at some point you have to start producing. Get some ;)
Steven Sadowski January 11, 2014 at 11:44 PM
I agree. But what does production have to do with me, or more accurately, what does production not have to do with me? I didn't realize you got a copy of my taxes.
KarenL January 12, 2014 at 05:38 PM
Yes, Sam is correct, there was some sarcasm there :). Feral means "wild", so referring to my bob cat friends as feral cats is fair...though I am certainly familiar with the term as you are using it, Steve. A feral cat is a domestic cat breed that was born, or has become wild. Not the same thing as a free roaming, pet cat with a home. And,yes, these are really bob cats and they are not worrying me at all they keep their distance and cause us no trouble...my dogs don't go out unsupervised and we have no small pets or livestock. Sure, Meg knows they are here, because I sent her cute kitten pictures...not because I think they are a dangerous to us, because they aren't as as long as we leave them alone. The bob cats and coyotes are keeping the rabbit population under control...they are welcome to hang out.
Steven Sadowski January 12, 2014 at 08:11 PM
Karen: Great. Just so long we are aligned. Who's "Meg?"
Vincent DiRico January 12, 2014 at 09:00 PM
The guy who passed you my college transcripts also passed me your taxes. ---> Now Karen can define and understands "feral", she didn't have to rely on Oxford, the "papers", ... and still get it wrong. Priceless! ---> My analogy is spot on, a neighbor asked for help and got a lecture. Priceless!
D.B. January 12, 2014 at 09:19 PM
I believe she is referring to our Animal Control Officer Meg Mizzoni
Steven Sadowski January 13, 2014 at 09:24 AM
Wow! 2 priceless-es in one response. You spoil me Vincent.


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