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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Can I put my new adopted kitten (from a shelter) in an outdoor kennel? It will be very spacious and roomy, it will have a cathouse that will protect against extreme hot or cold temperatures, it will have food, water, toys, and the kitten will recieve lots of attention. I may also take it out for walks to let it get more exercise. I cannot bring the kitten inside the house due to severe allergies that others have, but it will be treated the best way possible outside. Please help, I really want this kitten.

~ Mark

Siouxsie: To be honest, Mark, I was totally flabbergasted when I first read your letter! But Mama calmed me down and reminded me that we’re here to help, not to hiss and spit.

Thomas: Now that the fur on Siouxsie’s back has smoothed out again and her tail isn’t lashing back and forth anymore, we’re going to get on with our answer.

Dahlia: We understand how easy it is to fall in love with a kitten. After all, what’s not to love about our cute, big eyes and our darling, squeaky mews. And then that little motorboat purr just wins you over.

Siouxsie: But you’re in a difficult situation, Mark. You’ve fallen in love with a kitten, and yet it doesn’t seem you can have a cat indoors because of your housemates’ allergies.

Thomas: Keeping your cat outdoors — no matter how much love and attention she’ll get — is really not an appropriate solution.

Dahlia: Cats are social creatures, no matter what some ill-informed humans think. And we need to be able to spend time with, and bond with, the humans we’ve adopted.

Siousxie: This is especially true for “only cats.”

Thomas: Because there are three of us cats here at Paws and Effect HQ, we can spend time together and play when we want, and we can keep each other company while Mama’s away hunting green papers. But an only cat doesn’t have another friend around, and can get very lonely.

Dahlia: Loneliness and boredom can lead to behavior problems like excessive scratching, calling, compulsive grooming, and sometimes even aggressiveness. You don’t want to adopt a kitten and then put her in an environment where she won’t be happy.

Siouxsie: Keeping your cat outside only puts her at risk of getting a bad case of fleas — which will cause tapeworms — or being bitten by mosquitoes that are a vector for disease.

Thomas: If your kitten is trapped in a kennel and she’s threatened or attacked by another animal, she won’t have any place to go and may be severely traumatized, both physically and emotionally.

Dahlia: Another reason it’s important for you to be able to be with her indoors is that you’ll be able to regularly observe her behavior and eating/drinking habits, you’ll be able to detect health problems before they get to be a major issue.

Siouxsie: “So, what’s a man smitten with a kitten to do?” you may ask. Well, there are a few options, depending on how severe your housemates’ allergies are.

cat in outdoor enclosure. image courtesy of PAWS

A cat enjoys some safe outdoor time in his enclosure. Image courtesy of PAWS

Thomas: Our first recommendation would be that you keep the cat in your bedroom. You can give her an outdoor area, and in fact you can even give her access to that area through your bedroom window so she can be in or out as she pleases. The animal welfare organization PAWS has a page on its website with links to some commercially available outdoor enclosures.

Dahlia: If you have any DIY skills, we imagine you could make something similar for a lot less money. Here’s one set of instructions for an outdoor cat enclosure built entirely from materials available at home supply stores.

Siouxsie: Hardware cloth nailed to a balcony with either an open door or a cat door is another good outdoor-enclosure-with-indoor-access solution.

Thomas: Once you’ve got the outdoor enclosure sorted out, you need to keep the indoor allergens under control. Vacuum your room frequently using a cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter. You should also get an air purifier — again, a model with a HEPA filter.

Dahlia: The HEPA filters will trap the tiny particles that cause allergy attacks. In the case of cats, the most common allergen is a protein called Fel d 1, which is found in cat saliva.

Siouxsie: There are some purebred cats that are said to be “low-allergy” breeds because their saliva has less of that Fel d 1 protein, but even these cats can cause allergies in very sensitive people.

Thomas: Of course, if your housemates’ allergies so severe that they develop life-threatening asthma attacks or the like, you may not be able to bring this kitten home at all.

Dahlia: In the long run, it will be best for the kitten if you’re able to let her come inside. If you can’t do that, please wait to adopt a cat until you’re in a living situation where you don’t have highly allergic roommates.