Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have two tortoiseshell cats named Inari and KitKat. Just over a year ago, I moved in with my fiancé and his family because my parents were moving in with my grandparents and I had to take my cats to his house. About three months ago, the cats were moved into a smaller room across the hall, the lights are off 90 percent of the time and the only time I get to see them is when I go in at night to give them food and fresh water. I feel awful that they are kept in the room all the time with little to no interaction. I love my cats very much and I want what’s best for them. For the past few days I’ve been going back and forth about whether or not I should rehome them. Every time I think about giving them away I start to cry (I’m crying as I write this) and I just feel awful. I would never surrender them to a shelter or anything like that. I just would really appreciate some input on what I should do and what is best for the cats.
Thomas: Jamie, that’s a tough situation you’re in. We have some questions for you that might help you answer your questions about Inari and KitKat’s future.
Bella: First of all, we’re not sure why the cats have to be confined to one room. Are your in-laws allergic to cats? Are Inari and KitKat having litter box issues? Do your in-laws just not like cats?
Tara: Is your living situation a temporary one while you save up money to rent or buy a house, or is it a permanent one–for example, are your in-laws elderly and do they need in-home care?
Thomas: If your living situation is temporary and there’s an end in sight, we think Inari and KitKat will be okay until you and your fiancé find a new home.
Bella: But even if it isn’t temporary, we have some tips on how you can help the cats get more human contact.
Tara: Can you take them into your bedroom when you go to sleep? That way, they’ll get to spend time with you and they’ll be able to take comfort from your presence.
Thomas: Another thing you can do is try to spend more time with them. Sit in their room and read a book or watch TV–just hang out with them and give them a chance to be with you.
Bella: If your current situation is going to be permanent, it would be great if you and your fiancé could talk with your in-laws and allow the cats to spend time in the rest of the house.
Tara: On the other hand, if it’s temporary and there’s an end in sight, just being able to spend a bit more time with them and allow them to sleep with you will help Inari and KitKat feel more like part of your family.
Thomas: If your in-laws are allergic, dusting, cleaning, and vacuuming regularly with a vac that has a HEPA filter can be very helpful to keep the allergens down. Also, an air purifier–again, with a HEPA filter–would be a good idea as well.
Bella: You can make sure the cats don’t go in your in-laws’ bedroom, too. That way they won’t have to deal with the allergens while they’re sleeping. Here are some tips from PetFinder about dealing with allergies to cats.
Tara: If Inari and KitKat are having litter box issues, we have lots of posts (and book recommendations) on the subject, and we’re confident that if you take the advice in those posts and books, you’ll be able to eliminate any problems.
Thomas: Ultimately, we don’t think you’re going to need to rehome your cats for their best interest, as long as you can try to get some more time in with them. Also, make sure they have comfortable beds and places where they can look out the windows–they need some stimulation while you’re not there, after all.
Bella: It’s clear that you love KitKat and Inari, and we hope you can have a talk with your in-laws about letting the cats out of their room.
Tara: We also hope you can manage any behavior or allergy issues that might have you thinking the cats have to be stuck in one room. If your in-laws just don’t like cats, that’s going to be a harder nut to crack!
Thomas: But rest assured, KitKat and Inari love you as much as you love them, and we think you’ll be able to find a way to live together happily.
Bella: What about you other readers? Do you have some advice for Jamie? Do you think she should rehome her cats, or do you think there are other solutions?
Tara: Please share your thoughts in the comments!
I feel for you and your kitties! Would it be possible to somehow attach a catio (if this is a permanent situation) to a window? There are SO many on Pinterest; I’m planning on making a small, off the ground one (they would get to it by going outside a window, and it would be attached to my home, on the side of the house so they don’t touch the ground), just for my cats enjoyment, but this will get your cats out of that room and they can enjoy some fresh air. Best of luck!!
You certainly must spend more time with your kitties. They are your family. I don’t know the circumstances with your boyfriend and his parents but I imagine they allowed you to keep them by keeping them in one room. That would not be so bad if they had lots to keep them busy and you were with them more often. No doubt you need to move somewhere else soon where you and your little family have freedom. Hopefully your boyfriend will be on board with you.
I agree with Christi’s comment that a catio is a good option yet it doesn’t replace human interaction with your cats. Both could be a good solution. A catio can enrich your cats lives by providing access to the stimulation of nature and fresh air. There are many resources available including DIY Catio Plans at CatioSpaces.com or prebuilt kits by other companies available online. A cat door could be installed in a window so they could have 24/7 access while staying safe. If you live in Seattle, I have a client who is upgrading her catio and there is a 6’x8′ catio needing a home (several panels that can be disassembled), if this is of interest. You certainly care about your cats and best wishes in coming up with a solution!
Look at rescues that have temporary fosters where you can visit them. I run a rescue where we have used temporary fostering for people who have gone into a rehabilitation situation such as having a knee replaced or have to leave on an extended trip. Anything you can do to stimulate them is always a good idea. Leave a radio on, especially if the room has no windows. Could you spend a night or two in the room with them?
I do sympathise with your situation – yet I don’t understand several things: why do the lights have to be switched off 90% of the time?? It’s a myth that cats can see in the dark, did you know that?? Also, please try to spend more time with them – surely, even if you’re in full-time work or study, you can spend more time than just at night when you feed them? And what about weekends, when you have a lot more time then?