You may have heard or read scandalous stories about humans who have secret lives and second families, but not many cat owners realize that their outdoor cat could be cheating on them. Cameras and microchips are telling the tales that some feline fanciers have known all along—that their cat may be wandering outdoors not simply for a night time stroll, but to visit another family that will give them the food, love, and comfort they receive at home.
Pet owners who have cats that spend part of the time outdoors learn to be low-maintenance about their feline’s habits. These cats may disappear for a day or so at a time, but they may think nothing of it and are told that this is simply how outdoor cats are---they want their freedom. While many cat owners are cautioned to keep their cats indoors so they can avoid being chased by dogs and getting worms, some cats simply won’t stand for being fully domesticated. These are the cats who are most likely to “cheat” or rather, to have another family.
Suspicion may begin with the owner wondering how the cat was fed or where he slept after disappearing for several days, but the real discovery can involve something obvious. One pet owner in New Zealand thought nothing of her cat’s frequent disappearance and return, until he came back with stitches in his neck. While she was thankful that at least there was someone else to care for her cat when he was injured, it was clear that someone else was looking after her cherished cat. The other family was found, and a lively discussion ensued.
A major concern about these two-timing cats is not simply a feeling of betrayal but a concern about medical care. Are these cats being vaccinated or medicated twice? Of course, it is impossible to know until the two “owners” actually meet up, which can happen in inconvenient circumstances. In one case, a person posting for a lost cat in a veterinary office spotted her pet on the lap of someone waiting for an appointment. The confrontation at the vet office must have been a scene worthy of a soap opera. However, not all surprise meetings are acrimonious. In some cases, the pet owners agree on having shared custody of the cat, although they may not agree on one name for it.
The best way to avoid being two-timed by your cat is to make sure your pet is kept indoors. Keeping cats in the house can also protect them from predators and illnesses. If your cat must go out, make sure the neighbors are aware that he or she is your cat. Your pet should always be wearing a collar with a name tag and your contact information. Finally, make sure your pet is spayed or neutered. Males who have been neutered are less interested in going outside in the first place. If you discover your cat is seeing another family, it is possible to work out an amicable arrangement, as long as both families are on the same page regarding feeding and medical treatment.