Lungo’s Tale

The note in my email box began like many others: “We are missing our cat, Lungo. Last time he was home was Tuesday, April 17. Midland and James area. He is an indoor/outdoor big cat. He’s neutered and vaccinated. We miss him a lot.”

Attached were three photographs of a beautiful, plump grey tabby that appeared to have been very well-cared for. I posted the story here.

That same day, April 22, I found this in my mail box about two hours after I posted the article:

I found a cat that meets this description late at night on April 18 with a serious bite wound on his face that was left untreated for at least a week, if not longer. He received veterinary treatment at my expense. The wound had started to abscess, but luckily we were able to avoid putting in a drain and he is on antibiotics and being quarantined for rabies exposure, as it appears to be a bite from a raccoon. He tested positive for FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), a highly contagious disease amongst cats, and therefore, should not be outside. We would be happy to reunite him with his family with proof of ownership in the form of past veterinary records since he did not have a tag or microchip. He is a great cat and I hope you will consider keeping him inside to so he stays safe, sound and injury-free.

I immediately contacted the owner and put her in touch with the person who found Lungo. The owner was thrilled to say the least that this could be her cat and copied me on her email to the finder:

He was a stray who ‘adopted’ us as his family almost three years ago and became our beloved cat. He was very territorial and a wanderer, so we neutered him hoping he would calm down a bit and be content to stay indoors. Unfortunately, he really loves to be outside, so although we did not encourage that, we let him out when he was desperately meowing in front of our door. We are willing to repay you for all the vet fees if the cat you found is Lungo.”

Today, I got an email from the owner, confirming that the found cat was, indeed, Lungo. When I told her that wanted to post something about this bit of good news, she was a bit reluctant at first, even though I told her I would not use her name. She is concerned that people will judge her for letting her cat roam outdoors.

She explained to me that Lungo cries every morning at 5 to be let out, that this is what he is used to doing. I suggested to her that, if she and her husband were able, that they build a chain link structure with a roof outside in their yard for Lungo so that he can enjoy the outdoors but remain free from predators.

Does anyone have any other suggestions for her? How can you “tame” an indoor/outdoor cat to become an indoor cat exclusively? Is this at all possible?

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  1. I’m sure she will be judged.

    Not by me.

    I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting your cat go outside, as long as they are inoculated against diseases harmful to humans.

  2. Judged as charged. Lungo can spread FIV to other cats, which is really unfair. I keep my cats inside by acknowledging that I am in charge, not them. And my porch is a good substitute for outside.

  3. ” Lungo can spread FIV to other cats, ”

    The owner of Lungo isn’t responsible for other cats. If their owners fear FIV, they can have their cats immunized. Cats aren’t people.

  4. “The owner of Lungo isn’t responsible for other cats.”

    –Welcome To The Jungle! This is a wonderful example of the Let Them Eat Cake world today’s Tea Baggers clamor for.

    diseased, infectious animal? not my problem! it’s yours!

  5. Thanks for that link, Cro. Most vets would agree. ROC: Not sure if own a pet cat or not but how would you feel if your free-roaming cat was killed by a car or a predator? Lots of nasty things can happen to outdoor cats. Lungo was very lucky that a kind person found him.

  6. Stop. I know Lungo and there is no way this cat will stay inside. No way. When I walk into his house he bolts for the door. So the only option it seems here is to put him down.

    Who is going to adopt a older cat that wakes up meowing like a nut at 5 a.m. with FIV?

    If you don’t want your cat to get FIV you can’t let them outside.

    Everyone is quick to “Save the Animals” but what does that actually mean?

  7. Cats love enclosed porches. Perches near windows. Atrium doors. The best way to “train” an animal is to not let it train you to respond it’s commands. And that’s a lot easier to write here than to actually do! They like routines. They are easily distracted. Maybe try a feeder set to a timer to go off at 5 am? So the cat will want to be fed at 5 instead of going out. Then add five minutes to that every week. Then just try playing with toys he can chase instead of letting him out. Lasers, cat dancers. Good luck!

  8. Friends of ours who live in VT were “adopted” by a stray cat who also liked the outdoors. Unfortunately, he had a near-death experience with a some type of wildlife. They ended up building a chain link enclosure that was attached to their back deck. In this way, their cat could enjoy the outdoors without danger.

  9. “ROC: Not sure if own a pet cat or not but how would you feel if your free-roaming cat was killed by a car or a predator? ”

    Sad, of course. But also happy that the cat died doing what IT wanted to do.

  10. Yes, I am certain that joy is the emotion felt by a tabby as he is savaged by a coyote or flattened by a bus.

    Who knew that ROC was really the 21st century reincarnation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau?

  11. I had a male cat years ago who adopted us. We took him in and cleaned him up but he couldn’t be totally indoor, he would spray the entrances to the house to mark his turf. We finally made the decision to let him come & go as he pleased. He never sprayed indoors again!
    So keeping Lungo in could be more stressful then letting him be an in/outer.
    PAZ leaving SAN for EWR.

  12. ” Lungo can spread FIV to other cats, ”

    “The owner of Lungo isn’t responsible for other cats. If their owners fear FIV, they can have their cats immunized.”

    Sadly, not all cats can be immunized, and not all immunizations work for all animals. That’s the point of herd-immunity. I would agree then the owners of the other cats shouldn’t let their cats out to be exposed to Longo, but tons of stray kittens are born and infected with FIV/Pan/etc, because of careless owners. These cats are put in this position, through no fault of their own, and therefore have a lower adoptability in an already challenging time for adoptions.

    Letting pet cats to to roam free outdoors is foolish. There should be a law against it.

  13. In a perfect world, there would be a law against free-roaming cats and animal breeders. Thank you for your compassion for the innocents out there, primrose path.

  14. You conditioned absolutely! You abhor grammatical mistakes!. This is very unique occurrence for you.

  15. There is no vaccine against FIV. This cat was an outdoor cat for however many years before the people he adopted agreed with him that they would be his caregivers. He came to them and they accepted him on his terms. Clearly they care about him. It’s not the same as adopting a young cat or one that has been indoors most of it’s life and will adapt. His current caregivers don’t know his background or how long he was on the streets. They opened their hearts and their homes to this guy and were willing to do it his way. He’s a lucky kitty. Not many people would have done what his adopted family did. Some cats have been outside too long and need to roam. I’ve known a few. Not mine, thank God, because I wouldn’t be able to deal with it. I don’t like people who deliberately let their cats out to roam. They all don’t want or need to be outside. This guy, however, is different and his family were willing to let him be what he is. It’s not easy to do that, either. Stop throwing stones. There are plenty of critters stuck in animal shelters who will die at the hands of incompetent people willing to stick them with deadly drugs. If you care that much adopt one or two of them. If not, leave Lungo’s family alone. He chose his life and they’re willing to allow him to live it.

  16. I believe strongly in outdoor cats! I have had both indoor and outdoor kitties, and I have witnessed a significant difference in the quality of life between the two. I know many of the local shelters have a policy against adopting to owners that will allow their cats to go outdoors, and I believe that this is asinine (but – alas – that is a rant for another day).

    As pro-outdoors as I am, and as much as I know the ever annoying experience of a 3/4/5:00am kitty alarm clock, I cannot agree with what Longo’s owner is doing. I feel badly, mostly because I know it is an impossible situation, but it is an impossible situation with a very clear right/wrong. For me, there is no gray area here: by letting Longo out, his owner is endangering the lives of all the other cats in the neighborhood!

    I know cats and humans are not the same, but let’s consider this situation: Individual (A) is HIV+, he/she also has a really horrible latex allergy; because of this allergy, he/she breaks out in hives. Would you suggest this person not use condoms? I mean, hives are pretty maddening, and hey, it is the other person’s problem if he/she doesn’t insist on using a condom, right?

    Longo has an incredibly infectious illness, and he absolutely needs to be quarantined from those he could potentially spread it to. His owners need to research outdoor enclosures, leashes, as well as ways to modify his behavior. They need to have a very frank discussion about this with his vet – I am sure this is not the first time something similar to this has happened – the vet might have some very insightful tips!

    I really don’t want to judge so harshly, and I apologize for doing so, I just really love animals, and I cannot quietly read as innocent animals are put in danger.

  17. Actually, FIV isn’t as easily transmitted as Felv (feline leukemia). An FIV+ cat will live a longer life indoors. No doubt about it. Lungo will do very well indoors and the only danger he poses to another cat is through a serious bite. I don’t know how aggressive he is and he does, indeed, belong indoors as the best option, especially now. It might be very difficult to do, but if he’s given an option for an outdoor experience such as an enclosure or screened porch it might work. I hope it does.

    Domestic cats don’t belong outdoors. If you adopt a cat at a very young age it will adapt. I’ve had 3 feral cats in my house not one of which wanted to know where the door was once inside. They took some time to figure out what to do about me, but they got the idea. They were all over 2 years old when I took them in. All of my cats have found me. I never adopted one from a shelter. They were all strays and they all adapted. It can be done. I hope Lungo and his family work together to keep him healthy and other cats safe.

  18. OOps, sorry. I did adopt one of my cats from the shelter but she picked me and I initially took her home as a foster. I’m a failed foster mom. I fell in love with Marla and couldn’t bear the thought of anyone else having her. That was one of many, all of which were strays or feral. One feral kitty is curled up next to me right now, purring up a storm. Love it.

  19. Lungo had a serious bite wound that may have gone untreated for more than a week. He may have already infected other cats. And yes, I do care, and have adopted many cats over the years who may not have had a happy ending without my intervention.

  20. Bless your heart for permitting Lungo to adopt you. You have had your hands full. All of my cats adopted me, but they all were kittens, except for the one I have now. Fortunately she had no serious feline diseases. I had a male cat, who did not care to go outside, but on my enlcosed porch he would spray when “visiting” animals violated his imaginary territory. It’s very hard to deal with. I would definitely try the outdoor enlcosure, only if the feeding time suggestion doesn’t work. Both situations will take time for Lungo to “learn.” I don’t believe FIV is an airborne illness like FelV, but it’s still deadly if Lungo has a fight with another cat. Many diseases are species-specific. Good luck.

  21. We adopted two cats from PAWS years ago. One is completely content indoors. The male is another story. For the first two years we had him, we wouldn’t let him out. There was literally, not a day that he didn’t spend the majority of time trying to escape outside. He was completely impossible with kids coming and going, and also a menace– hiding behind the couch, and lunging at us when we went by. We decided to let him out, and quite honestly, he was a changed cat overnight. When he’s in, he’s docile. Our only other choice would have been to bring him back. I can’t believe that any family would be ok living with a cat like that indoors all the time.

  22. I won’t judge, because even though I believe passionately that cats are safer and healthier indoors, I know what Lungo’s owner is going through, and how difficult an unhappy cat can make life. I’ve had two cats that pined for the outdoors after I turned them into indoor cats. One was only an outside cat for the first year of his life, but he spent the next 14 howling at the door at random times in the hope that I’d change my mind. He did adjust overall, but the desire to be outdoors would come on strong once in a while. The second was allowed outdoors for short periods in our fenced yard, but only because he didn’t stray very far from the deck. He was partially blind from birth, and when he lost his vision completely, I stopped letting him go out on his own, but I will sit out on the deck with him in good weather and let him sniff the air.

    Lungo’s owner should investigate catios (terrible name, great idea);

  23. ” We decided to let him out, and quite honestly, he was a changed cat overnight. When he’s in, he’s docile.”

    They’re meant to be outside and inside. It’s their nature. When you have an indoor/outdoor cat you share their lives. You choose to have them inside, they choose to come in (and not run away). When you force them to live against their nature you dominate their lives.

  24. Absolutely!

    I’m dominating the lives of my dogs right now. Its their nature to be out in packs hunting down prey and howling at the moon. But screw them! I’m dominating!

    I also dominated my kids, you know, I’ll admit it! They wanted to stay up until 3AM and eat Ring-Dings 24/7. Its their nature! But I dominated them too.

    I’m a dominator. Hell, maybe that’s MY nature.

  25. Not necessarily, ROC. The most recent addition to my feline brood had been living outside as a stray. I thought he would love my porch, but shows no desire to go out there. The one time he did, within five minutes, he was meowing pitifully to come back in. Seems like he’s sayng, “No more outside for me.” As guardians of our pets, we owe them a safe and healthy life. Letting a cat outside negates that guarantee.

  26. Didn’t mean to imply that, ROC. I was pointing out that it’s not necessarily a cat’s nature to want to go outside.

  27. Holy crap. Ok peeps listen up…the latest addition to this families brood is a brand new baby as in a human. So while all of the suggestions above might work for others they will not for this family right now.

    My kids come first, second, third and so on because they are PEOPLE.

    If we post about child abuse we might get a few comments but if someone lets a cat outside everyone goes crazy.

    Perspective people. It is a cat. It will never hold a public office, it will never vote, go to prison, write a book or do stand up comedy.

    And Prof your comment was funny!

  28. Having a child should not excuse people from caring for their pets properly. Animals get hungry, thirsty, fearful, and feel pain. That is my perspective.

  29. So glad Lungo got back to the family that loves him and survived his ordeal with the raccoon. We adopted a cat about 10 years ago in a similar situation – he was a tomcat who was a stray but very friendly. We were feeding him and one day he showed up with an abscess so we took him to the vet. In the process of treating him they tested him for FIV and unfortunately he was positive. So we kept him inside so he wouldn’t spread it to other cats. Amazingly, this former tomcat (we had him neutered of course) adapted fine to being inside and never seemed to care if he went out. We did put him in a large cage and let him sit outside on the patio during good weather, which he enjoyed immensely. Unfortunately, however, he did not stop spraying when he was neutered and our house became very stinky! Sadly (although happily for the state of our house) he got lymphoma; he was probably more susceptible because of the FIV, and he died after we had him about 2 years. But at least he had a loving home for the time he had. Our next cat (the one we have now) we got from HAAL in Bloomfield and he was FIV and FeLV negative. We didn’t want to have to go through that again. He has been a great pet and he is totally indoors and never tries to go out at all – he runs away if you open the door. I am a proponent of keeping cats in if at all possible; but sometimes it just isn’t.

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