Thursday, February 22, 2024
black catscat photographsessayfoster catsSmokie

Wind the Clock and Put the Cat Out

black cat
Smokie looking elegant.

Who remembers that phrase?

I grew up in the days when people still said this and meant it, and the phrase and practice were common enough that it had appeared on a greeting card of some sort along with a cartoon illustration of the activity. That meant it was part of our cultural norm not to let our cats be in the house overnight, but to put them out just after we wound our analog mechanical alarm clocks and just before we went to bed.

How strange that seems now, but I also remember the time we did this with my cat Bootsie, during the first few years we had her, after she’d had her litter of kittens and been spayed, out she went each night. Some of the neighbors never let their cats in, and yet they considered them their pets, and there were also a few people who never let their dogs in either. I’m not sure why we stopped, but it may have had something to do with me wanting to cuddle Bootsie at night, and the fact my mother was a late night person and ended up letting Bootsie in and out all night long as she did all day. My father, a baker, left for work in the middle of the night, and I think Bootsie had her re-entrance carefully planned, though she was often out hunting all night long.

That was 40 years ago. I know there are probably still some people somewhere who put their cat outside each night as a matter of course, but I haven’t encountered one in a long time.

I grew up seeing cats as pets with a distance between themselves and everyday life inside the home of the person who “owned” them and being put outside at night, and today I’m discussing species-appropriate raw diets, environmental enrichment, building “catios”, resolving behavioral issues with feline-specific techniques, advanced health care and the use of alternative medicine practices for them, and animal intuitives who can help me to determine how they feel about where they are and what I can do to make them more comfortable. And even though cats still receive less than half the health care dogs do, today at the Pittsburgh Pet Expo I discussed feline-specific practices with several people.

Somewhere in between these two extremes are dozens of cat rescuers who spent all day yesterday trapping dozens of cats for today’s free-for-ferals clinic with the Homeless Cat Management Team, appointments scheduled over weeks, the plans made over the course of days, humane traps traded and moved around from person to person, clusters of people staked out in sub-freezing temperatures to watch and remove the trapped cats and wait for the rest to step into the trap for spay or neuter during the clinic, the tallies reported in as the night wore on, cats trapped, new kittens this late in the year, friendly cats, possible injuries.

I am glad that in my lifetime we’ve made a big move away from putting our cats out at night, moving the expectation toward the end which indicates cats are an important and valuable part of our lives and deserve to share our homes. It’s disappointing there are still so many cats abandoned outdoors who need the care of strangers rather than the care of the humans who had promised to care for them by adopting them. But perhaps as our society moves away from that far extreme we will also move the measure for people who actually keep their promise of adopting a cat and someday soon there will simply be fewer abandoned cats who need the care of strangers.

As for the gratuitous photo of Smokie at the top, he’s one of the lucky ones.

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32 thoughts on “Wind the Clock and Put the Cat Out

  • Hello, everyone, and thanks for commenting! I haven’t been able to respond because I somehow “locked” this post (and a few others) with something I did on my Smartphone. Glad to finally be able to get back to everyone!

    • Thanks, McGuffy Ann, maybe someday he’ll be as beautiful as your Chloe Jo!

  • dood…thiz bee a grate shot….troo lee…mom B captured a grate pro file….we think ewe iz reddy
    for match makerz !!! 😉

    • Tabbies, I’ll have to set up a “profile” for him on a kitty matchmaker’s site!

  • maru clavier

    That’s a handsome guy!
    Three months in your nurturing home and he is a fine house cat and is ready to make a human fall in love with him.
    Taking the cat out is still common, among other ways of ‘having’ pets, unfortunately. Not enough understanding, respect and commitment, me thinks.

    • Maru, thank you! He’s also had pets from lots of other loving people to reinforce that. It’s a disappointment we we see how others do or don’t take care of their pets, though.

  • bluemoonalone

    You are so right much has changed regarding how pets are treated..but as Layla said..we still have a long way to go..

    • Bluemoonalone, at least we can keep moving forward for our own cats.

  • Beautiful selfie 🙂 Thank goodness I have always grew up in a family that has kept their kitties indoors.
    Marty’s Mom

  • That is a lovely selfie!
    I remember that too. When I was a child we always let our cats come in at night but if they weren’t around they stayed out. Flynn has the run of the garden and can’t get out, but he still has to come in at night.

    • Flynn, we love looking at your big “garden”! We’d love to go mouse hunting with you some day, but for now we have to wait for them to come into our basement.

  • Great photo. Our mom didn’t have her first cat until she was in her 20s and that was thirty years ago. She has never “put the cat out” because she’s seen the results of cars, dogs, and other crazy things.

    • Sweet Purrfections, my Kublai ran right in front of a car right in front of me because I’d called him home, and then he came out the other side, nothing had happened, but I was over letting cats roam at exactly that moment.

  • Yup, my house is like Layla’s. At night, all we cats have to be IN.


    • Nissy, we all stay in here, except Mimi and Mewsette who occasionally join me outdoors on leashes–our neighborhood is full of houses and people and streets. But I really don’t miss getting up every five minutes to let a cat in or out!

  • Smokie was the name of my first cat 50+ years ago! And your Smokie is so handsome. I don’t remember the expression but we do the reverse, getting everyone in before dark. Thankfully our boys stay very close to home. We’ve come along way dispelling myths but have a long way to go.

    • Layla, isn’t that a coincidence! Smokie is handsome, though I’m not sure he really understands the oohs and aaahs yet. And just when I’m in my little pocket of happiness with how I treat my cats and see others doing the same, then I find another group of idiots who still think it’s good for females to have a litter of kittens and that males don’t need to be neutered. And cats don’t need to go to the vet. Oy. Someday!

    • Smokie is just learning of his physical potential to charm everyone, Savvy!

  • I’m not allowed to stay out late. I have to stay inside after 10 PM, Granny doesn’t want me to be a wanderer. She says, all that you meet after midnight is not good. Pawkisses 🙂

  • I can’t believe people could be so uninformed. I can’t say cruel, it is only now we are learning to treat animals more respectfully. Man Smokie is a good looking cat!

    • You’re right about that Dashkitten. It sometimes surprises me that cats managed to survive at all with that kind of care. Smokie gets more handsome every day, but do you know he was almost killed in the shelter because he didn’t become socialized enough in foster and was considered unadoptable? That was three months ago, now it’s all changed.

  • Apparently you and M are of the same generation. She never got to have a pet tho because her M & D said cats and dogs belong on a farm! (They happened to grow up on a farm, but then became city people). Once M got married to D, she went out and got a cat, and she’s had a cat and/or dog every since. Her’s have always been indoor only tho for fear of their getting hurt, killed, run over, etc.

    • Mariodacat, yes, I think we are all of the same vintage. I grew up in the suburbs but that was built on–you guessed it–an old farm. I shudder now to think of the dangers Bootsie outlived, not the least of which was abuse by bored teenagers, and as soon as I had any control my cats were indoors only. Glad we wised up! Wish others would join us.

  • I remember those days too.I was the one that would get up and let the cat in when it howled
    I was a major cat lover ,so I think I slept with an ear tuned for kitty.
    When I reached my teens, there were more Vet places opening.
    Then the cat food industry realized there was money to be made, because people wanted better food for their pets,
    and started making better quality of food.
    I am glad to see that these days, more people treat pets as family and look out for them.
    If only everyone felt the same way.

    • Nancy, yes, it’s wonderful to see things slowly change for the better, and the change seems to be permanent.

  • Bernadette, I only have “indoor” cats now (for safety reasons), but I remember when I was a child that I always tried to get the cat “in” before I went to bed. I would call her and call her to get her home and in the house so I could sleep peacefully. It didn’t always work…she figured out how to get someone up to let her in though. She would climb the screen on the window by my father’s bed and meow…he would get up and let her in.

    • Sued51, I think there were many like you–I used to sneak around and check for Bootsie outside, but my mother was up and my father went to work in the middle of the night.


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