I would like to introduce you to Thomas Jr. (Likely the spawn of Thomas Sr. who I described in 'My lecture to cat owners' blog in May 2008)
I first met Thomas Jr. in January 2008. He was a beautiful ginger and white tabby with a glossy coat and incredible muscle tone. He looked healthy and had a flea collar on, so I knew he had an owner. He was not yet neutered.
He was a little bit more sure of himself and aggresive than other males because he was still young (perhaps a year), and so the surge of hormones in his fit and energetic body gave him confidence.
The next time I saw him (about a month later) his ear was chewed off, likely from a fight with another male. He seemed otherwise still healthy and still had the (now expired) flea collar. It was not my place to interfere.
Early spring, I'd see him on occasion...spraying on doors and howling for females. He began to look scruffy and dirty from spending his time outdoors.
I didn't see him all summer...likely he was out roaming and sowing his wild oats. Considering where he ended up (I'll get to that later) he probably didn't go home anymore. A male cat will forego food and shelter quite often for the scent of a female.
I saw him again in early autumn when outdoor food and shelter wasn't as comfortable. If it weren't for his chewed ear, I would have thought he was another cat. An old cat. He was hungry, injured, and guarded, and looked through me rather than at me. He looked hopeless. He was a ghost.
I spent the next number of months feeding him...outdoors a first, then indoors with the door open, then with the door closed for a minute before he freaked out. I couldn't touch him or take away food dishes without being scratched and hissed at. He sprayed my door with urine. He had fleas and ear mites and who-knows-what.
Over the months, and with a lot of patience, bug spray, bandaids, and antibiotic cream (for me). He let me touch him...for a second. Then he let me pet him...sometimes...if he was in the mood...on the head but not the back.
In late December, he actually stayed indoors for a few hours. Food and subzero temperatures are great training tools. Still untrusting, he sat facing the door with his eyes closed, and weaved because he was so exhausted but too frightened to lay down.
A few frigid nights convinced him to sleep in the basement overnight on a box way back under the stairs.
A month ago, I was finally able to get him to a vet to get neutered and vaccinated. (That's another long and funny story). As the hormones subside, he stays outside less and less, and hangs around the house. He's inside most of the time, but still in the basement at night while my other cat slowly warms to him.
He likes to sit by someones feet or at least where he can see us. He won't eat my other cat's food if I say 'no'. He won't go into rooms or on furniture if I say 'no'. If my other cats whines because she's scared of him, he'll leave the room to give her space. He lets all female cats eat the food first. He is the most gentle and obedient cat I've ever known.
Every day is a new milestone. On the weekend, he let me scratch his belly. Last night he let me pick him up. He purrs up a storm and looks so content and safe when he sleeps that my heart swells.
Some people think it's inhumane or unnatural to neuter cats. As a pet owner, it's your choice, but please remember Thomas when you make your decision.
An unneutered outdoor male cat has a life expectancy of 2 to 5 years. A neutered male cat can live 15 to 20 years. Which is more humane? Allowing your cat to live 'naturally' is fine if you also take responsibility for your choice. If your male impregnates a female, you are as responsible for the kittens as the female cat's owner. After all, it takes 2 to tango.
I hope you'll remember this story when you get your new, unsterilized pet. We all want our pets to have a good life. I hope Thomas' story can help you define what a good life for a pet is.