The Ethics of Sharing My Home with a Cat

My 21 year-old-cat disappeared about a month ago, probably off to the woods nearby to die. She had a good life.  I still have a dog, but she is also elderly, 14 years old and suffering from arthritis, so I will soon be without an animal companion.  All my life I have shared my household and my attention with one or more cats, and in the last 13 years, a dog,.  So, when the dog goes to that great doggie park in the sky, what is the right thing to do? For me, for any future animal companion, for the people in my life, and for the world. 

One of the challenges of having studied and taught ethics is that every decision has at least a glimmer of ethical content.  For myself, I would enjoy the companionship of a cat.  They sit on your lap and can be playful and are fairly low maintenance. Dogs require regular medical and grooming attention. They have to be boarded when you travel (fortunately she loves to visit the dog farm). Dogs need to be walked or taken to the dog park, since I live in a community with city leash laws and HOA restrictions on putting up fences. My dog is largish, about 50 pounds, and in our previous home she had a dog door and a large, fenced back yard with access to the deck for her outdoor time. For the past eight years she has been more confined. For all these reasons I have ruled out another dog.  But a cat is still an option.

Can I offer a good life to a cat?  Probably. All  my/our cats have been rescue cats, and there is an oversupply.  I have a home. I could provide for at least one rescue cat. I am a good cat mommy who feeds her cat regularly and pets the cat a lot and buys cat toys and a bed and other things that cats like.  

There is a pet door that allows the cat to come and go if she pleases.  I could close it up and keep her inside, as many of my neighbors do, for several reasons.  One is safety. There are cars and coyotes. Another is protecting the birds. My most recent cat was not a hunter, but many cats are.  But I have always had free range cats, and part of me feels that a cat needs to enjoy the outdoors, risks and all.  Also,  a confined cat has to have a litter box, which is not only annoying but also creates landfills full of plastic-encased used litter. Even with access to the outdoors, my cat preferred a little box and insisted on regular cleaning. In her last few years, she also insisted on only canned food, no dry food, which generated lots of tins to recycle.   

A free range cat pees and pops where she pleases, often to the annoyance of neighbors, although always discreetly, being a cat.  I cannot enforce my request to a cat to use my lawn as her bathroom space.  I also have friends and relatives who are allergic to cats, and I don’t want them to experience an allergy attack as the price of my company.

So, running down the stakeholders in my decision, cats and cat lovers say yes.  Personally, I lean toward yes.  Neighbors are mixed, since many of them have cats—one neighbor has seven indoor cats.  Other neighbors worry about the birds or just find free-range cats annoying. Allergic friends and family members prefer a no.  Coyotes say yes, but I don’t trust their intentions.  Birds and the environment don’t much care for the idea. My upholstered furniture weighs in with a sigh of relief that there are no longer cat claws in the house.

What to do? Life was easier before I studied and taught ethics. What would you do?

8 thoughts on “The Ethics of Sharing My Home with a Cat

  1. I decided after my husband died that I didn’t want a pet because I didn’t want to be responsible for another living thing. Then came the pandemic, taking away the advantage of being able to travel easily. But I had gotten used to the simplicity and easier cleaning of not having an animal, and I did not give into the temptation of companionship.


  2. The love I feel for my dog and cat plus the cuddling I enjoy are so worth the work. As the old saying goes: Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you, and pigs are equals. Despite all that I relish how happy our dog and cat are just to see me. That alone is enough!!


  3. I vote for a cat when the time comes. I feel better talking to my cats and dog rather then just myself. Unfortunately my husband never thinks I’m speaking to him. My son will also take my kids if something happens to me, piece of mind.


  4. I am on my last pet (and I hope I last longer than he does). I found Perdi in the bushes at a farm about 9 years ago. At that time I had another cat, also a stray, who died about 3 years ago. I enjoy Perdi (full name is Perdido which is Spanish for lost as many of you know) but I will not get another pet at my age. I’ll be 90 in April and don’t think it’s fair to the animal.


    1. Wow, 90!. I know I am getting old when my daughter advises me to get an adult cat so it doesn’t outlive me!
      Thanks everybody for your good thoughts. I’m still stuck on the a cat, spare the environment, save the birds…


  5. My dear friend Ms Kitty is 11 and I am 60 years her senior. We’ve had cats who have lived into their 20s so I likely won’t have to make the decision about adopting another for a while and I suspect that things will change enough in the next decade that it is hard to predict what I might do then. If something happened to her now I’d probably take a break for a little while then get another female kitty.

    Mom’s cats were always indoor cats which I felt was cruel given that she had a big backyard for them to play. As you may guess Ms Kitty is in/outdoor; she hunts lizards and not birds. She loves to run up trees and spent a fair amount of time in her youth on the roof.

    She only eats dry food and occasionally shares my yogurt but only if we are together at my desk.

    More than likely I will get another feminine feline companion but it will depend upon the circumstance.


    1. I don’t like confining a cat. I think I will let the decision ferment for a while. You have a much better house and yard situation for a cat than I do.


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