Thank you for publishing the article titled Treat or euthanize? Helping owners make critical decisions regarding pets with behavior problems (November 2011). It is heartening to hear a dialogue about this difficult issue. However, I take exception to publishing the suggestion that we encourage clients to make cats outdoor pets in lieu of euthanasia ("When housesoiling is the problem" by Dr. Gary Norsworthy in Advising clients on treating or euthanizing pets with behavior problems).
My objections to this suggestion are threefold. First, domestic cats have a devastating effect on the environment when allowed to roam free. They can decimate songbird populations and attract wildlife into urban areas.
Second, they are a significant nuisance to neighbors (imagine my chagrin when I find the feces of my neighbor's outdoor cat in the planter bed where I grow food).
Most important, we must consider the hazards to the cat. The world is a harsh place where outdoor cats can encounter untold suffering and stress, especially one that has lived its life inside. As a veterinarian and animal lover, I would rather counsel a guardian on euthanasia than suggest subjecting a pet to the vagaries of the great outdoors (and vice versa).
Melissa Simpson DVM
Dr. Norsworthy replies: Thank you for reading the article regarding euthanasia and behavior problems in cats. Although I listed banning the cat to the outdoors, I certainly do not advocate such. I agree completely with your objections to this practice and do not consider it a viable alternative. However, the reality is that clients have and will do that for this situation. Thus, to make the discussion complete I listed it as an option that has been exercised.
Gary D. Norsworthy, DVM, DABVP
Alamo Feline Health Center
San Antonio, Texas