Barbara Clarke’s cats, Sammy and Smudge enjoy a fantastic view over the Pukawa bush reserve from their favourite sunspot on the deck. But because they’re indoor cats that’s as close as they get to the rich birdlife and insect life in the adjacent forest.
Pukawa is located roughly halfway between Turangi and Taumarunui. Barbara and partner Ian Cole’s home overlooks the southern shores of Lake Taupo and they have ¾ of an acre of bush on their own property, as well as the adjacent bush reserve to enjoy.
“We get flocks of whiteheads, North Island robins and riflemen in the garden,” says Barbara, “and tui and wood pigeons perch on the pergola. The cats are very interested, but can’t catch them.”
The beautiful bush area is cared for by volunteers from the Pukawa Wildlife Trust. Led by Jean Stanley, they’ve been trapping predators there for almost 20 years.
“Jean is an amazing lady,” says Barbara. “and it’s an awesome group. I love cats, I love living here and I love what the Wildlife Trust are doing.”
So for Barbara, keeping her cats and local wildlife away from each other was the natural thing to do.
“When we moved here, we had an older cat and when he died, we decided that, for the sake of the environment, we’d keep our next cat indoors,” Barbara explains. “It’s good to start when they’re young. Sammy and Smudge have been indoor cats since they were kittens and now they’re both 12 years old.”
Being indoors, doesn’t mean that Sammy and Smudge miss out on fresh air and that favourite feline occupation, sleeping in the sun.
“Ours is a 2-storey house with a big deck that’s 4 metres by 11 metres – and 5 metres off the ground,” says Barbara. “There’s a cat door in a window that opens out onto the deck so they can get fresh air and sunshine. In summer they spend a lot of time outside and they don’t try to get off the deck, which is surrounded by trees. For anyone who doesn’t have a deck, they could just enclose an area for their cats. It’s not hard, using netting.”
There are advantages for cats and their owners as well as for local wildlife.
“The cats haven’t been vaccinated since they had their kitten vaccinations,” says Barbara.
Not only are Sammy and Smudge unlikely to catch cat flu from other cats, they’re also protected from road accidents and cat fight injuries and abscesses.
When it comes to entertainment, the two cats are well catered for too.
“They like to perch on chairs etc and we were lucky to win a lovely scratch tower through Animates,” says Barbara. “They also like toys with feathers. They still have the hunting instinct! When I hang washing out on the deck they love to ‘catch’ the socks and bring them inside. They have reasonable room to move and, having two of them, they chase each other around and up and down the stairs.”
When it comes to keeping cats indoors, Barbara reckons litter trays are the biggest hassle.
“You do have to keep them clean,” she advises other cat owners considering keeping their pets enclosed. “And they do seem to need more than one so that they have a choice. My partner Ian is a builder and has built Sammy and Smudge a 5-star cat bathroom outside on the deck beside the catdoor.”
Depending on your house setup, keeping your cats indoors may involve some initial costs, but Barbara recommends it, particularly for those living near wildlife sanctuaries and forest reserves. What’s more, some of those initial costs may well be off-set by savings in annual vaccinations, flea treatments, injuries and vet bills – and that’s got to be good news for owners and their pets.