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Cats Might Rule but Safely -- at Home

Hold that tiger, or tabby, for that matter. Anyone who owns (or more accurately, is owned by) a cat knows that if that cat wants to get out of the house, it will. And who can blame him or her? Your backyard is the feline equivalent of the Adirondack Park: big, unexplored and untamed.

But like the vast wilderness, danger is ever-present for domesticated felines -- at least for suburban ones. Threats posed by cars, garbage vehicles and UPS trucks are enough of a constant worry to make one seriously consider building a 20-foot concrete wall around one's property. Even then, a wily cat might figure a way to bust out.

Enter the Invisible Fence Brand (locally installed by the Canine Fence Company). The wireless, fenceless system altogether revolutionized pet containment when it was introduced nearly 40 years ago. It works on the basis of Skinner-esque conditioned response behavior. An animal, wearing a receiver/collar, approaches the fence, which is buried under the ground (hence, the "invisible" moniker). The collar beeps as the animal approaches, and if he ignores the beeping and stays near the fence for more than three or four seconds, a small shock is delivered through the collar. The shock, inadvertently experienced by this reporter, is just that. It's more startling than painful, and the animal quickly learns to avoid the area thereafter. This controlled freedom allows the pet's parent to define where the animals traverse, and they can be kept away from bird feeders, flower beds, roads and neighboring pets. (Alas, there are Hatfields and McCoys in every neighborhood.)

Their newest entry into the pet containment arena is the Micro-Lite collar, a smaller and more efficient collar/receiver that fits quite nicely on a cat's smaller neck. Three year-old Fairfield County resident Lou, above, was never allowed to be an outside cat until he "tried" the new Micro-Lite collar. It didn't take long for him to figure out how to avoid the "correction" and to stay put.

He's been exploring his backyard -- and no farther -- ever since. He gives his new collar two paws up.

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