Tackling the latest posts in vaguely reverse order:
... your ex thinks the one cat (and the others I presume) gross, won't touch him, won't let the kids touch him ... thus, no head scratches for him, though he must dream of them at night (or whenever he sleeps). Yep, either finish the "job" with a shotgun, or suffer through the chore of catching him and getting him off to the animal rescue league. Feeding him is nice, yes, but euthanasia would out-and-out be nicer.
And I'm somewhat peeved that the animal rescue league dumped the capture-chore into your ex's lap. It's their job to give a damn about what happens to such non-human persons as this. Yes yes: "If we did it for you we'd have to do it for everyone." But screw bureaucracy; if cause for exception to any rule ever existed, this would be that exception. Sigh. Me and my own strong opinion about non-human people. Sorry if it's getting old and/or abrasive.
"I'm going with LR's answer in that what's best depends on the people, animals, and circumstances."
Quite agree. The "four-year-old" example was a hypothetical example and nothing more. What I was getting at is that responsible human parents don't just send their wee ones out into the wide wide world without some solid assurance of safety and protection. And that by extension, pets who are "mentally disfigured" into being hopelessly dependent, also shouldn't be sent out into the wide wide world without some solid assurance of safety and protection. (I trust I'm talking more coherently now but will gladly clarify/qualify further as needed.)
With that, I'll just say that I'm right with you on the rest of your post.
... I see no problem in the way your raised/protected your kids, and no problem in the way you keep/protect your pets. Not that all that I "rejoice" over the death of your cat. Just that it's hard for humans to know sometimes what's best for their non-human adoptees and we do vary in whether we let them out at all. Necessary judgment call based on many factors. Hell of a risk but if you do feel that your pet wants and needs out (without supervision), sometimes you take the risk. I did, with nothing but Shipley's best interests at heart. Well, I chose poorly. And paid for my foolishness with trauma sufficient to scare me into keeping all cats I "own" henceforth indoors.
Having a pet is indeed like being a parent. Pets do largely trust us to help them make the "best" decisions in the world we've built around them.
Parents make mistakes. Pet-owned owners do too. It's the same principle. I just think most of us feel as bereaved when a pet of ours suffers/dies as we do when a child of ours suffers/dies. We just wouldn't dream of doing anything with high odds of precipitating such suffering and death, in a child or a pet. Simple as that.
... appreciate the info on FeLV; didn't realize it was strictly a cat-to-cat bug. In the meantime, I can tell that you agree with me though that granting a pet special rights to roam alone and free out in the city or wilds is a questionable favor at best.