Should Cats Be Strictly Indoors?

July 2, 2010

Should cats be kept strictly indoors? As communities and cities debate the idea of having a “leash law” for cats, this subject comes up more and more. I find it easy to argue the point either way, although, I will tell you that I keep my cats strictly indoors. And, while I enjoy my neighbor’s outdoor cats as they sun themselves on my porch, another neighbor hates it when those same cats sleep in his flower beds. All I wish to do today is to present you with facts that might help you make a personal decision about what is best for you, your cat and your community.

The argument to keep cats indoors or on leashes when outside is often fueled by naturalists who are concerned over the welfare of our songbirds. Cats chase birds. Cats kill birds. They do this whether they are well-fed or not. And, bells don’t work. It has been well documented that cats wearing bells kill birds as effectively as cats without bells. If you care about the songbirds living around you, you probably should keep your cat indoors. But, there are other reasons too.

Outdoors cats are exposed to many dangers including cars, predators like hawks, rabies carrying raccoons, dogs and other cats. It is these other cats that really cause the damage that I see. The simplest cat fights result in abscesses that need surgery and antibiotics to heal and other fights result in the spread of infectious diseases from cat to cat. These include deadly diseases like feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus and rabies. Outdoor cats often eat at home and at neighbor’s homes as well. This results in a very fat cat who may not be eating the best of foods. Overall, people with outdoor cats tend to spend more money on veterinary visits to treat injuries, poisonings and infections.

Outdoor cats may disappear for days, which can be quite upsetting to the cat’s owner. This can also make it difficult to medicate a cat or to take care of a wound or injury. And, your neighbors may complain if your cat is hanging out on their property. Charleston County laws require pet owners to keep their pets on their own property. So, if your cat is wandering off your lot, the neighbors have the right to complain and take action, including trapping your cat and calling animal control to take him or her away.

Given all of that, why would you want to let your cat outdoors? Well, allowing cats outdoors enriches their lives in a natural way. This reduces behavior problems like urine marking, urinating outside the litter box, clawing up furniture, play aggression and nocturnal vocalization. Outdoor cats simply don’t get bored. Outdoor cats also have fewer weight problems if they aren’t eating the neighbor’s cats food too. They are constantly on the move and activity is good for cats.

So, if you let your cat outside he or she may be more physically and mentally fit, but there is a middle ground. With some work you can keep your cat inside and provide him with exciting things to do that will keep him in good shape. My favorite accessories for indoor cats include cat trees, window boxes and feather toys on sticks. Cat trees provide elevation and climbing opportunities. They also act as a giant scratching post. Window boxes allow cats to view the excitement of the outside without exposing them to the dangers. And, appropriate cat toys mimic flying birds or tails of potential prey. These things keep the average cat quite happy and active.

If you start with a young cat, you can teach him or her to tolerate a leash and harness. It takes time and dedication, but it can be done. With a harness and a light, long leash, a cat can explore the outside with you.

Studying the facts and assessing your cat’s personality will allow you to make the right decision for you and your cat. You may also have to take into account your neighbors and whether you live in a rural or urban setting. Inside or out, make sure your cat is loved and nurtured and everything else will fall into place.

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21 Responses to “Should Cats Be Strictly Indoors?”

  1. Diana Says:

    Where can I find a window catbow like the one in the picture?

  2. Erica Says:

    What search words did you use? I have found others, but love the looks of this particular one. Would love the name of it.

  3. Shiter Says:

    I, too, am trying to find the window box pictured. Cannot find it anywhere.

    • Erica Says:

      I’ve never found it either – so frustrating. I love this one with the rounded front… Used the exact same search words, and get more than just cat window boxes… (cats in a flower box next to a window, cats looking out a window at a box, etc.)

  4. ponygirl Says:

    I found something similar, am still looking for the curved window one. http://www.felinefantasies-cat-furniture.com/cat-windowseat.html

  5. Jane Says:

    To have your cat indoors or not is strictly your personal choice. However, about 10 years ago a beautiful calico adopted me. I already had 3 cats, all indoors for life (actually raised on bottles from 2 days old) “Baby” (about 4 years ago) being an outside cat decided she could play with the squirrels. Didn’t work out and $150 later she was back home from vet recovering. She begged again to be outside (silly me, right?) and I allowed it but once again she thought she could play with squirrels with the same result, another $150 vet bill, all without 2 months time. She became an indoor kitty from that day. When I was raising the other 3 cats from bottles, the vet said it would be best to keep them indoors because they did not receive the immunies they needed from the Mother’s milk. So the bottome line is, I’m happy, they are happy. I don’t have to worry about outdoor injuries and needless to say, they have me welled trained. As the saying goes, “if you want the best seat in the house, move the cat”.

  6. elisematteson@Hotmail.com Says:

    I searched a while and found this. It is rounded, just like the photo: http://thefelinesolarium.blogspot.com/

    • cathy Says:

      i think this place may be out of biz. cant find it if you found it could you please let me know! ctdionne@hotmail.com

      • Christine Knott Says:

        I bought one of these a few years ago, it’s fantastic. Tried to get another one, and I wrote to the company. They went out of business. I still search periodically for one similar, but have not been able to find one even close.

      • sh Says:

        You may want to take a look at cats with an altitude. I have 2 of these one. 1 in standard size and 1 was customized for me.

        http://catswithanaltitude.com/

      • Erica Says:

        Darn… wish the company wasn’t out of business. Looked at the ones in the link above. Nice to hear personal, positive results, “Sh” but those one that look like an a/c unit would never fly w/ my condo association. The one in the picture that we’ve been discussing probably would.

      • sh Says:

        It is not out of business; I just tried adding one to my cart and it took it and went to check out page.

      • Erica Says:

        The Feline Solarium is back in business? Tried their website today, and it is not there. Or were you talking of the A/C unit looking one? As I stated before… too clunky looking. My homeowner’s association would NEVER go for that. The absolutely clear one? I could put it up when I’m home and it would be no problem.


  7. [...] Should cats be kept strictly indoors? As communities and cities debate the idea of having a “leash law” for cats, this subject comes up more and more. I find it easy to argue the point either way, although, I will tell you that I keep my cats strictly indoors. And, while I enjoy my neighbor’s outdoor cats as they sun themselves on my porch, another neighbor hates it when those same cats sleep in his flower beds. All I wish to do today is to present you with facts that might help you make a personal decision about what is best for you, your cat and your community…read more about this story… [...]


  8. My cat is strictly indoors. If I bring her out it’s on a leash and she just sits and eats grass. Then she’s ready to go back in.
    But I would have LOVED to have gotten my hands on that window box. I’m wondering if I can get my hubby to build me one out of some plexiglass or something. with breath holes so she can smell the outside. obviously it would be square. I don’t think he’s talented enough to get a good bend like that.

  9. chlorisaann Says:

    I am also interested in one like in the pic if anyone finds one pls let me know @ chlorisaann@yahoo.com , and I will post back on here if I happen to find one…. Thanks!!

  10. Marianne Says:

    We adopted a pair of middle-aged cats from a cat sanctuary. One of them is missing a leg. The temptation might have been to keep him indoors where it’s “safe”…. but he (and his brother) like to go out. I watched him peering under the garden gate a few months after we got them – poor little boy was desperate to explore outside the garden but couldn’t jump the 5′ fence like his brother (only one landing pad). So we put a cat-flap in the back gate for him (yes the neighbours thought we’d lost the plot until I explained about the cat’s tripod status). Granted, we live in a cul-de-sac in a village so very little passing traffic. But the desire for cats was one of the reasons for buying this house. Bottom line: the cats choose to spend most of their time indoors, particularly in winter, and when they go out of the garden they don’t wander far, BUT (and this is the important bit) they have the choice. I could not restrict an adopted adult cat to an indoor only life – it’d be like a prison. I wouldn’t do it to a curious kitten either. They’re cats, not furbies. By the way, I live in the UK where, I believe, it is thankfully illegal to mutilate your cat by declawing it for the sake of the furniture. So my cats go outside with their defence mechanisms in place.

  11. Ben Cherry Says:

    They need a leash law here. I live next to low rent rental units and many occupants leave their pets when they move out, The County will do nothing about cats unless I catch them, take the 1/2 hr away to their shelter, wait an hour to swear out a complaint about it. Then they “investigate” by calling on all the neighbors in the entire neighborhood. The semi feral cats hunt at my bird feeders and are worse that raccoons with my garbage cans.


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