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.