So, as a cat owner, or someone who wishes to adopt a cat from their local shelters or rescues, what do you do? Should allow your new friend to go outside or do you keep them in inside? Is there a way for them to enjoy the best of both worlds?
Thanks to an article from fabcats.org
there is a way to way the risks. The article goes in depth with the pros and cons of indoor vs outdoor cats and can give cat owners a better idea of what will be best for their cats.
Letting a cat control its own movements in and out gives it freedom but lays it open to the dangers of the great outdoors. The main risks are outlined below.
- Injury - Road traffic accidents account for many cats' lives every year. If you live in a town or near a busy road then the risks are probably greater. Dogs, other cats and humans are also the cause of cat injuries.
- Poisoning - Cats can become poisoned by chemicals used in the garden or by eating poisoned prey.
- Disease - Contact with other cats (especially fighting) and the environment can lead to infections with, for example, feline immunodeficiency virus, feline leukemia virus, cat flu or enteritis viruses.
- Infestation - Fleas and other parasites can be picked up from prey and the environment.
- Loss - Cats can sometimes get shut in garages or are driven away in cars or vans they have climbed into. They may even move in with someone else.
- Stress - A timid cat may find the great outdoors very stressful and prefer to be inside.
- Coyotes - Coyotes, among other wildlife, is another risk factor to cats that roam outside; especially at night.
However, there are also many benefits to letting your cat go out:
- Rodent control - Cats help to keep the rodent population around your home at bay.
- Social contact - Outdoor cats can have social stimulation if they want to interact with other cats in the area.
- Regular exercise - Outdoor cats are well exercised through hunting and generally being out and about, and are less likely to become overweight.
- Outlet for behavioral needs - less stress for the cat and therefore improved welfare.
- Good behavior - Outdoor cats are less likely to develop behavioral problems such as inappropriate urination in the house, clawing furniture or stalking humans or other household companions. They are less likely to become bored or frustrated.
Keeping a cat permanently indoors away from all the potential hazards outside may sound the ideal solution, however, the benefits of safety need to be weighed up against the needs of that particular cat. Some of the potential problems are listed below:
- Behavioural problems - Cats in the USA have a much higher incidence of anxiety-related problems such as urine marking than cats in the UK, possibly because British cats are allowed out more whereas in the USA they are more commonly kept permanently indoors. There are many stress-linked psychological problems in indoor cats.
- Fear of change - Indoor cats may become over-reactive to changes within their small territory (the house) and become unable to cope with novelty, be it people or objects or new smells. It can be difficult to introduce a new cat (or even a new person) to your cat's restricted territory - there is no neutral ground to retire to for either party.
- Obesity - A lack of exercise can lead to weight problems.
- Over dependence - A solitary indoor cat will rely on its owner to provide stimulation, companionship and exercise.
- Cleaning litter trays - A chore those with outdoor cats don't have to do.
- Damage to the house - Your furniture and carpets may suffer from being scratched excessively. Cats may also expend energy climbing, jumping and generally whizzing around the house in mad moments - again damage can occur.
- Keeping doors/windows shut or covered so cats cannot escape can be impossible with children around.
- Household hazards - An active indoor cat will explore crevices that an outdoor cat would probably not bother to investigate. Boredom and curiosity can be a dangerous combination. Washing machines, toilets, medicines, cleaners, small holes, exposed wires and wobbly shelving are all particular hazards for curious kittens. While outside, cats will often nibble grass or herbs. If there is no access to this they may turn to indoor plants, some of which are poisonous.
- Escape - An indoor cat that gets out may be disorientated and will not have any street skills. Escape from a high rise flat could be fatal. The cat may also be highly stressed to find itself suddenly in an environment which it has no experience of.
- Frustration/boredom - Cats may develop behavior problems if they are stressed by the lack of opportunity to express their normal behavioral repertoire. They also have the problem of being unable to escape from a situation or another cat which they find difficult to deal with.
The following are the benefits of keeping cats indoors:
- Fewer risks to physical health - Indoor cats can live long lives because they are kept away from the diseases and accidents associated with the outside world.
- Parasite free - Presuming that humans or other animals do not bring in fleas, once they are clear they should not suffer from infestation again. Likewise worms should not be a problem.
- Happy neighbors - There will be no complaints from neighbors about the cat using their garden as a litter tray.
- No dead prey on the carpet - With no access to the outside world owners won't be faced with the unpleasant discovery of animal corpses on the carpet.
There are many ways that a cat owner can protect their cat if they choose to let them go outside and there are many ways a cat owner can provide an "outdoor environment" inside their home to provide the same exercise and mental stimulation they would get if they were outside.
But what about having the best of both?
The best of both worlds
A purpose built outdoor enclosure could provide your cat with the sights and smells of the outside world and give his life some variety without exposing him to many of the outdoor risks. Alternatively you might consider using high fencing and Elizabethan collars on trees to keep your cat within the confines of your own garden. You may like to train your cat or kitten to walk on a harness and lead so you can both take safe walks in the garden or park.
There are plenty of cats that are terrified of the outdoor world and will do what they can to stay in the house. There are also plenty of cats that want to be outside and will door dash to enjoy the fresh air and grass. Take these points into consideration and decide what you think is best for your cat's healthy, abilities, and mental stimulation.
Read the entire article here.
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