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Five Reasons to Keep Your Cat Indoors :: Fresh Air Without Danger: A Guide to Outdoor Enclosures :: How to Train Your Cat to Walk on a Leash :: Tips for Moving House with Your Cat

Five Reasons to Keep Your Cat Indoors

Many people think it's natural to let their cats go outdoors. Unfortunately, an indoor-outdoor cat's lifespan is on average several years shorter than that of an indoor-only cat. Here are five very important reasons to keep your cat indoors:

  1. Disease. Cats allowed outdoors always manage to come into contact with other cats, and from these encounters they can get parasites like fleas and worms, or more serious diseases like leukemia, feline infectious peritonitis, and feline immunodeficiency virus. Light-colored cats can also develop skin cancer from overexposure to the sun.

  2. Injury. More cats are killed by cars each year than are euthanized in US animal shelters. Indoor cats are safe from predators and dog packs; even with a full set of teeth and claws, cats rarely have a chance against dogs or predatory birds, and declawed cats are at even higher risk. Indoor cats are also safe from human abuse. It's unfortunate but true that there are cruel people who get a kick out of torturing cats.

  3. Neighbors. Even the best cats will venture into neighbors' yards when they're allowed to roam. Your cat won't win friends by using your neighbors' gardens as litter boxes or hunting birds in their back yard. Some people have resorted to extreme measures, including poisoning, to keep cats away.

  4. Wildlife. Cats are predators by nature, and even those who never were taught to hunt will eventually chase and kill birds, rabbits, and other wildlife. Studies have been done that show cat predation has a significant impact on songbird populations in some areas.

  5. Getting lost. Cats that roam may be “rescued” by other cat lovers or legitimate rescue groups, or picked up as strays by animal control officers. Statistics show that of “owned” cats turned in to shelters, only 3 percent are reunited with their owners. Collars can break, and even microchips don't guarantee your cat will be returned to you. Cats can and do get lost when they get too far from their home turf.

Advice from Other Cat Owners 

Getting Kitty Active at Home

While the novelty of a cat tree might get your kitty moving for a few days, I wouldn't count on it. Mine mostly use the tree to sleep on, to watch out the window, and it's very seldom that they launch attacks on each other.

The two things I would suggest to give a kitty exercise would be a feather wand and a laser pointer. Both are irresistible toys for my cats, and they will move quite a lot while chasing (in fact, they'll give chase all over the house), and will play until they get too tired to move. They do require a time investment on your part, but even playing 5-10 minutes three times a day for a few weeks will make a big difference in your cat's level of activity.

~Annalisa C., owner of Domestic Medium Hair

Helping a New Cat Out of Hiding

We foster a lot of shy cats and try to get them socialized. The hiding and skittishness is normal. As long as the cat is eating I would let her be and let her get used to things. Then while she's eating you can start to work with her getting closer and touching. It may go on for weeks but she'll come around.

~Paula K., owner of Breed Unknown

Please Keep Your Precious Babies Inside

I once hit a cat who was running across a dark four-lane road. I pulled over and scooped him from the road, he was obviously dead. He had a collar with a tag. I could not read the tag through my tears and drove him to my house for my husband to read the tag. I called the family who commented that the cat should not have wandered that far from home. The dad and two little kids came and picked him up from my house. The kids were sad, the dad hugged me. It was the worst thing EVER for the cat, who lost his life. But I was severely affected and took quite awhile to stop shaking and kept reliving it.

My mother used to say it was cruel to keep a cat inside. For so many reasons, as outlined above, its absolutely not. My cats have always been kept inside. If their previous owners let them out they would complain for awhile, but once they figured out you were not going to cave, they settled down. Please keep your precious babies inside.

~Penny G., owner of two Siamese/Himalayan mixes

My Cats are Allowed Outdoors: Here's Why

I'd really appreciate it if Catster stopped trying to hammer it into me that I need to keep my cats indoors. My cat is sixteen years old and goes outside half the time. He's never been ill, injured by anyone or anything, or contracted fleas or worms. My younger cat is two and he's just as safety conscious as my older cat. Yes it's a sad fact that some cats will get run over but in my neighborhood we live far away from main roads and it's a rare occurrence around here to have a cat go missing and injured.

It's a cat's natural instinct to want to roam free outside and stalk birds and mice and if we deprive that from them I just don't think it's fair. I'm well aware of the risks but I know many cat owners in my town and not one of them keeps their cat indoors; even the breeder of my cat recommended not to do such a thing as to be honest it's just cruel. They would get bored and sad staying indoors all the time.

If you introduce your kitten to the outside world at a very young age starting off with a harness and leash and teach them to stay away from cars and reward them every time they come back home safely you won't have any problems. Of course there is always a risk but I think it's worth it to give my cats a long and fulfilled life. Not all of us have the money to build spectacular cat enclosures our pay thousands of pounds for cat-proof fences which don't work anyway so I say just let cats be cats and if something happens at least you gave them the best possible life. As long as you do things properly and don't live like right next to a main road there is no reason why kitty shouldn't enjoy outdoor AND indoor life, provided you don't have a breed such as a Ragdoll, Sphynx or Persian which requires to stay indoors for specific reasons (e.g. being over friendly with strangers, suffering from the cold and getting easily matted fur).

~Emily S., owner of a Domestic Shorthair and Tonkinese mix

Walk on a Leash if Kitty Agrees

Three of my cats (Siamese and Tonkinese) adapted happily at a young age to leashes: every day we take our evening walk to the far corner of the back yard, check out the catnip plants, and return indoors after about 10-15 minutes outside. One cat actually brought me her leash when she wanted to go for a walk.

~Karen L., owner of a Tonk and a Burmese

Indoor VS. Outdoor

It is simply indefensible and irresponsible in today's society to let cats roam outdoors. While it is necessary to maintain trap-neuter-release (TNR) managed colonies of feral cats outdoors, there is NO good reason to let any other cats go outdoors unless on a cat-safe harness and leash or in a cat-fenced yard.

~J M., owner of a family of rescued cats

Yes, Keep 'Em In!

My current cat is indoor-only. She was found half-starved (a 4 lb., half-grown Maine Coon!) and half-drowned in a rapidly filling hole underneath some cement stairs. She has no survival skills. She stays inside, by both my choice and hers! (The few times she's escaped out a cracked door, she's run right back in a panic.)

Growing up, I lost two cats to cars. One of them had run away previously (we miraculously found her months later) and the other had previously been shot in the neck with a bb gun. Another one of my cats attacked innocent neighborhood pets, including leashed dogs. Keep your cat indoors. If your cat doesn't like it, just tough it out. They'll adjust, and you didn't need carpet anyway!

~Sarah M., owner of a Maine Coon

Any Non-feral Cat Can Learn to Love Indoor Life

What people don't appear to realize is that cats are not genetically programmed to be aware of the MAN MADE dangers. If they see a car on the street, they haven't a clue what it is and they haven't a clue to defend themselves from it. They haven't a clue that they shouldn't nestle into a warm hood of car to keep themselves warm. But they might have somewhat of a clue not to nestle up in a bear cave. Cats thrive on finding food outdoors, its their instinct, as well as finding water. When they find antifreeze outside, they haven't a clue that maybe they shouldn't be drinking it.

Cats that have owners also aren't aware of the dangers of humans. Even the coyotes and the bears and the deers are having trouble surviving because of the things HUMANS do. We're tearing apart their food sources, we are digging into their habitats and ruining their homes. The outdoors is turning into MAN'S domain, and its becoming increasingly difficult for ALL animals to survive - not just cats. So why would you allow them to go outside if you don't have to?! It's not the way it USED to be.

No matter where you are, there are dangers. Be it in the country or in the city. All animals are at risk being outdoors. When you have a pet that has been programmed to trust humans, it is not likely to understand that humans can be DANGEROUS. I cannot comprehend for the life of me the excuse that animals were made for the outdoors, because people; the outdoors are no longer made for the animals, they are made for PEOPLE.

A feral is different, It lives a hard outside life, due also to humans dumping their pets, second/third generation of dumped pets, if they are lucky enough to live long enough to reproduce. This damaged and lonely hardened cat doesn't know the love of a human and fears all humans, it fears animals and it fears cars, it has a deep-seated fear of the unknown and is cautious and can possibly survive, though it will not have the lengthy lifespan of an indoor cat.

[Editor's Note: This lengthy comment was edited down to fit space restrictions.]

~Kat P., owner of many rescue cats and socialized feral kits

On Keeping Your Cat Indoors

The 6th reason to keep your cat indoors is: Animal control will set a trap for a dog two houses from yours, trap your cat that you have had for 8 years since it was born, and take it to the shelter and KILL it in a day and a half without saying a single word to anyone.

~Grady P., owner of a Long-haired calico Maine Coon

An Indoor Game for Kitties

Every morning I spread a few sheets of white crinkly paper on the floor with some toy mice underneath. Then the fun begins. I use a couple of wands to make some noise and stir things up. My girl cats go crazy with stalking, jumping, and just general moving mayhem. They love it and look forward to cat dancing everyday. It's the perfect way to show your kitties how much you love and care for them.

~Deborah C., owner of two female cats

Cats Have a Longer, Happier Life Indoors

I whole-heartedly agree with keeping cats indoors. They absolutely do have a longer happier life indoors! Being inexperienced, I let my first cat outside, thinking it would be a nice change for her. She never tolerated the leash, so that never worked. She would sit at the door and cry until I let her out and she never stayed in the yard. She was fixed, but she ventured off and stayed gone for days. When she came back she was hoarse but otherwise okay. The next time she left the house I found her a couple of weeks later laying on the curb, many blocks from home, apparently hit by a car.

Years later, I took in a stray kitten because the kids in the neighborhood were extremely rough with him and I didn't want him to be injured. He came from a litter of about five. One by one, each kitten ended up being hit by cars. My kitten was severely aggressive and downright mean. Against my better judgement, I thought if he went out maybe his aggression would subside. At times he would charge and scratch at my children who were young at the time. I thought letting him out for 30 minutes or so would be better than taking him to a shelter and having him put down. It worked for a while, until one evening he came home and I noticed he wasn't walking right. I took him back and forth to the vet but he got worse and worse until he died. After he died, the vet shaved his stomach and saw a huge bruise where someone had kicked him and caused his death. Who would hurt an innocent animal?

My daughter has a kitten who is almost a year old and she will never, ever, ever go outside. She is happy and content inside. We chase her and she chases us; she has toys and our company. I will never let another cat outside again.

~Dawn B., owner of a Domestic Shorthair

Some Cats Are Scared of the Outdoors

When I got my kitties last year (tiny little brothers) I knew I would not let them outside. They were a year old in May and I have not had one time they have tried to get outside. In fact, my yellow kitty is afraid to go outside. I was bringing in my dog one night (leashed at all times), and he about had a fit because he was in my arms and thought I was putting him outside.

They have a cat house that they use constantly, play chase every morning and night all around the house, and have a three-season porch they are on during the day (with my bedroom door open for them) when the weather is decent. My dog doesn't run loose all night, and neither should kitties.

~Robin H, owner of an American Shorthair

Learning the Hard Way

I lost two very loved young cats within a year to the danger of cars. When it happened the first time I just thought we had been unlucky, but to lose our second nine months later was just heartbreaking. We live on a quiet street, but both cats wandered further than I thought they would.

I now have Tilly, who was a three-year-old indoor/outdoor cat when we got her. In the last year she has not been out at all. Some days she is not happy about this, but overall she is a content little cat, and this way I keep her safe and do not have to worry where she is. We spend a lot of time entertaining her. Right now we're waiting for the arrival of our first baby, so she will have a little playmate to entertain her more in the years to come.

~Tracy B, owner of a little stubborn female cat

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