When I was growing up in rural Maine, we let our cats come and go at will. It’s not that we didn’t love our cats and want the best for them, but we really didn’t think we were doing any harm to our cats by letting them go outdoors — fight wounds, pregnancies, and cars hitting them notwithstanding. That was just the way things were. These days, though, I strongly believe cats are best off when they’re kept indoors, and here are seven reasons why.
Cats who go outdoors will inevitably get into fights with felines who intrude into their territory. This can result in frequent trips to the vet for bite wounds, abscesses, and other assorted injuries.
Cats who fight can be exposed to contagious and incurable disease like feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus. They can also pick up respiratory infections and even be exposed to rabies if they’re bitten by an animal with the disease.
It’s unfortunate but true that a lot of drivers don’t pay as much attention as they should to what’s going on around them. An overtired or distracted driver may not see your cat in the road until it’s too late, which could result in anything from road rash to gruesome death.
Domestic cats are just as likely as the neighborhood ferals to be rounded up in a trap-neuter-return campaign or captured as strays and sent to the local shelter. According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, less than 2 percent of companion-animal cats taken to shelters are returned to their owners. If you don’t realize for a couple of days that your cat is missing, you may find that he’s exhausted his "stray hold" and been euthanized.
As much as we hate to admit it, there are people who capture and harm cats. I don’t believe these emotionally disturbed individuals are lurking everywhere, and I don’t buy into the "satanic panic.” However, if your cat stays indoors, he has a zero percent chance of encountering a person who wants to do him harm.
A lot of people think that if they live in a rural or suburban area and they’re far from the road, it’s safe to let their cats outdoors. I made that mistake, and my cat died because of it: She was caught and killed by coyotes roaming in the woods near my home. This is going to happen more and more as humans continue to push animals out of their natural habitats and intrude into the areas those animals have called home for millennia.
As the weather gets cooler, outdoor cats start looking for warm, safe places to take refuge from the winter’s winds. A car’s engine compartment seems like ideal shelter because it’s insulated and warm, but a cat that decides to rest there could meet a grisly end.
What about you? What are your reasons for keeping your cats indoors — or not keeping your cats indoors? Please share in the comments!
(Note: This article is written from the perspective of an American living in the United States. I know and respect the fact that cat culture is different in other countries.)