Do You Give Your Indoor Cats Supervised Time Outdoors?
If you are keeping your cats strictly indoors, you may have asked yourself more than once whether it's kind of cruel to keep an animal that has such wild roots locked inside for all of its natural life.
Well, I admit that I sometimes do feel guilty when people tell me how their cats are so happy to be free roaming in the great outdoors, and how it's oh so natural for cats to be that way. But then I hear from those same people that their cat, who was only six months old, had been run over by a car or found poisoned in a neighbor's garden or been shot with an air rifle by someone who thinks it's fun to hurt innocent animals -- suddenly, I don't feel so guilty anymore about keeping my kitties safe indoors at all times.
I have heard arguments about indoor vs. outdoor cats all my life. There appears to be one thing, though, that people who think it's natural for cats to be outside don't seem to grasp: that times have changed. For example, a century ago, it may have been more natural for cats to roam the great outdoors, but in those days cars doing 100 m.p.h. weren't around. And today, the road is one of the biggest killers of outdoor kitties. Also, cats no longer exclusively reside on farms in the countryside. More people living in apartments and condos in big cities keep pets, meaning that there are a lot more cats that need to lead indoor-only lives.
Simply said, we cannot compare our own, nor our kitties' lives, to the old days and what was natural back then. There is, however, one constant that still applies today (and will probably apply until the end of time) as the most natural thing in the world: Our cats value us as their tin opener and loyal servant, and we are happy to serve them.
When we still lived in London, I spent a lot to put together a large cat run (or "catio" as these are now called) at the back of our ground-floor garden flat. This was connected to the inside of the house by a cat flap in the bedroom window. It gave my boys Spider and Lugosi the chance to get a bit of sunshine and fresh air and take in and enjoy all the outdoor smells, but keeping them safe all the same, especially from the road that ran directly past our house.
Prior to buying my apartment in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, in 2004, the first thing I asked myself was, "Is it safe for my cats?" I'm the kind of person who would never move anywhere if it wasn't suitable for my three furbabies.
The decision to buy this new "pad" located on the first floor (in U.S. terms that would be the second floor) in a pedestrian-only alleyway, where the nearest road from the house is approximately 100 meters away, was the best decision I could have ever made for them. Not only is there no dreaded road traffic, but it's also extremely safe for what I call our "supervised outings" -- as you can see from the photos and video below, our alley is flanked on both sides by high walls where the cats cannot run away, get lost or otherwise get themselves into trouble!
Before I adopted Ruby in 2009, I used to take Spider and Lugosi out on a little cat harness and leash once a day. However, they never really liked it that much, plus the fact that I had two cats pulling me in opposite directions didn't help! Then, about two years ago, I decided I had had enough of Spider escaping out every time I opened the front door, and our twice-daily "supervised kitty outings" were born.
It didn't take my three rascals long to get into a nice routine. In the mornings, between 8 and 8:30, I would have them all sitting patiently by the front door, waiting for me to finish making my coffee and go out with them.
Our neighborhood is pretty safe, and I always leave the door open a bit so the cats can run back inside if they get frightened by a loud noise or a person coming down the alley. I then sit down at the bottom of the stairs with my coffee and enjoy watching them, catching all the outside scents, having a good run around and playing for about 15 to 20 minutes. It´s a bit like taking the kids to the playground. And then I repeat all of the above between 5 and 5:30 in the afternoon!
There is just one thing I worry about: dogs whose owners allow them to walk off-leash. Sadly, this is a rather common occurrence where we live, and even under supervision, Spider has recently had a close encounter with a dog who, luckily, got scared and ran off after Spider hissed bravely in his face. Another incident that happened on my watch was when Lugosi panicked after seeing a kid riding a bicycle down the alley and running right under the bicycle -- he was fine, but even now he still has a morbid fear of bicycles whenever he sees one in motion.
Apart from those minor worries, our alley is the most wonderful, safe environment for cats. Our climate is warm all year-round, and the only months it tends to rain a little and get "cold" are January and February. My kitty gang do love their balcony and surveying the neighborhood from their lofty height, but getting out there is, of course, a step up from that.
And for myself, seeing Spider chase leaves that the wind blows down the alley, Lugosi rolling around with glee on the rough stone floor, and Ruby scaring off a neighborhood tom -- these are experiences I'm so happy to be able to offer my cats.
Do you supervise your kitty on outdoor trips? Would you do it if you could? I would love to hear your stories in the comments!
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About the Author: Barbarella Buchner -- Ailurophile. Geeky Goth Girl. Photographer. Web Designer. Fibromyalgia + RA Sufferer. And totally mad! She originally hails from Hannover (Germany), then moved to London, and since 2004 has lived on the tropical island of Lanzarote, together with her tabby twins Lugosi & Spider, and ginger queen Ruby Akasha. Apart from being an avid hobby -- and sometimes even paid! -- photographer, she works as a freelance web and graphic designer and occasional Catster contributor. She designed and maintains her local cat charity 9 Lives Lanzarote's website.