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Should cats live inside or outside? Print E-mail
Saturday, 23 November 2013 14:25

Until recently, all cats spent at least part of each day outside. Before cat litter became available, letting the cat out was a household ritual. Today, owners can choose whether to let their cats out, or keep them indoors. Are indoor cats better off than their outdoor cousins, or is indoor life an unnatural hardship on a cat?

The most obvious reason for keeping cats indoors is that they live longer, healthier lives. It has been said that there are four keys to longevity in cats. One is luck, two is proper nutrition, three is regular veterinary care, and four is staying out of harms way. For most cats, "harms way" lies outdoors.

While the idea that cats need to spend time outside, where they can hunt, climb a tree, prowl around, or just watch the world go by is appealing to some people, most cats have no problem adapting to indoor life. Cats can live happily in any size home, from a ten thousand square foot mansion to a small efficiency apartment, on a boat or a travel RV, cats accommodate well.

The average cat is not opposed to indulging in the good life, and most soon take the comforts of home for granted. A warm, dry place to live, regular food, a clean litter box, a soft place to sleep, and a social atmosphere that includes both people and other pets become the accepted norm. Throw in a little petting, some toys to play with, and a little catnip, and you have a pretty contented kitty.

Whether you let your cat go outdoors or keep it inside, it is important to have it spayed or neutered. The problem of animal overpopulation shouldn’t be news to anyone. The number of cats slaughtered in "shelters" is disgusting. Allowing a cat that hasn’t been reproductively neutralized to roam outdoors is really irresponsible. Keeping one indoors isn’t a good idea either. Male cats have a tendency to ‘spray’, which is a polite way of saying they urinate on the walls and furniture. This urine has an odor so nauseating you will not believe it. Female cats in heat will cry incessantly, night and day, to be let out. It can be nerve wracking, to say the least. In addition, unspayed female cats that are not allowed to breed will often develop medical problems, including breast cancer and pyometria, a uterine infection that is very serious.

Cats that have been altered will generally stay near the home, reducing the risk from the greatest threat to cats, the automobile. Where you live will determine how great the risk is to your cat. Every day in this country, thousands of cats are killed or injured by cars.

Other dangers facing outdoor cats include the risk of combat, either with other cats, dogs, or wild animals. A trip to the vet to have your cat stitched up after a fight will make you wonder about the wisdom of outdoor life. Here in the east, coyote have become a problem in many areas. Old news out west, these wily hunters have found eastern neighborhoods to be a ready food source, and cats and small dogs to be easy prey.

Contact with other animals also increases the risk of diseases, such as Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). And of course, there is always rabies. Fortunately,except for (FIV), there are vaccines available for all of these, so be sure to have your cat vaccinated.

Other hazards waiting outside for your cat include toxic substances that may be lying about. Cats are much more discriminating than dogs when it comes to what they put in their mouths, but they can still ingest poisons. Anti-freeze is highly toxic, and a small amount can be deadly. It has a sweet taste that cats and dogs alike find hard to resist. Rodent poisons, or those left for garden pests, are also a danger to a cat

If, after letting your cat roam outside for some time, you change your mind and decide it belongs indoors, you may have a problem. When a cat that has been allowed to roam outdoors is suddenly confined inside, it may react in ways you won’t like. It might range from constant crying to be let out, to not using the litter box, to aggressive behavior or clawing the furniture. On the other hand, it might just accept the change gracefully, and cause no problems. You won’t know until you try.

So how do you convince a cat that the best view of the world is from a perch on the window ledge. The easiest way is to start with a kitten, and don’t let it outside at all. If possible, a companion cat will be a big plus. Cats are social animals by nature, and enjoy the companionship of other cats. Provide toys, scratching posts, hiding places, shelves and perches to make its indoor domain an interesting place to live. Make time often to play with your cat, using feathers and cat teases to exercise and entertain him. You’ll have fun, and so will your cat.

 
 
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