Many of you have most likely watched your indoor feline friend sit on a window ledge, sniffing the air and looking longingly outside. We may assume that we are depriving them of their natural instincts of hunting and prowling around. Watching outdoor cats we see a great deal more of what we perceive as cats doing what they enjoy the most, being curious and adventurous.
If you have experienced some of these feelings, American Humane Association appreciates your concern for your feline friend and would like to help you make an educated decision. Let’s look at the issues surrounding indoor vs. outdoor cats:
The American Feral Cat Coalition estimates that there are approximately 60 million feral and homeless stray cats living in the U.S. Many of these cats may carry diseases that can be passed on to your cat if he or she comes into contact with them. A number of these diseases can be serious or potentially fatal.
Not only is potential disease a concern, there is also the greater risk of parasites, safety issues such as other animals including dogs or more wild animals depending on your area. Concern needs to be taken for safety issues such as cars, people that may be cruel by such things as shooting cats with BB guns or arrows, or some cats end up being trapped, abused and killed in the name of “sport” or “for fun.” There is a risk of roaming cats being trapped for research.
A cat’s prey drive is so strong that even well-fed cats may naturally enjoy hunting birds or other small animals. Although it may not seem that one cat might be a big deal, it is important to think about the total impact of all the cats who are allowed outside. Loose cats are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of birds each year, yet birds are believed to be only 20 percent of the wildlife stray cats kill.1 Birds are especially at risk around homes with feeders and birdbaths.1
While initially it might seem like a nice treat to allow your indoor cat outside, the risk seems higher than the value. There are a great many ways to keep your indoor cat happy. “Thinking like a cat” can help you create an indoor playground to keep your feline using their natural instincts.
- Climbing places:Your house may already provide climbing opportunities on furniture, shelves or cabinets, but you may also want to have climbing areas specifically for your cat, such as a cat tree. You can buy cat trees at most pet supply stores, or research online how to make your own.
- Cat perches:Cats are natural-born sun worshippers. Giving your cat access to several windows will give her the opportunity to both sunbathe and watch the world from the safety of your home. If you have narrow windowsills, consider installing a cat perch on several windows so your kitty has a place to stretch out and enjoy the view. Shelves made especially for this purpose can be purchased at most pet supply stores, or you can research online how to build your own.
- “Cat TV”:Provide entertainment for your cat by placing a bird feeder or birdbath in your yard within view of the windows. If you decide to provide feeders and baths, please keep our winged friends safe by keeping your cats inside at all times. A screened-in porch can also be a safe, enjoyable place for your cat to enjoy the sun and a view of nature; just be sure that the screens are secure to prevent escape.
- Hiding places:Most cats love to hide. Providing your feline friend with fun hiding places is easy and does not have to cost a dime! Most cats will be thrilled to have a cardboard box or paper grocery bag to hide in. If you prefer, you can purchase a kitty tent, condo or tunnel at a pet supply store, or figure out how to make one at home. Simply moving a toy or climbing toy to a different area creates a “new” place for your cat.
1 Kress, Steve (2008). Audubon Living: Cats. Audubon Magazine, November-December