When a cat sits in a window, avidly watching birds or squirrels, does it mean that she would prefer to be outside hunting? When she yowls at the presence of another cat in your backyard (having seen it from the enclosed patio), do you feel a pang of guilt that your cat is “indoors-only”? Does your cat’s longing for sunlight and fresh air compel you to let her outside, even if just for a few minutes?
Many pet owners feel pity for their cats who seem to yearn to play in the garden or climb trees in the front yard. Sometimes, cats who are used to being inside are allowed out under the watch of their owners. These brief moments in the elements can turn a contented cat into one who paces back and forth, waiting for you to open the back door. It can make your cat feel confined and unsatisfied in the comfortable home you have maintained for her. It can also cause your cat do to damage to your house by trying to get out on her own or to communicate her displeasure. Your cat’s psychological health is just one reason that maintaining an “indoors-only” policy is crucial, but other dangers await cats who are inexperienced at an outdoor lifestyle.
Cats who have been indoors since birth are less adept at defense than cats who have grown up feral or as indoor-outdoor cats. Not only can they not defend themselves when encountering another animal, they are sure to be hurt by other cats with more fighting experience. Cats may be sweet and loveable when inside, but instinct kicks in and they can be vicious opponents when encountering a strange cat–fights for outdoor cats are inevitable.
There are several diseases that can be spread from other cats, especially through fighting. The feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is just one disease that can be debilitating for the cat, especially in its later life. It can cause a whole host of chronic problems: diarrhea, skin infections, and even neurological problems. Other diseases, like feline infectious peritonitis can be spread through contact with infected blood.
Fleas are another danger of the outdoors. Not only do fleas carry diseases and irritate the cat on which they prey, but they can also infest your carpet. Of course, it is possible to use anti-flea products on your cat. And companies specializing in pest control can rid your house of the parasites for a fee. But these are chemicals, and for your safety and the cat’s, it would make both of you happier not to have to deal with fleas at all.
The hazards of traffic are well known to anyone who has lost a pet to a hit-and-run. And animals, especially those who have little experience with how quick and deadly automobiles can be, may not be familiar with how to avoid busy roadways. Pets are at risk for various reasons–they are small and difficult to see when crossing the street, especially at night. In a situation where a driver can not break or veer fast enough without causing an accident with another vehicle, the pet must be the casualty. And some people may find sport in hitting animals that unwittingly cross in the path of their car.
Humans are the final risk to your cat. Mean-spirited neighbors may not take kindly to a cat who ventures into their yard or does her business in their flower garden. They may poison, kick, or spray your cat with a hose. And while most children like animals, often they do not know how to treat them properly. The flip side of the human argument are the ones who love animals very much, and may take in your cat because they feel it is a stray.
Cats who are used to the outdoors may not have as many problems with the possible dangers. They would never be satisfied becoming indoor-only cats, anyway. But cats who have been raised indoors do not know how to protect themselves–so of course, as their owner and someone who loves them, it is up to you to make the right choices for their safety. Keep your indoor cat indoors, so you both may live long, happy, stress-free lives . . . together.