Healthy & Happy Indoor Cat
Cats can be happily kept inside all the time. Many people do so and would have it no other way. They say they have deeper and more satisfying relationships with their cats and that those cats are healthier and live longer. While living happily inside, cats are not getting hit by cars, being injured in cat fights, catching infections such as feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus (Feline "AIDS"), being stolen, hunting and possibly killing wildlife, urinating and defecating on neighbors' properties, and harassing or being harassed by other animals. Clearly there are many good reasons for permanently keeping cats indoors and outdoors in a protected area.
An outdoor cat lives a more stressful life than an indoor cat, and stress leads to a myriad of physical and psychological disorders. When faced with a challenge, the cat "gears up"; the heart rate increases, blood flow to the internal organs increases, and stored sugar is released into the bloodstream, ready to meet increased demands for energy. Many of these immediate effects are triggered by the release of the hormone- adrenalin from the adrenal glands. The body is now ready to "fight" or "flee," depending on the circumstances. If the challenge persists, other hormones are released, among them ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) from the pituitary gland. ACTH in turn causes the release of still more hormones, such as cortisone and hydrocortisone from the adrenal glands. These hormones help to continue the supply of energy-sustaining sugars. Finally, should the perceived threat continue, the previously adaptive system starts to break down. Chronic exposure to corticosteroids and other substances can cause organ systems to start degenerating, resulting in such negative effects as decreased immune response, stomach ulcers, and decreased growth to name but a few. Variation in the body's response is based on the type of threat it is exposed to.
Outdoor cats on the street, or even in the country, are faced every day with territorial disputes, threats from other animals, people, cars, environmental noises which cause panic, and situations which generate pure fear and stress. Indoor cats generally live longer, healthier and happier lives than outdoor cats - a fact that cannot be disputed.
Some people feel that it is cruel to confine cats because they think of them as "free spirits" that should be allowed to roam at will because of their nature. They seem to give little thought to the possible consequences listed above. So, how can we resolve this dilemma? We can do so by enriching the daily life of the indoor cat to replace some of the stimulation and activity it would otherwise receive as a freeroaming animal. This environmental enrichment puts complexity, unpredictability and choices into a cat's daily life. Without these things, many animals and people become frustrated in confinement and show signs of boredom-greater reactivity, irritability and exaggerated or unusual behavior.
Environmental enrichment aims to satisfy a cat's need for interaction with its environment.. This can be done in many ways, some of which suit some cats better than others. Cats are notoriously individualistic. Some activities involve the owner in active participation, while others just have to be set up and left for the cat to use when it wishes. By doing more for their cats, owners also enrich their own lives.
Inside or Out
The hazards of the outdoors-automobiles, dogs, rival cats, poisonous plants, infectious diseases, and fleas, to name but a few-are compelling reasons to keep cats exclusively indoors. It is especially important to keep declawed cats indoors, as they are poorly equipped to defend themselves or escape danger by climbing trees. Indoor cats are unquestionably safer and healthier than outdoor cats, and they make better household pets. They don't endanger birds and other wildlife or bring home fleas or dead animals, nor do they need frequent visits to the veterinarian to treat injuries sustained in scraps with rival cats.
Screened-in porches or specially constructed window enclosures allow indoor-only cats to sniff the fresh air, peruse the goings-on outside, and bask in the sun. By regularly changing the indoor environment, you can help keep your cat challenged-; strategically situated empty cardboard boxes or plain brown shopping bags (minus the handles) can provide an old space with new interest.
If you want to allow outdoor excursions, let your cat out only in areas where escape is impossible and other animals cannot intrude. Do not let a cat out in early morning or late afternoon through evening when birds and other small animals are feeding. Midday is safer for your local fauna. Although few cats will accompany their owners in the same way a dog would, with a little patience most young cats can be trained to at least tolerate a harness and go for an occasional stroll. Access to windowsills gives indoor cats the pleasure of observing the world outdoors.
To turn an outdoor cat into an indoor cat: Confine the cat to one room (a bathroom is fine) with no absorbent surfaces except a litter box. Interact and play with her often. When she is using the box regularly, allow the cat some time out of the room under your supervision. When you are sure she will return to the box, give her more space, eventually allowing her to explore unsupervised. Provide access to sunny windowsills, play stalk-and-pounce games before meals, and watch carefully to be sure she doesn't dive for the door any time it's opened. Outdoor cats usually adapt to being indoor-only cats within several weeks.
The human/cat relationship is based on many, often contrasting factors. Indoors the cat is valued for its cleanliness, affection and playfulness, and admired for its highly evolved play behaviour. Although not a group hunter, the cat retains an enormous capacity to be sociable and accepts the benefits of living in the human family and den without compromising its self-determining and independent behaviour.
The cat views the members of its human family largely as maternal figures. In their company, the adult cat continues much of its kitten behaviour, such as relaxed purring, initiation of playful and affectionate encounters and willingness to respond to vocal and tactile cues."
Dr. Nicholas Dodman, Professor of Behavioral Pharmacology and Director of the Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and internationally known specialist in domestic animal behavioral research, states:
Its a lot safer to keep cats indoors. The average lifespan of an indoor cat is around twelve to fourteen years, while outdoor cats are lucky to reach double digits.
More & more cat owners are realising the dangers of allowing a cat to free roam & it is very common for cats to be entirely indoors now. There are so many benefits to keeping your cat indoors, a few of which are;
- Dogs - Unfortunately many outdoor cats are killed & seriously injured in dog attacks.
- Cars - Another common fatality in cats. Unfortunately cats have no road sense.
- Cruel humans - Sad but true, not everybody loves animals, and some derive great pleasure in killing cats. Cats entered the neighbour's garden and have been deliberately poisoned by irate neighbours.
- Preventing hunting of native wildlife, plus eliminating the risk of your cat picking up a disease from an infected animal.
- Greatly reduces the chances of your cat picking up a parasitic infection such as fleas & worms.
- Preventing injuries from cat fights. The most common injury is an abscess which is incredibly painful to a cat, and will need to be treated by a veterinarian.
- Accidental poisoning.
- Theft - This may occur because somebody takes a fancy to your cat, there are also sinister reasons to steal cats such as to provide them to animal laboratories for testing.
- Lower veterinary bills. Due to the reduced risks of injury & parasitic infections in indoor cats you will have much lower veterinary bills.
It is quite possible for an indoor cat to be a happy cat. Below are some suggestions on ensuring your indoor cat remains entertained & happy.
- If it is at all possible you can give your cat the best of both worlds. Provide it with a screened in porch or outdoor cat enclosure without, your cat can enjoy the great outdoors without the risks associated with free roaming cats. There are many great cat enclosures & porches on this page. Enclosures come in all shapes & sizes, they can be home made or supplied by a specialised cat enclosure company.
- Train your cat to walk on a leash. It is quite possible to do this with a little time & effort. There are some great tips on this page...
- Provide your cat with a cat tree. This will enable your cat to indulge in it's love of climbing, and will double up as a place to sharpen it's claws.
- Place perches on windowsills so your cat can enjoy the sun & watching the outside world.
- Keep a supply of toys on hand. Indulge in your cat's natural instinct to prey & hunt by providing appropriate toys. These could include toy mice, corks from bottles, wand type toys. Cats love to hide, you can provide it with plenty of entertainment just by giving it an old box or two or a paper bag (never use a plastic bag) to play with & hide in.
- Make some time daily to play with your cat, this will not only provide him/her with stimulation but also encourage exercise.
- Plant some catnip or cat grass in a planter for your cat to nibble on.
- Put a bird feeder or bath outside for your cat's entertainment.
- You can now purchase videos especially for cats to watch. The video contained footage of birds & insects. They sat there glued to the television, occasionally taking a swipe at the screen.
- Consider having two cats so they can play together.
- If you have the time, energy & money, purchase a fish tank to keep your feline amused. Obviously make sure this is a tank which your cat won't be able to easily knock over or climb into. As fish keeping does require time & effort in order to keep the tank clean & the fish healthy, this should only be something you do if you are happy to take on the extra work involved in keeping a fish tank. On the upside, your cat & you will be entertained for hours watching the beautiful fish.
So... Indoor Or Outdoor?
From first time kitten owners to seasoned cat companions, cat owners are divided whether or not cats should be allowed outdoors. Traditional beliefs that cats need freedom to roam are fading in the light of statistics that indicate the indoor cats have a longer life span and better health. Deciding whether or not a cat should be an indoors or outdoors animal is up to individual owners but the pros and cons provide substantial evidence toward indoor cats.
Statistics indicate that the life span of an indoor cat is much longer than an outdoor cat. On average, an indoor cat lives twelve years but some cats can live for as many as twenty years. In comparison, an outdoor cat's life expectancy is less than five years.
The pros of keeping a cat indoors outnumber the cons of an indoor cat. Most are directly related to the health and safety of the cat.
The first valid reason to make a cat an indoor pet is traffic. Busy highways, roads, suburban streets and country lanes all present a life-threatening danger for cats. One accident can be fatal or cause serious injuries.
Indoor cats are not exposed to the host of poisons that many outdoors cats encounter. Pesticides, home garden products, car and motor products, discarded trash, spoiled foods, poisonous plants and intentional poisonings are among the poisoning dangers for cats that roam.
Danger of contracting an infectious disease rises for the outdoor cat. Many feline diseases including Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (FeLV) are transmitted from an infected cat to another. Cats who roam at will encounter other cats and can contract either of these fatal diseases. Free roaming cats often encounter problems with other cats in the area & abscesses as a result of a cat fight are ailment veterinarians see on a regular basis. These are painful to the cat & can cost up to several hundred dollars to fix. A host of other infectious diseases thrive in the outdoor environment and among cats that may not have been vaccinated.
Parasites are another health issue for outdoor cats. Fleas are prevalent through the world and can be carriers for disease. Some diseases can be transmitted to cat owners.
Outdoor cats face other dangers. Dogs and wild animals such as possums & snakes often prey on cats that wander into the wrong territory.
Outdoors cats are more prone to becoming lost. Less than 5% of cats taken to animal shelters are reclaimed by owners. All outdoor cats should wear either safety collars with identifying information. However collars often become lost. Microchipping is the only permanent way to identify a cat. Theft of animals to be used as lab animals, for the illegal fur trade or in satanic rites is another threat for outdoor cats.
Neighbours who object to a roaming cat who may defecate or urinate in a flower bed or vegetable garden are another problem solved with indoor cats. Neighborhood spats often arise from issues involving cats - if a cat lives indoors, then the potential for neighbor trouble is diminished.
Traditional views that cats require the freedom to roam outdoors have few pros. The belief that indoor cats tend to be lazy and overweight is not true and can be combated with scheduled play times. Outdoor cat enthusiasts claim cats love the outdoors, which is often true, but the dangers outweigh the benefits. The same cat owners who promote the outdoors often insist that cats deserve their freedom.
Such views, however, are outdated and outranked by most animal professionals. The majority of veterinarians believe cats should be indoor pets. So do members of most Humane Societies and animal protection societies. Dangers to an outdoor cat far outweigh any benefits and responsible cat owners are urged to do what is best for the cat.
Cat owners uncertain about keeping a pet indoors can give their cat the best of both worlds by offering outdoor experiences in controlled situations. Contrary to what most cat owners may think, it is possible to train a cat to a leash and harness. It is easier to train a kitten or young cat but all cats can be leash trained. This allows cats to be walked in the same manner as many dogs and offers outdoor exercise beneficial for both cat and owner.
Perhaps the best solution of all is a cat enclosure where cats can enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment. Many companies manufacture cat enclosures but cat owners can also create their own. A cat enclosure is simply an enclosed area that offers protection and keeps the cat from wandering away. An ideal cat enclosure will contain enough space to move, climbing options, and a resting area. A shady area is best so that the cat can enjoy fresh area even on the warmest days. Every cat enclosure should be covered with material that can't be breached by the cat. Nylon mesh and chicken wire are two of the most inexpensive, effective options. Concerns about formerly outdoor cats adapting to indoor life are valid but a cat enclosure often solves this potential problem.
Cat owners should also consider that indoor cats are healthier, often happier, and live much longer than outdoors cats allowed the freedom to roam. However, if you absolutely must allow your cat to roam outside it is important to ensure the cat is brought indoors from dusk to dawn. This is when our native fauna is at it's most vulnerable to cats.