If you've been wondering whether to keep your cat indoors indefinitely, you may have a few questions and concerns about the ethics. Rescuing a cat that's accustomed to being outdoors is a different prospect than raising a kitten or adopting an indoor-only cat. The ones used to frolicking beyond your property can begin to show behavioral problems when forced to stay inside. The SPCA and PETA recommend that, as far as possible, cats should be kept within the confines of your home when unsupervised. Your cat can lead a relatively content life under your roof and live for much longer than it otherwise would. Here's why.
This goes for both you and your kitty. A cat given free rein is liable to be infected by feline immunodeficiency virus or other diseases or pick up parasites, including fleas, ticks, and worms, from interactions with stray cats. No one who cuddles with their cat or lets them sleep in the same bed wants to be exposed to pathogens.
Furthermore, if your indoor cat starts exhibiting symptoms of any kind, you can get to the bottom of the issue much quicker because you know what you feed it, and you can keep a beady eye on the litter tray for other clues to report to your vet.
Millions of cats are killed on American roads every year. It's heartbreaking to have to open your door to a distraught and apologetic person describing your cat and explaining how it darted in front of their car. And that's if the driver is inclined to share the information—many cats and dogs are the victims of hit-and-run incidents. Dangerous roads aside, your cat may accidentally ingest poison from antifreeze, fertilizers, or pesticides.
Cats engage in fights with strange cats and cats they've encountered before. These are often territorial skirmishes and can get quite nasty. Your cat may hobble home with injuries and abscesses that require urgent medical attention. In addition, your cat might contract FIV if it's bitten. But feline-on-feline brawls aren't the only attacks you should be worried about—neighborhood dogs can pose a fatal threat, and local wildlife, for example, coyotes, may prey on cats.
Humans are complex creatures whose actions can often be unforgivable. Whether for a hazing dare, a misguided sacrifice, a hunting target, or for bait in a vicious game with a predator, cats on the loose can often stumble into nightmarish situations. Cats are also deliberately stolen for resale to labs and oblivious cat enthusiasts.
Once you've built a relationship with your cat, it can be incredibly distressing to have it go missing. Cats can venture too far from their homes and become confused and disoriented. They may get caught up in bad weather, so even if you have a GPS tracker and can locate your fluffy bestie, it may be too late if it's already succumbed to hypothermia or heatstroke.
Cats have finely honed hunting instincts, and when they're given the green light to explore, they can be little terminators striking fear into the birds and small mammals in your suburb. Wildlife organizations worldwide plead with the public to keep their cats housebound because, cute as they are, they can't tell the difference between a pesky rat and various endangered species. The Australian government recently culled hundreds of thousands of feral cats because they caused dozens of extinctions.
Cats were domesticated during the last ice age, which was a pretty long time ago. Since then, cats have become a bit lazy, and understanding why is not such a leap—would you prefer to go hunting for lunch or get a Big Mac delivered while you feel the thrill of the kill as your team wipes the floor with its opponents? With sufficient enrichment, indoor cats don't mind that they barely leave the house.
What happens when you let your cat outdoors? It snatches a mouse or other critter to drop at your feet as a gift. Simulated hunting experiences save you from that trauma. There's evidence that food puzzles can improve behavioral problems in cats. Even lazy cats are keen on working just that little bit harder for their meals, and you don't have to fork out loads of money to make dinner fun. Food puzzles shouldn't start off being too challenging, and you can create them yourself.
Even cats used to being outdoors can become homebodies if they're accommodated with climbing towers, cat scratchers, stimulating toys, and quality time with you pointing a laser to chase, for example. A secure garden is ideal and provides plenty of opportunities to work off excess energy, but a balcony catio or window perch in an apartment works well to stave off boredom. Cats are social animals, so fellow feline companions may also be a good idea if you can swing it.
Spay and neuter your cat and leash train with a clicker and treats. You'll open up a world of possibilities. Start leash training as early as possible. It makes heading to the park for a stroll much more manageable, and you can let your cat determine where it wants to go while you obediently follow suit.
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