I belong to an email group that sends out notices for pets lost in my area. Included in the email is the option to share the notice on my Facebook page, which I do. Each time I post the picture of that poor missing kitty, my heart breaks a little. Knowing what being lost in the city of Portland can mean for a cat, I pray for the best.
They come in all shapes and sizes, these lost cats. There are house-bound tabbies and clip-eared toms; fat cats lazing on a bed; tiny fragile cats in a child’s arms. The kittens and the old ones get to me the most. Hopefully the kitten (what’s a kitten doing outside in the first place?) has found another loving home. The older cats, set in their ways and frightened at the sudden change, may not have such luck.
I want to contact each one of those cat-owners, chastising them for letting their precious cats loose on the mean streets, but I know it isn’t that simple. They’re not all negligent and unfeeling like I might want to think. Indoor cats get out; indoor-outdoor cats get spooked and run from their familiar yard. Newbie cat people may not realize the dangers of letting their cats outside.
Some folks consider outdoors a natural habitat for their felines, one that cats need for stimulation and emotional wellbeing. This is partially true: cats need mental and physical exercise, and the outdoors is a hotbed of cat-centric adventure. However the benefits must be weighed against the dangers. With a little extra planning, innovation, and work, a stimulating environment may be created in a home with the help of prey toys, climbing apparatus such as a cat tree of shelves, and of course a loving person to play with.
I haven’t always kept my cats indoors. For the most part, they were fine, savvy to cars and predators. But as I became more aware of the potential threats, I began slowly bringing them inside, first at night, then most all the time, letting them out only briefly to do their catly business.
The final blow came one quiet night at the beach. Our cabin is on a dead end road; few cars pass in a day and hardly any after dark. We had let Graywood out for a final potty in the sand before bed. It usually only took a few minutes for him to be meowing at the door to come back in to the warm and cozy. But this night, he didn’t come. We waited and called, looked around outside the house, but we weren’t much worried and went to bed, thinking that we would soon hear his meow. The next morning, 5:00 am and he was still missing. When we went to search, we found him, hit by a car, probably the only car on the little-used road all night. I don’t know how it happened, how it could have happened, but I knew right away what would have prevented it from happening, and that was to have kept him inside.
Someday we’ll build a catio, but until then my cats are strictly indoors, watching birds from behind the safety of glass, sniffing the fresh air through the screen. They don’t seem unhappy about their captivity, and I am relieved beyond measure that never again will I have to feel the helpless anxiety of worrying where kitty is, wondering if he’s going to make it home, realizing that if he doesn’t, I have only myself to blame.
There are many reasons to keep cats indoors:
Predators such as dogs, raccoons, coyotes, and bad people.
Dangers from cars, bicycles, and other moving vehicles.
Poisons such as antifreeze, gasoline, rat poison, lilies and more. Cats don’t need to ingest them to be harmed; an open container of a toxic substance may be inadvertently stepped in or rubbed against with disastrous results.
Cat fights transmit illnesses such as Feline Leukemia and FIV. Fight bites and nasty cat-scratch abscesses will be costly.
Many parasites such as fleas, ticks, ringworm, and icky worms live in the outdoor environment.
Here are a few thoughts on how to satisfy your cat’s need for stimuli:
Check out these images of Catios on Google.
Read Catify to Satisfy: Simple Solutions for Creating a Cat-Friendly Home, by Jackson Galaxy and Kate Benjamin
Look up Royal Meow, Castles for Cats , the Cadillac of cat trees.
Just for fun, check out this Cat Exercise Wheel.
(I do not endorse any of the above products except for Royal Meow Castles for Cats which is a wonderful homespun business with high-quality, hand-made cat trees for all households.)