Do cats really need to go outdoors?

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emilymaywilcha

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I don't think ferals necessarily belong outside--as I said, I have several indoor ferals. Truly feral. And if they can adjust to living indoors, probably most ferals could. But it's not really an option for most people. A lot of people want friendly cats, others may be willing but don't have the room/resources to keep ferals indoors.
But mostly it's about attitudes. If you put it in peoples' heads that "cats don't belong outdoors", they aren't going to differentiate between tame cats and ferals. And it usually doesn't end up well for the ferals when people want to "save" them from an outdoor existence.
Besides, what's the difference between a feral that won't live indoors and a tame cat that won't live indoors?
The tame cats do live indoors and spend some time outside. Feral cats are outside all day long. That is a significant difference.

Whether you can force a feral cat to always stay indoors or not depends on the cat, of course. If they really can't, I would make the yard safer, have a Purrfect Fence or something like that installed, and buy an enclosure.
 

yayi

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1. but if you let tame cats go in and out whenever they want to, you should have never adopted a cat.

2. If you think your cat absolutely needs to go outside, the solution is making a cat-safe yard with no trees, grass, ponds, bird products, or gardens.
Oh wow, for the first statement - that is a terrible thing to say. Even though I do not agree about indoor cats, I would never tell an indoor cat parent they should never have adopted a cat because I don't like the way they treat their cats. As for statement #2, not only it is ridiculous, it is sad. Your indoor cats have cat trees to simulate trees, a artificial fountain to simulate ponds, cat toys to simulate prey, wheat grass to simulate gardens. So an outdoor yard without the real thing is perfect? Nice concept.

Okay, again, my TAME cats are allowed to go in and out whenever they please. I live in a pretty large area. It is surrounded by +6 ft concrete walls. My next door neighbor is okay with cats, my back neighbor dislikes cats so he has nasty dogs that bark all the time driving me nuts, my other next door neighbor are priests who don't seem to mind cats or dogs. Anyway, my cats are STREET SMART. Somehow, they do not dash out to the streets, they never leave the property, they climb the walls but hang around the area of the "friendly" neighbor. 

Because I make sure they get regular flea/tick treatments, they hardly have these parasites. 

I am not dumb about the dangers a cat faces outside. I am not paranoid though. 
 

crickets mom

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This is not a relevant argument in the indoor cats vs outdoor cats debate.
Humans can make conscious choices about how to be safe outside. Cats do not know about poison, and evil people and that cars can kill and maim. They don't know that coming too close to a sick cat can make them sick. They understand danger, but only on an instinctive level. It's not the same thing as humans going out and about, not at all.
She was such a great mom, she probably would have died trying to care for her kittens, and with out her, her kittens would have died too.
That's called instinct.
If one of the kittens was sickly, left to do it herself, she would have abandoned the sickly one. It's survival of the fittest, for animals. They are "great moms" because they are biologically programmed to raise their offspring until they have been taught to care for themselves, then they are left to get on with it.
I'm not negating your accomplishment, it's wonderful you rescued her, and found homes for the kittens and kept the ones no one else wanted. And since you did, it's your prerogative to choose to let them be outdoor cats. For myself, I wouldn't be able to live with the worry.
 I have to respectfully disagree that this is not a relevant argument.  People get sick, and somtimes die from ingesting poison.  Evil people do not wear shirts that say "Im evil".  Evil people do horrible things to people all the time.  People get hit by cars, either walking, and more often in car accidents,and get killed and maimed.  People get sick by coming into contact with other sick people.  Accident are the 9th leading cause of human death (according to wikipedia). 

None of Crickets kittens were sick.  I dont think she would have abandoned her healthy kittens.  I meant that she was such a great mom that she probably would have nursed and taken care of them to the point where she would not have been taking proper care of herself.   I think she would have let them nurse her dry.  So, in my opionion, I saved her, and her 7 kittens. 
 

mani

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I've been following this closely... Quite a debate!

I'm really impressed with the thought and detail in 4catsNcounting's post.  I really do agree, and have personal experience to back up her "you can't put the genie back in the bottle" comment.

I'm about to set up a cat enclosure that is only about 12 feet long.  After reading "If I spend several thousand on fencing in 5 acres, will that be enough, or a waste of money?" I feel just a little daunted!
(Having said that, my two are indoor only... I doubt they'd know what to do with 5 acres)
 

otto

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I've just read of someone who had a "street smart" cat. This cat lived outside all her life "by choice". Not any more. She's been killed by a car, at four years old. When they found her it was "too late" to get her to the vet that night. She died horribly, after hours of suffering, before morning.

I guess there maybe are some cats who must be outside. I haven't met one yet, and I guess any cat who Chooses me will have to learn to cope. I will not have a cat wandering "free". I don't consider the risks worth the "freedom"
 

crickets mom

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I certainly respect your choice, and the choice of all those who have strictly indoor cats.  Its always a positve thing to want to keep our babies safe
.  IF it were possible for me, I would want mine inside too!
 
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emilymaywilcha

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I certainly respect your choice, and the choice of all those who have strictly indoor cats. It's always a positve thing to want to keep our babies safe. If it were possible for me, I would want mine inside too!
Maybe someday it will be possible for you, like the next time you adopt a kitten.
 

catsallaround

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I guess some cats are alot smarter then others.

The 2 who came with this house are mom/son.  Mom is like 10 or so probably older.  Son is 5ish.  Both were not fixed and roamed till 2010 when I had them done.

My ex street cat is at least 7 and my cat who died(of brain tumor) was about 10.  Smokey was close to 15 on street, Marvy was 10 or so on street.  Both lived few more years in house.  I always hear these outside cats die in years. Honestly the unneutered ones yes I easily see that or home raised kittens who are dumped out after they get out of the kitten stage.  But these born and bred outside cats...survival of the fittest.

I have also euthanized a ran over by a car baby kitten(6ish weeks) who seemed to be dumped as no others were ever found or mom cat seen. 
 

Emily-do you clean with all natural cleaners/feed organic only food?  No bags cause of the handles, no glass as it may break....I mean really so many accidents happen everyday with the oddest things/circumstances.  I had a kitten play and remove the saftey cover in outlet, I have had cats go into a grocery bag I was unloading at the time, cats fallen off the cat tree during play...

Ever see the commercial with the beagle in a plastic tube while family is enjoying its life but sad about the flea/ticks it MAY pick up....
 

jcat

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If you think your cat absolutely needs to go outside, the solution is making a cat-safe yard with no trees, grass, ponds, bird products, or gardens.
How is that species-appropriate? That sounds like the zoos that keep lions, tigers, leopards, bears, gorillas, etc., in concrete cages. A lot of people rightly call it cruelty.
 
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emilymaywilcha

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How is that species-appropriate? That sounds like the zoos that keep lions, tigers, leopards, bears, gorillas, etc., in concrete cages. A lot of people rightly call it cruelty.
The idea is put a ground cover down that does not need to be mowed and will not entice a cat to eat. In no way was I thinking about concrete. There are two problems with trees: they can't get down and squirrels can. A squirrel can go from a telephone wire to a tree branch, walk down all the way, and end up in the mouth of a cat.
 

catsallaround

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I think that would be a sucidal little thing.

Cats CAN get down trees.  It is easier going up by far but if thi cats can't get down trees there would be an awful lot of cat skeletons in/around trees. 

If not concrete what are you thinking?  A little push mower if it is small area or lock them in house and use a reg mower  and weed wacker for the tighter spots.  Grass isn't a big issue if the cat has the enclosure open daily it won't gorge.  My dog eats grass and so do my outside cats-not as a meal but here and there. 

Do you have your cats seperated from the main house? 
 

Willowy

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If a squirrel is dumb enough to walk right into a cat enclosure, he's dumb enough to deserve to get eaten :lol3:. But seriously, squirrels are fast and I've never known a cat to catch a healthy, uninjured adult squirrel. Even if they did, so what? That's what cats have done since the beginning of time.

I guess the basic concept is, can we remove every danger from our cats' lives? Not even close. Offgassing from carpets and vinyl floors is probably more dangerous than eating grass (what's so bad about grass anyway?). A cat could eat carpet just as well as they could eat grass, and carpet doesn't digest. Basically, except for cars, coyotes, and cruel people (all of which shouldn't be a problem in an enclosure), I could come up with a comparable indoor hazard for every outdoor hazard. I guess you could keep your cat in a cage all the time. . .but that's no life at all.
 

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Great discussion on the topic of Letting Domestic Cats Outdoors Unsupervised 


So I decided to make a summary of the pros and cons that have been mentioned in this thread, hopefully I didn't miss any.

Pros - Being Outdoors

§  Happiness: if a cat has be acclimatized to being outdoors, bringing it inside could affect its well-being (behaviour, health) or if the owner believes the cat will be happier outdoors

§  Culturally more accepted (at least in Europe)

§  Energy expenditure (cats may be more active outdoors = prevention of obesity)

§  Behavioural issues may develop scratching, urination leading to declawing and potentially euthanasia if given to shelters

§  Its more natural to them

§  Owner convenience

§  Rodent control

§  Natural food source - nobody mentioned this one, but I would think that a cat eating what’s natural to it (mice, birds) would be much better for its health than an indoor diet unless of course the  prey outdoors is contaminated.

Cons - Being Outdoors

§  Anthropogenic Dangers: cars, chemicals (pesticides, poisons, plants), abusive humans, etc.

§  Predation or attacked by poisonous animals/insects

§  Nuisance to neighbours (if defecating outdoors)

§  Contraction of illnesses such as FIV, parasites or be bitten by fleas or ticks

§  Can go missing

§  Cannot determine medical issues that may be apparent in urine or fecal matter if they are not using a litter box

§  If not spayed/neutered may breed with other cats

§  Indoor cat stress: Outdoor cats spraying and presence of outdoor cats can upset indoor cats

§  Killing rare birds (I added this one) in some places, in Canada at least, outdoor cats are threatening bird populations severely

Alternatives

-Window ledges or screened in window boxes

-Walking on leashes

-Outdoor enclosures

-Cat fencing

Inevitably there will be cats outside because of the amount abandoned, overpopulation issues, lack of spay/neutered cats, strays, ferals, etc. If you can bring an outdoor cat indoors and it copes then great! 
 If not, why make them suffer?

But there are also many dangers in keeping a cat indoors, that have not been mentioned such as feeding them kibble diets only, toxic chemicals, accidental ingestion, obesity and its related illnesses; however these cats are in a controlled environment whereas outdoor cats are not. Ultimately as owners we make the decisions for them; therefore we are responsible for their well-being and if we do something that causes harm to them than the ownus is on us. And we have 99% control over that if they are indoors... 


If you know the pros/cons and want whats best for your cat, I think you would keep them inside if possible. There are also alternatives that can be used if needed or if you would like your cat to get the best of both worlds. If unmanageable and the cat cannot cope with being indoors, than an outdoor life may be required for them in the long-run, however the risks are uncontrollable in an outdoor environment and regardless the owner is still responsible for what happens to the cat. And with that being said, anyone who takes an indoor cat and makes it an outdoor cat is CHOOSING to place their cat in an unsafe and uncontrollable environment which in my IMO makes them irresponsible and in that case I greatly disagree with it 
 

Willowy

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Good summary! I will say, though, that cats aren't really a threat to bird populations, except in certain very fragile ecosystems. Not in most areas of the U.S. and Canada. Just think of it--there are fewer free-roaming cats now than at any time since cats were introduced to this part of the world (due to spay/neuter, leash laws, changing attitudes, etc.). If a species were going to become extinct due to cat predation, it would have happened already. Loss of habitat is a far greater threat :(.

LDG has papers and studies on the subject, if you ask I'm sure she'll make them available!
 
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emilymaywilcha

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I see one problem with the list: If a cat can't cope with being indoors all the time, a cat yard would do the trick. If free, unsupervised roaming is not allowed, but the cat can go out to a safe fenced yard, it will be happy enough. Ferals are a different story, of course.

I have an idea to solve the tree problem: Build a treehouse for cats. Maybe that will keep cats away from birds and squirrels and it guarantees they can get down. Call me crazy if you want to, but I am unwilling to risk the chance of a cat not coming down from a tree.
 

violetxx

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I believe I mentioned it in alternatives. If a cat cannot tolerate being indoors all the time, than you have no choice but to let it stay outdoors; may it be in cat yards, on a leash, enclosures, whatever works for the cat and you. 

I think your making this more complicated than it is. If you want to build a cat tree-house, than so be it, but I don't see the purpose when you can either put them on a leash, make a cat enclosure, cat fence and many other ways. If the cats supervised, I don't think you'll need to worry about squirrels and birds, they usually stay away. I mean that's there natural prey your trying to keep them away from and their are other ways to keep them from climbing trees, such as putting up special fences around the tree, keep them in enclosures, put them on a leash, cut the trees down, cut their nails..... the list goes on...

I'm confused as to what your fighting now.. because you've gone on about gardens, ground covers and trees the most.. Cats are not vegetarians so the chances of them chewing on all your vegetation is slim unless you've trained them that way. Plus many plants have natural ways of saying 'hey im poisonous keep away' such as scent, colour, thorns, etc. otherwise animals all over the world would be dead from poisonous plants.. but that's not the case. You could always add screened boxes to you windows, I've seen it at cat hotels, its simple and effective. There is no need to allow them outside if their not constantly bothering you to get out. You'd be surprised how many indoor cats are terrified of going outside. Of my four cats, only one loved it... the rest run in fear of the door.

If the potential dangers of the outside world make you worry so much than just keep your cats inside. 
 

tarasgirl06

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The ONLY thing I care about is the safety and wellbeing of the cats.  ALL cats.  Cats' main prey in the wild is rodents, and yes, they do prey on birds as well.  That's how they were created.  Have a problem with that?  
  Human predation, human habitat destruction and human pollution kill far more birds than cats could ever dream of.  I am SOOOOOOOOOOO tired up to here of the anti-cat bird nitwits and their hate.  
 

catsallaround

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So many great points listed. 

I also have alot who act like beetlejuice with the sand worms if faced with an open door!

I know in my houses there was a cabinet by the fridge and 2 on top-well one day Charlie jumped up and fell asleep in the cubby above.  Someone opened the main cabinet and you know what he got "stuck".

Instead of dying up there he...JUMPED the 6 feet.

Back at the apartment complex I lived at for a bit there was a female cat who used to go on top of the 2 story building by going on the tree and jumping to the roof then it was either that same tree to get down.  She did that while pregnant too.
 

mani

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The ONLY thing I care about is the safety and wellbeing of the cats.  ALL cats.  Cats' main prey in the wild is rodents, and yes, they do prey on birds as well.  That's how they were created.  Have a problem with that?  
 
I do have a problem with that, Tarasgirl, when it comes to native animals and birds. 

I'm a member of Bush Heritage in Australia, and the damage feral cats do to the ecology here is very well documented, both by interest groups and the government.  Cats are introduced and create huge problems in our natural environment, along with foxes and rabbits, and in some cases, even more so.  I know it is a really unpopular thing to bring up on a site like this, but it's a reality.  We have created this problem and the poor cats suffer for it.

I adore my cats, and consider myself to be a responsible carer for them. This includes preventing them from killing the colonies of blue tongue lizards that live in my garden which are in danger of no longer being an urban dweller due to domestic pets.
 

barbb

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I have two feral kitties who live outdoors, Ace and William. 

Ace (on the left) is totally feral. Her man William became totally socialized after I had to take him to the vet when he showed up with a tail injury and had to have his tail amputated. I tried to bring William in overnight each night after he became socialized, but he wanted to be with his wife. So I have baby monitors outside and we bought and built a tall playhouse from CostCo so they have a somewhat safe refuge from critters outside.

Where I live isn't safe for cats to be outside- between the neighbors, other cats, traffic, dogs, coyotes, coons, skunks, and other predators, plus a high incidence of FIV. I think letting your indoor pet cat outside is the same as letting your toddler wander outside. They know nothing of territory already claimed by all the abovementioned people/critters/cars etc., all of whom will exert their right to what they believe is theirs- at your pet's expense. 

In other countries it may be acceptable but I think we need to consider that in this country it is not the same culture and people do not feel the same way about the neighbor's cat outside as in those other countries. In this country to say that neighbors are hostile to other peoples' outdoor cats is an understatement. I can't count the number of people who are especially ticked at the neighbor cat who comes and marks the outside of their house, drives their indoor cat/dog nuts, chases their birds, lays in their flower beds, etc.

I have seen situations referenced by Willowy regarding behavior problem cats. Curly, the FIV+ cat in my foster room is a perfect example- where the neighbor put his pet cat outside in the middle of winter after his wife died and Curly began eliminating outside the litter box. To say that it was better to throw him in the front yard in the dead of winter like garbage and then come home from work every night and not feed him and ignore him sitting outside wanting food- as opposed to euthanizing him... is simply the lesser of two horrible evils, not to mention that it is illegal in this state to do what he did. And Curly of course was promptly attacked by other cats, given FIV, and then moved down the street to my feral cat shelter with Ace and William, where I rescued him. 

I agree with the poster who talked about her cat who was killed by the coyote. It is great to be philosophical about what can happen, but when the reality hits you- when you know that pretty much any day you can open the door to find your beloved pet standing there horribly mangled, or worse that your pet never comes home and you don't know what happened, and you are their guardian...you have to ask yourself what are you doing to actually guard them, what responsibility have you taken to make sure the neighbors don't hate your cat, to make sure your cat has refuge outside, to prepare your cat for what is out there, to make sure your cat knows not to take a nap in the middle of the street. 

IMO it comes down to the word parent/guardian, it is our job to take care of our pets in all aspects of their lives, weigh the risks of where we live and determine what is best for our fur children. 
 
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