A Plea to Indoor Cat Owners

By Asfara Ahmed

There are two things I love, cats and nature. More importantly, I love cats enjoying nature. Watching a cat climb a tree is one of the most beautiful things a person can ever observe, which is why I have such a difficult time understanding why some “cat owners” or “human companions” as I like to refer to them, insist on having strictly indoor cats.

I spent my childhood enjoying long carefree afternoons roaming around outdoors, three or four cats in tow, climbing trees, stealing fish (them, not me) and chasing butterflies (mostly me, sometimes them). It was glorious. My cats were real cats. They were cats of the soil, the type you could respect, the type who could survive out there in the wilderness and who looked down on you for your lack of survival skills. They killed birds and mice and offered you first go out of the sheer kindness of their hearts, or maybe pity, I’m not really sure. However, that’s how I knew they loved me, because they stayed with me in spite of the fact that they didn’t really need me. Now that is true love.

Charlie
The above photo is by Michael (Admin) of Charlie, his three legged cat, to illustrate the article.

Cats love being out in nature and unless you live in a really cold country, no cat should be made to forgo the experience of exploring the beautiful world we live in. That is just inhumane. Cats are natural hunters and there is an elegance to their technique and sheer focus that is unmatched by even the most artistic of human endeavors. Sure, a few species may go extinct now and then but that’s how Mother Nature intended it to be.

Cats are like children, you don’t want them sitting inside the entire day, not getting any fresh air and becoming obese. Take them outside once in a while. You may just have the time of your life. I know that those wonderful afternoons spent roaming around outside with my cats are some of my happiest and most cherished memories. So, go out, venture forth. Let’s help our cats live their nine lives to the fullest.

Asfara Ahmed


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A Plea to Indoor Cat Owners — 50 Comments

  1. What a wonderful article Asfara and I agree with every word you have written!
    People who keep their cats strictly indoors protest that they they don’t need to go out, that they are safe and many bring up the old argument about indoor cats living long lives and cats with freedom only living for a few years. That is untrue if indoor/outdoor cats are looked after properly, kept in after dark and if no one is home and home always made a happy welcoming place to be so they don’t go far away.
    And what price safety? A long life of boredom and being deprived of fresh air, sunshine, grass and doing things cats were born to do, things Nature intended they do.
    Humans domesticated cats and are now taking all they were born to do, away from them more and more!
    But I do understand too that in this busy world nowadays it is too dangerous outside in some places and it would be irresponsible to let cats go out and face these dangers. In which case indoors should be made as near to outdoors as is possible, with high perches (pretend trees) and kitty grass to chew on, scratching posts and pads and toys, the indoor cat should be paid lots of attention to ensure as fulfilled and exciting a life as is possible indoors.
    Better still in places where cats can’t have their freedom, some sort of outdoor enclosure should be provided with high perches and things to do. Or at the very least, as you say, take your cats out once in a while, have some quality fresh air time with them.
    Not nearly as good as having total freedom and I feel sorry for cats who can’t enjoy the natural life they are entitled to but it’s far better than sitting bored all day looking longingly out of the window.
    It upsets me very much that declawing began in the USA when people started keeping their cats strictly indoors, they lost their rightful freedom and their toe ends too and it is still happening even now!
    We are very lucky to live in England where most cats have their freedom, where our vets recommend it if at all possible.
    We personally have had cats for 39 years and always lived in cat friendly neighbourhoods, we have moved for the sake of our cats and would do so again if necessary.
    I love the picture of Charlie in a cat’s natural surroundings and wish (but in vain) for a world where all cats could be as happy as he looks there.

  2. I agree but for now I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s making me very unhappy actually. I totally agree with everything said. I think people who say indoors is enough are wrong. In the US it’s normal for cats to be indoors which is a terrible standard but in the US there’s a lot more hateful people and people with guns and uneducated people so it’s not safe for cats quite apart from the cars and large predators. Still – I agree with the article and for me it means I am going to have to first learn to drive and take a driving test so I can drive out to the countryside and look for a nice safe place to live where my cats will never be locked inside again. Having just moved to where I am it really seems like an uphill struggle but its worth it.

    It’s true that there is nothing more wonderful than seeing cats outside in the nature enjoying it and exploring and sleeping and climbing – they are born for it.

    I am very unhappy about my situation at the moment and was just talking to somebody today about it. I realise that if I sense my cats are in any way not happy then it immediatly means I am also unhappy. I can’t ignore it like so many millions of people with indoor cats seem to be able to do.

    I should stop writing and go play with my cats – its the only thing ledft to do to help the current situation for me now.

      • It doesn’t feel so fantastic. I decided yesterday to take a 3 day holiday around this weekend so I am home for a total of 5 days – I want to spend as much time as possible with the cats and see if I can get GIgi feeling a bit better. It breaks my heart to see her looking confused.

  3. Thank you Asfara for taking the time to use the visitor input from and expressing your ideas on PoC. I love that. You have written a really sweet article. It is very welcome.

    You are welcome to come back and write some more 😉

  4. My current thinking on the indoor/outdoor cat debate is that (a) it is better, ideally, to let a cat go outside because it is more natural (b) sometimes for a variety of reason it is better to keep a cat inside.

    Also some cats will be content inside and safe. They may be rescue cats that would have otherwise been been euthanised so it is not a black and white situation.

    A lot of commentators say cats should be kept in to protect native wildlife.

  5. My kitties and I have 11 at this time,go in and out when they want to and when the weather is good,they prefer to stay outside.I live in the country so mine get to roam all over and I have not seen a rat in years.Mine usually live to be 16 on average.

    • Hi Nancy, It sounds as if you live in a near ideal place for a cat to go outside and explore but are you concerned about coyotes attacking your cats or aren’t there any predators where you are?

  6. What a great article! My childhood experiences are like yours Asfara, except we only had one cat at a time. My cat Monty and I go out in our back yard quite a bit together. He even goes out when it is cold out. If it is above 20 degrees Fahrenheit and not too windy he will stay out for a long time, unless he gets snow between his toes. He hates that. If the snow is packed down or with that little sheen of ice on it so he can walk on it without sinking in then it is better for him. I use my cross country skis in our yard (it’s just big enough to ski around it) and pack down a trail which Monty will use. Sometimes we go out together, but often he will want to sit right where I want to ski so I put him in and get my exercise and then let him out for his, watching him from the window. My husband made me a ski hill by piling all the snow from our driveway into one spot. Every time I go down the little hill I look to see if Monty is watching me from the window, and he usually is. When he goes out he looks toward the house frequently to see if I am watching him.

  7. When I lived in an enclosed trailer park or a small town where traffic wasn’t an issue, I agree wholeheartedly. However, in a heavy urban environment there are issues that need to be considered before letting your cats outside. The keep-your-cat-indoors-because-they-are-killing-all-the-birds thing is just another one of many over-the-top responses by extreme-tree-hugging leftist are shaming Americans into doing. It’s the rights of the one over the rights of the many. “You stepped on my toe, so now no one can step on anyone’s toes” type of mentality. I honestly think it is a form of emotional-illness that comes from??? Not my field, I see all the time in other areas. Check this out:

    There is a bar 150 yards due south of our backyard. The leftist said that they couldn’t breath in bars anymore due to smoke, so it was moved outside the bars. Now this bar is a smokers bar, I spent many a dollar there before I quit a decade back. Now they all go outside and smoke in large groups. We can hear their loud talking and worse, my sister, my neighbors dog, their daughter and I have respiratory issues. So now, when the wind blows right, we get that smoke into our A/C units. So what about our rights to live in our home and breath free. It breaks my heart hearing that poor dog hacking, let alone the rest of us.

    My point? TANJ: There ain’t no justice!

    My solution: Adding an angled fence extenders atop a wood, chain-linked or brick fence that is angled to prevent cats from escaping the yard is the answer. I’ve had four of my cats killed by cars. We had a rescue kitten show up one day without a leg. The birds? Screw the birds. Cats have been here in Tempe for at least 140 years. The birds are gonna take care of themselves. The mysterious bird death issue is totally separate from this I know, but it is the only logical reason for all those alleged bird deaths quoted in the Smithsonian Bird Report. The mysterious deaths are being looked into. Huge amounts of birds just died in areas. Entire species of frogs disappear all the time. The issue is environmental, not predatory. The only reason cats need to be kept in is their safety where warranted. Otherwise, it’s just a joke. Let the cats run free.

    • Hi, I totally agree that there is a bird conservationist campaign against the domestic cat. All the figures they produce are guesstimates.

      http://pictures-of-cats.org/Should-an-ornithologist-report-on-cat-predation.html

      People should stop smoking, period, full-stop 🙂 That would solve your problem.

      The first requirement of a cat caretaker (cat owner if you like but we don’t “own” cats) is the cat’s safety. Next is the health and fun stuff. So indoor cats can sometimes be justified on the grounds of safety.

      Yes, there ain’t no justice – never was. Well, there is some but not enough.

      A good, large cat enclosure is the best compromise between safety and welfare as far as I am concerned but that is just my personal idea.

    • Shohom67 I like you a lot!
      ‘The birds,screw the birds’
      lol I love that!
      I’m so sick of people blaming cats for the decimation of birds, they need to look to themselves!
      I love all birds too but Nature knows best and the birds cats catch are old or weak or ill, it’s called survival of the fittest.
      It’s a pity humans haven’t a natural predator to weed out not the old or weak or ill but the selfish and the cruel, but life is unfair as it often takes good people and leaves bad ones to undo the good that the good people do.

    • I live near a heavy traffic road and lost one cat so I have locked the other 3 in for now. I tried and it didn’t work. Now I have to move.

      • Living near a heavy traffic road is obviously dangerous for cats, but surprisingly living near a *very* light traffic road can be just as dangerous. The farmer from whom we adopted our cats lived on such a road. As traffic was so infrequent, his barn cats never learned to be cautious. So the cat mortality rate was appalingly high there as well. Fortunately for our cats, we live in a residential area on the crest of a rather steep hill, so cars approaching from both directions are forced to slow down as they climb the hill.

  8. I too loved to watch my outdoor cats climb trees. Peeper was within 6 feet of one when dogs came onto our property and killed her. The same with Shadow. I scraped Smokey and Fluffy and Sadie up off the road. This ALL occured during the day when cats are supposedly safe. I held Whiskers and Scrappy as they died after drinking water with dissolved mothballs the neighbor had put under their home. The smell led us to Tom and Booger who died a day apart from the poisoning. I made the decision to euthanize Goldie after someone poured a corrosive down his throat that destroyed his kidneys. Butch was smart too.He almost made it across the road.

    Since we’ve kept those we rescued who would have been euthanized without us as indoor cats with lots of cat trees and window perches I rest easy. Did I make the right decision to condemn them to an indoor life? Of course where I live now is much safer from traffic. Just ask the neighbor whose cat was shot by the cat hater behind us.

  9. The safest way to have cats go outside is to be out there with them, enclosure or not. After hearing Elisa’s story I don’t trust my neighbors, even though none have given me reason to suspect they would hurt an animal. I check around Monty’s enclosure (our fenced yard) for anything poison someone might have thrown over the fence for him to find. Never have found anything, but I’m always checking the entire perimeter. If he’s out I’m either out too or watching through the window coming out occasionally. If a neighbor is out in his/her yard I come out and speak to Monty. I make it clear that I’m out there and I’m watching him. When he climbs up his favorite tree I worry that someone might take a pot shot at him up there, but it’s never happened. I don’t think it hurts to be paranoid, even though I’m pretty sure my neighbors are good, even animal loving people. The ones I know. It’s a densely populated area. Our back yard (garden) gives the feeling of being in the country, but it’s not. Monty doesn’t get out quite as much as he did before reading about Elisa’s experiences made me paranoid and researching coyotes and funding out our fence wouldn’t keep them out. I’ve never seen one near our house, but the Milwaukee area is home to lots of them. My cousin saw one in broad daylight while he was waiting for the school bus. So Monty is closely supervised outside, but in winter that’s easy since his black fur stands out against the white snow. In summer he can hide in vegetation and I’ve lost track of him while being out there with him. He was purposely hiding on me. I went around outside the fence thinking he’d climbed over, though he never does that, and I happened to catch sight of him playing in the middle of the yard. I ran through the house to come back into the yard (the only access is the back door if the housr) and as I came out the door I surprised him and he quickly ducked back into the bushes. He didn’t want to have to come in!

    • Hey Ruth; I use to live in Chicagoland. I worked in Chicago, but lived in the burbs. No way would I let any of my cats out. After being a cop for over 20 years, I’ve seen entirely too many sadistic people. Including kids who can be just plain mean. The Chicago area is one of the nastiest places I have ever lived. Totally pet unfriendly in large part.

      • I was born and grew up in the Chicago area. At the first opportunity, I left the State of Illinois altogether and never once looked back! Pet and people unfriendly.

        I might add that prior to my leaving, I began to see coyotes in some of the more rural suburbs. I imagine that they might be common throughout the Chicago area by now.

        • Coyotes are common all throughout the Milwaukee area and the suburbs. Bayview has a lot of them. I would think Chicago is the same by now.

      • Milwaukee is better than Chicago, though the way it is going we will be a little Detroit before long. Milwaukee always used to be a city with a small town feel to it– very friendly. Parts of it are still like that. There are a lot of good people here, in all parts of the city. We remain a very segregated city, which is sad.

  10. Hello everyone. I am really glad you guys liked the article. Please share your views and stories. I am enjoying the general discussion although some of the stories are really sad 🙁 Best of luck to all of you keeping your beloved cats save. We all love them and ensuring their mental, physical and emotional well being should definitely be our primary concern.

      • Hi Michael. I live in Bangladesh which is apparently a pretty good place to raise cats. I never realized the type of challenges people in other countries face to ensure the safety of their pets. It never occurred to me that a deranged person could possibly try to kill or torture my cat while I am not around. That’s just terrifying. I don’t think I will be able to sleep at night.

        • I am very impressed with you if I may say so. You wrote a really nice article in perfect English. You must have lived in England (wrong?). I’d like you to write about the domestic cats of Bangladesh. We don’t know about the cats of Asia. It would be great to hear a little about the life of a domestic cat in Bangladesh or any of the neighbouring countries.

        • Take a look at some of the cat as well as dog cases I’ve covered. You’ll NEVER sleep again. It’s horrible here. Now we also have policemen killing family dogs.

  11. I’d love to hear more about your cats in Bangladesh too.
    I was shocked when I first read about the way cats are treated in the USA. Being killed in shelters because there are so many unwanted, being persecuted, being shot and killed, being declawed for the sake of furniture.
    England is far from perfect but we do have laws to protect our pets and most people here are kind to animals.

    • It’s hard not to hate america. I’m a US citizen who has NEVER lived there and they want me to pay them taxes above and beyond the taxes I pay to the country I work in. Who do they think they are. Never going back. They are the only country in the world with this absurd tax law.
      The whole animal treatment thing over there is appalling. The horrors they put in the food – the genetic engineering that doesn’t even have to appear on the label. It’s a place where money is a headless god – it is the bull in the china shop.

      • I laughed out loud reading that, Marc, although I suppose it isn’t really funny. Just not surprising. The USA taxes anyone who is at all productive while giving out tons of freebies to people who are not productive. Due to loopholes the wealthy pay little in taxes. The government keeps raising rates which only hurts the middle class and poor, but the wealthy still get massive deductions. Both parties refuse to lower rates and close loopholes, because those loopholes are how they reward their powerful friends. With about half the country working to support the other half it is unsustainable, with the middle class getting squeezed right out of existence. Americans used to be hard working. Now we are lazy, most of us, and instead of working to fix our own problems, we just try to tax people like you. It is shameful.

  12. I feel sorry for the genuinely kind people who live there, I’ve ‘met’ many of them through our anti declawing campaign.
    I think I’d have had to emigrate too if I’d been born there.

    • I agree Ruth. Dorothy Wandruff writes about the people of some states as alien to her. She lives in California which is relatively enlightened. For her some other states are like foreign countries. That is the impression I got but I may be wrong.

      • It has been my experience that the Northeast and Midwest (= Central USA) seem to be particularly unfriendly regions. I knew a man in the Midwest who actually bragged about permanently injuring a neighbor’s cat with a pellet gun just because he saw it walking on top of his car!

  13. With respect to indoor vs outdoor cats, I realize cats are stalkers, prowlers and hunters. However, they are also living creatures who, in today’s society, need more protection than they did years ago. I have 5 rescues, none of which go outside. I think my oldest 2 are around 15 and they did acclimate well to being indoors. One is a burn victim who is blind and would never survive outside. The last one is an aloof, little brat. They have their sun room, their MANY cat trees and an abundance of toys.

    My little “Cinder”, the burned cat, is one of the sweetest cats I have ever owned. When our babes came along, all three at once, Cinder became their guardian angel. Instinctively, she knew they were very fragile being preemies. I don’t think she would have been quite so protective had she been an outdoor cat. Her disability has honed her senses, beyond the norm, to physical inadequacies. She is a remarkable cat.

    • Thanks for the post. Meant for the author.

      I am extremely lucky to live in a very cat-safe area in the US. For anyone who cares to read, here is part of the story about allowing Tootsie to go outdoors.

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/38194075@N05/5454332471/in/set-72157623556736054

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/38194075@N05/5614956152/in/set-72157623556736054

      When I adopted her, she was scared of everything- well not quite, but any noise outside, and really scared whenever I even opened the patio door.

      I finally decided, though what personal cussedness I can’t remember (well I can, sorta, see links above), to let her go out on a supervised basis. She sticks close to home, and follows me when we go “walkies” around the condo complex I live in.

      Tootsie now is a much happier and calm cat as a result of being allowed to go outside. I made the decision based on my “cat knowledge”. And, I’d never been faced with having to keep a cat indoors.

      But, I do appreciate the challenges that others in less ideal situations face. I moved to Ithaca for a year- academic sabbatical, and a friend found a rental house for me. The owners would be in Boston, also on sabbatical, for a year. In some kind of weird moment of prescience, I asked them via email, “I don’t suppose you could include a cat?” I don’t know what got into me to ask that.

      Well, it turned out that indeed, they had a cat, and had been worrying about taking her to Boston with them. She was very used to being an indoor outdoor cat. But, coyotes were roaming the neighborhood where they would rent in Boston. So, along with the rental house, I got a rental cat! They were delighted. I was delighted.

      The coyote problem is a serious one in some areas. If my small area wasn’t so safe, I’d probably be building an outdoor cat enclosure by now.

      • From what I read, the biggest threat to outdoor cats in the USA are (a) cars (b) coyotes.

        We don’t have predators that kill cats in the UK other than people with air rifles 😉

        • USA has predators that use BB guns. My mother’s cat came home with a BB pellet in the tip of her ear. And yes, coyotes are a huge problem her in many places, wild and urban.

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