Indoors - Outdoors - white on black - black on white cat coats - photo by Maia C
Indoor cats are loved cats – discuss. And this is going to be a pretty provocative discussion because it can’t be anything else. Discussing indoor cats opens a can of worms really. You have got to talk about the United States, breeding, purebred cats, declawing, cat stress, natural cat behaviour and more. I am writing this from the perspective of an outsider. Insiders (people living in the USA) may not even understand what I am trying to say because there is an enormous cultural divide between the UK and USA in this respect.
But is a cat kept indoors solely for the purposes of a cat’s safety? Is there an element of it being done at least in part for the convenience of the person who keeps the cat? Certainly declawing is nearly always done for the convenience of the person. And if a cat is a full-time indoor cat it opens the door to the argument that it can be declawed because it does not need to defend itself in the horrid and dangerous outside world. So the two go together. Indeed the mentality that says indoor living is good also says that declawing is OK. The underlying ethos feeds both. In fact keeping a cat indoors permanently may lead to unnaturally destructive behaviour that also provides an excuse to declaw. One can lead to the other. And declawing, we all know, is wrong no matter how many clichéd and financially biased arguments we hear from greedy vets or the weak arguments that display a denial of guilt by those who have declawed their cats.
Declawing a cat is the exact opposite to what you would expect an expression of love to be.
The idea of declawing goes beyond the thoughts and actions of the cat keeper to the landlord. Many landlords it seem insist that cats belonging to tenants are declawed. It is a commercial necessity. All part and parcel of the culture.
And it seems the culture is that the domestic cat must be fully integrated into the human world at nearly all cost. And the cost to the cat is a loss of liberty, the emotional freedom to express itself and its claws.
The gain to the person is control and a lack of anxiety (over what the cat is doing outside). People like to be organised and control their inside world that is within a largely chaotic outside world and that form of control incorporates the cat.
This level of control extends to not even building modest cat enclosures that lead to the outside, despite the fact that houses in America are built on relatively large plots of land because land prices are much lower than in congested Europe. The lack of enclosures may be linked to the fear that germs and diseases will be imported from the outside by a cat using an enclosure. And these horrid germs, ticks and fleas will infest the home. It has all got to be sanitised. But I don’t think that is good for the cat. Although it is convenient for the people. Not least because it means less visits to the vet and those horrible bills. Or does it? Indoor living has its hazards too (see below).
Outdoor cats are perhaps considered unhealthy. Maybe some are but they are equal in status to indoor cats of any sort and deserving of more love because they are more vulnerable and because they are more unhealthy. But do they get it?
One worrying thing about the concept that indoor cats are loved cats is that it seems to foster the idea that the outdoor cat is an animal not to be loved at all or at least not equally. Over 2 million feral cats are killed each year in the USA, I read or is it 14 million, no one quite knows. No one cares really, not that much, except a minority of fine and caring people who really do care and who stick their necks out to help and sometimes get shot down (Beverly Hills Municipal Code is one example).
There are more purebred cats in the USA than the UK. This also encourages keeping cats indoors all the time. I can understand that because of the fear of cat theft and loss (when bearing in mind the financial cost). But there is no doubt that in a better world there would be no link between the financial value of a cat and the level of care.
In Britain about 90% of domestic cats are indoor/outdoor cats and the vast majority are random bred cats (not purebreds). As far as I am aware the life expectancy and health of these cats is no different to those of the United States. If that is true and I believe it is, the general culture of keeping cats indoors for health reasons is false. Although I am not advocating letting cats out onto the street. City cats must be heavily supervised (leash or enclosure) if let out. It depends on the area where the person lives and the application of common sense.
The equality of age of British and American cats may in part be due to the fact that full-time indoor living is no more healthy that indoor/outdoor living (in an appropriate environment – e.g where there is very little traffic). It also may be due to the fact that purebred cats live, on average, shorter lives than random breed cats due to lower genetic diversity. And as I said there is a higher percentage of purebred cats in the USA compared to the UK.
I remember reading somewhere a breeder saying that a Modern Siamese cat would have an approximate life expectancy of about 11 years or so, which is a lot less than the average UK moggie (about 15-20 years).
It could be argued that indoor/outdoor cats are more balanced and less stressed. Would this lead to a more healthy constitution? I think, yes.
There are a list of potential hazards to indoor cats one of which I have already touched on that caused a bit of upset: passive smoking. That article was not directed at anyone. I now read that passive smoking cats are twice as likely to develop Feline Leukaemia and 3 times more likely if exposed for 5 or more years (Study 1993-2000, Tufts University, Grafton, Massachusetts, USA; led by veterinary oncologist Anthony Moore). It is also worth noting that cigarette smoke contains 4,000 different chemicals many of which are poisonous and they are deposited on household objects and cats fur, which is then licked off in grooming.
Indoor cats are loved cats (more than indoor/outdoor cats)? No. Here is a list of some (there are more) hazards to indoor cats, particularly kittens:
- Stress caused by the mental conflict between the drive to act naturally (hunt, stalk and be a predator – not a cuddly fur baby) and the lack of opportunity to release that drive or stress from other sources that cannot be relieved (e.g. another cat). Play will help but how many of us can honestly say that we give enough time to play? Stress causes high levels of corticosteroids which lower the immune system. That can lead to any number of illnesses the cause of which may well go undiagnosed. Obviously a cat born indoors that knows nothing else is likely to be better adjusted to it. Stress can lead to behavioural problems that include displacement behaviour including feline alopecia
- Slammed doors
- Candles and oil burners (Christmas is coming up)
- Christmas trees should be topple proof and decorations cat proof (ideally). Please don’t punish your cat if he or she climbs the tree!
- Washing machines and tumble driers (cats crawl in and get tumble dried). There have been a number of stories about this happening.
- Garages and the things in them.
My conclusion is this. We have an obligation as a human companion to our cat to provide as natural a life as possible for him or her. That obligation can only be met through the provision of some sort of outdoor activity that is consistent with the circumstances under which the cat lives and which is as safe as possible. There should be no automatic decision to keep the cat permanently indoors.
Indoor Cats are Loved Cats? --Source: Me primarily and Messybeast for some ideas and a bit of data.
Indoor Cats are Loved Cats? – heading photo: by Maia C (new window)