Is it fair to keep cats indoors all the time?

Is it fair to keep cats indoors all the time?

by Michael
(London, UK)

Yes, it can be fair to keep cats indoors all the time. But it will always be a compromise and a less than ideal arrangement.

Keeping cats indoors is safer for the cat. That is obvious. Safety is the first responsibility that falls upon us in our relationship with our cats. It is our responsibility to keep our cats safe as we manage the arrangement; although the arrangement is one of equality.

Our second responsibility is to make the environment for our cat as natural as possible. The indoor environment is unnatural so it is difficult to make it natural. A domestic cat is driven by wildcat instincts, drives and impulses. We need to make sure that we allow our cat the opportunity to satisfy and express those drives.

We can make the indoor environment pretty satisfying for a domestic cat, particularly so as the cat is adaptable.

However, it is not ideal. If we can make things better for our cat in this unnatural environment then we should do it. If we do not act, then the arrangement becomes less than fair.

Where space and funding allows we should consider a cat enclosure or catio to allow our cat to express some of those wildcat desires.

Where time and training allows we should consider leash training to give our cat the chance to go out and smell, hear and see the world that he or she would normally be in.

Where keeping a cat indoors is unfair is if we just ignore our cat from one day to the next in a small home with little interaction from us.

The obligation is on us to compensate for the lack of naturalness in the indoor cat environment and what is a very small territory for the cat. If we do not discharge that obligation it is unfair on the domestic cat.

What do you think?

Comments for
Is it fair to keep cats indoors all the time?

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Jun 27, 2011 Funny
by: Gail (Boston, USA)

You are so right, Michael. My brother had a cat who ‘thought’ he wanted to be outside.

First, he discovered snow – when he stepped onto the back porch and sunk in the snow, he scrambled back in the house like his butt was on fire, LOL!

He also snuck out one night when there was no snow, only to be confused as to which house was his since there are 4 8-unit buildings (former military housing) that look exactly alike. He ended up curled in a tight ball on the next door neighbor’s porch overnight in the cold, wailing pitifully. No one heard him since it was still cold out and the doors were shut tight. He was found the next morning when bro went back out to look for him again. That 2nd foray into the big world cured his wanderlust!

Jun 27, 2011 Thanks
by: Michael

Thanks for the great comments. You have made this a useful and helpful debate.

The indoor/outdoor debate is one that people have strong feelings about.

I like the comment that says that it depends on the individual cat to a certain or large extent. I think that is correct.

But some cats look like they like being indoors until they discover the outdoors!

Jun 27, 2011 To Eva
by: Ruth

Sorry Eva I thought you were in the USA.

People who don’t like cats don’t really know them and probably think they are really wild creatures and that it’s cruel to keep them indoors. Yet the same ones moan about their precious gardens and lump all cat caretakers together, even those who keep a patch of earth dug over like we do for ours.

I do know people who keep their cats indoors in our country but not that many and they do make the lack of freedom up to their cats.

Every vet I’ve ever worked for or known has agreed it’s a more natural life for a cat to have his freedom. We never leave ours out at night or if no one is home.

It depends on your circumstances, as I said we are lucky to have neighbours who live and let live, it’s just a pity everyone doesn’t think that way.

Jun 27, 2011 To Ruth
by: Anonymous

Sorry, I should have been clearer in my comment. I am in the UK myself and the people who know I’ve got an indoor cat generally disapprove. They consider it to be cruel and unnatural.

Funnily enough, I get the most stupid comments from people who don’t like cats anyway.

Jun 27, 2011 No it’s not fair
by: Ruth

No it isn’t fair Michael, but what in this life is fair ?

For people who live in places where there is danger of any sort to their cats, it’s sensible to keep them indoors and safe. But it’s unkind to expect the cats to live an unfulfilled life. They should provide lots of attention and amusement for their cats and grow kitty grass too. Indoor cats miss out on this aid to their digestion.

Eve, we in the UK are not judgemental about you over there keeping cats indoors, what we are judgemental about is that when people started keeping cats strictly indoors declawing was invented. So not only are many cats deprived of their freedom they have to live a life of boredom and disablement, sometimes suffering pain too.

We are lucky in the UK that we have so many cat friendly places to live.

Personally we would never live anywhere our cats couldn’t live the life they were born to live, enjoying some freedom just as the rest of the family do.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Jun 27, 2011 My kitties live inside
by: Brandy

My cats are indoor kitties and couldn’t be more happy. I do put them outside in a cage on nice days, and my more obedient one gets let out to roll on the front steps every day when I check the mail and water my plants. (my other one is only 7 months old and still has a health fear of outside)

They never beg to go outside and are completely content in their inside life. Little do they know it protects them from disease, animal attacks and cars. They dont feel like they are missing anything.

I know some people believe for a cat to be truly happy it has to be outside but I know for a fact that isn’t true. some cats are just born with the outside bug, other cats couldn’t be more happy to spend their days being locked up inside (and trust me they don’t feel locked up). My cat 7 years old is also very fit and still gets more than enough exercise.

i think its more than fair to keep your cats indoors cause what they dont know wont hurt them.

Jun 27, 2011 Outdoors is nice, but not always safe
by: Ruth (Monty’s Mom)

I do believe cats deserve to go outside. We go outside. But it all depends on what the outside is like by your house. Dorothy and Gail have very different home situations. I’m outside now typing on my phone while Monty plays on some cement blocks which are piled by the back door. They came with the house. I won’t get rid of them now. I call them the kitty jungle gym. Monty also climbs trees and runs up and down a path I made for us through a little wooded strip by the back fence. Even with a fenced back yard I supervise him outside. This gets me outside too. I’m enjoying our back yard more since Monty came into my life. I don’t use his leash and harness much in the backyard, but I’m out there with him. It’s a time commitment.

There are people with dogs around us who rarely if ever walk their dogs. This is unfair to the dogs. They laugh at me if I have Monty out in front of the house on his leash. They seem to think a cat on a leash is stupid. But at least I’m giving my cat the stimulation and fresh air he needs, unlike the poor dogs who would never get out if they didn’t need to go potty outside.

Jun 27, 2011 In and out
by: Dorothy

A lot depends on the environment you live in. I live in an almost rural area. My cat Bigfoot (the Polydactyl) lives with me indoors is allowed outside, but he has to ask to be let out. He’s never ever outdoors if I am not home. Fortunately for me, he tends to stay in the back secured area and explores the environs close to the house. He has favorite places to lay in the shade are under the shrubs. There’s no danger that I can see, ever. I found him when he was already probably 9 years old, so I suppose his wandering years were over.

I have another cat who lives outside only, as she is feral. Well, you’d never know she was feral by the way she lounges on the patio, sleeps on a heated bed, dines at will, and drinks from the ‘community’ water bucket. Though she is still a wild thing. She’s lived here for two years now, and I’m still not able to approach her. She’ll rub her little face on the door asking for more grits, but darts away when I open the glass door to put down more food. It’s an understanding we have. I call her Yellow cat. Michael says she’s orange, but to me she’s quite blond. Her best friend is a domestic black cat who belongs to the neighbors. He wears a collar with bell. He is also is a frequent diner here on the patio. To watch Yellow and Shadow together is a treat. They love each other. Shadow is the top cat, yellow his follower. Obviously Shadow is also an indoor/outdoor cat. He tends to wander. I see him on the distant hills watching for gophers. I do worry about him sometimes because the other neighborhood cats tend to bully him. He’s a huge black cat, so maybe it’s that bell that bugs the others ‘dudes’ in the hood.

I believe that cars are the biggest danger to wandering domestic cats. If I lived on a busy street, I would have to create a catio environment to keep cats. I’ll always have cats, so maybe I’ll just stay where I am!


Jun 27, 2011 Home Situation
by: Gail (Boston, USA)

Like Eva said, it all depends on the situation. We keep our cats inside here in the Boston area. For those unfamiliar, Boston (and the surrounding community) is a huge metropolitan city, although smaller than New York. It’s filled with speeding cars/highways, cruel people, toxic street spills (antifreeze), very large and wandering wildlife and thieves just to name a few. My Abby is content to be inside and even stays inside when the porch door is open; however, I do keep an eye on her. She does like to sneak out the front door, but there’s a hallway with 2 sets of stairs before exiting to the outside door. She likes to sniff around in the hallway and if a neighbor opens their door, she saunters in, sniffs around and leaves just as quickly as she goes in. She just likes visiting and the neighbors enjoy her as well.

Our animal shelter will only allow adoptions to people who will keep their cats indoors. That is not being cruel to the cat – it is to keep them safe. We’ve had previous adopters who allowed them outside, only to meet their fate of being run down by a car in the street almost immediately; therefore, we won’t allow them to adopt from us again.

Education is key. We encourage catios and loads of playtime. We offer educational courses to people on cat and dog care and hold several seminars throughout the year on obedience for dogs.

Cat harness/leashes are a great alternative for our felines to enjoy the great outdoors. It also allows supervision in the event of unfriendly animals.

There will never be a right or wrong way to this question – only the responsible way, depending on the situation at hand. If we lived in a beautiful village with little traffic and wildlife, we would most certainly consider an indoor/outdoor cat.

That being said, I see the dangers every day whilst feeding the ferals out back. Sometimes, they look all beat up when they show up to eat; however, I can never catch them short of setting a trap and that would only be to get them neutered, then return them to their established colony.

Jun 27, 2011 indoor vs outdoor
by: tl

It can depend on your environment. I live in an ideal situation for my cats to come and go through a catdoor in the basement. I live in a quiet old neighborhood where the kids still walk to school.

My older guy was born in the woods and kept in a carrier so long in a shelter that he is claustrophobic. He almost nevers comes in except for really bad weather but almost always is nearby. He hangs out on my neighbors porches.

He would go crazy inside now. He’s 16.

My other guy can go out but prefers to sleep inside often. His fur is not as thick and he is more sensitive to everything, including insects.

Of course lately both at the end of the day when the sun is lower, will sleep on the deck off my kitchen. Outside but not in the grass.

I do find my outdoor guys have more muscle and also leave lots of their fur and furballs outside.

That is really nice.

Jun 27, 2011 depends
by: Eva

I think it all depends on the cat. I keep my cat indoors and he’s fine with it. He’s never been outside so he doesn’t know any different and he’s also quite shy so he’d probably get scared outside anyway. All my cats up to that point had been allowed outside so I have experienced both. I’ve gotta say that the outdoors cats were a lot more laid back and confident than my indoors cat.

An indoor cat is more high maintenance – especially if you’ve only got one. They need a lot of attention and play time. I also think you’ve got to put a little more thought into their diet since they can’t supplement it with mice and birds.

I don’t think that there’s one right way to keep a cat – it all depends on the cat’s personality and also on your life situation. I don’t think it would be right to keep a cat inside that knows and loves the outdoors. I also think that it’s best to let your cat outside if you’re hardly ever at home.

I’ve seen too many bad things happen to let my kitty out but I’m sure that there are people who accept things like a cat getting hit by a car as a part of life.

About two thirds of the cats my family had in the past didn’t make it past the age of three due to cars, a neighbours dog and what I suspect to be cat thieves (a lot of cats in the neighbourhood all disappeared at the same time)

I’d be heartbroken if anything happened to my cat so I keep him indoors. It’s great to not have to worry about these things.

I also have a much closer bond with him than I’ve had with any of my previous cats. Probably because I spend a lot more time with him.

People in the UK tend to be quite judgemental about those of us who keep their cats indoors but I’m just trying to do the right thing.


Is it fair to keep cats indoors all the time? — 2 Comments

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