HomeHuman to cat relationshipindoor outdoor catsBe honest. You keep your cat inside for your own peace of mind


Be honest. You keep your cat inside for your own peace of mind — 27 Comments

  1. Yes, control is equal to peace of mind and, as Sandra wrote, being responsible.

    The environment for my indoor cats is more easily monitored and managed than the outside environment where my indoor/outdoor, outdoor, and colony ferals spend time. My stress level is much lower with the indoor ones, most of which have no idea that there is any other world. They can’t miss what they have never seen nor experienced. And, the semi-ferals that I bring in to socialize and adopt out never go outside again if I can help it.

    The outside environment here is very unsafe. I’m skepical that a catio even made of steel and concrete could keep out some of the dangers like venomous snakes. I’m opposed to the use of a lot of wood because that contributes to the destruction of natural habitats along with all of the “controlled burns”.

    Because of what we have done to our national forest here, we now have coyotes and even some black bears marching through our neighborhoods. A month ago, a man reported that his leashed dog was taken from him by a pack of coyotes in his own back yard. A woman I spoke with last weekend had her cat killed by a neighbor’s dog that had gotten loose and crashed through her chicken wired patio.

    For folks who don’t live in areas like this it’s hard to imagine the fear we have for our cats. I must do 15 head counts per day, easily. Panic is a common state of being.

    I have little concern about rabies or fleas. One of the biggest issues that happens here is when a cat has been exposed to an URI. It’s impossible to contain when there are multiple cats inside and out. Therefore, all exposed cats must be treated. It’s a very time consuming and costly venture.

    • What treatment do you give for URI? Just curious, since I’ve discovered some natural treatments in my research to avoid vets.

      • For my indoor and indoor/outdoor cats, URI’s most always require a visit to the vet if I’m not able to clear it with the antibiotics I keep. It spreads like a wildfire and has to be acted on very quickly.
        My outdoor cats (mostly ferals) and my colony cats must be trapped and taken in.
        A couple of months ago, I had to trap one of my colonies in its entirity for vet visits because of an URI outbreak.
        I only have half faith in natural products, but L-lysine is a staple here and used with consistency for all.

  2. This is a complex issue. We’re discussing keeping a basically “wild” animal confined indoors for safety reasons. If we choose, we can just feed stray or feral cats, and never worry about them. Why? Because we haven’t taken personal responsibility for their “welfare”, except for feeding. If one dies or is otherwise hurt, we couldn’t really help them anyway. I put out food for cats I only see at a distance. I’m not their “guardian”, and have no responsibility to them.

    Another issue is feline “happiness”. How do we judge that? There are many ways if we’re aware. If they cry at the door to go out, develop litter box issues, or other indications of distress related to not being able to go out.

    None of us are happy all the time, and even if a cat is outside that doesn’t equate to unlimited joy. A friend who had an indoor/outdoor cat in a fairly safe neighborhood, lived in a cul-de-sac. So, very few cars, and just a few other cats. One
    day a neighbor was walking his 2 pit bulls while her cat was out during the day. She watched in horror as they chased, and tore her cat apart before her eyes. Can you imagine the pain that cat endured, and the guardian? That cat was happy and free for awhile, until that fateful day.

    Maybe some of us keep our cats in to protect ourselves from the potential grief of knowing that our actions allowed for our cat to be injured or killed. Maybe that’s not a bad reason after all.

    The reality is that the risk does normally increase outdoors. We all know what those risks are. When I lived in Hawaii on 5 acres, I took the chance that it was relatively safe, but they still could have run away. They never did. I think because they were siblings, they stuck pretty close together.

    I started keeping them indoors when I moved to a suburb in California. One of my cats really wanted out, and did slip through the door sometimes. I was able to get her back in, before she ventured very far.

    She might have been happier outdoors, and as I moved to various places, sometimes I did allow her out in the yard, during the day. Her sister wasn’t that interested.

    I don’t believe that guilt is a very useful emotion, and I rarely succumb to it. Although, I find that it’s useful to some people. They can choose to use guilt about keeping their kitty indoors, or us it to put them outdoors. Guilt is very flexible that way.

    Anxiety is another emotion we may wish to avoid if we can, since it’s really not healthy for us. There are many pet guardians who have no concern about leaving their cats or dogs or children outside, even in brutal weather. But we’re not talking about neglect.

    Years ago I thought I was “doing the best” for my cats, but I really knew very little, other than feeding, flea treatments/vaccines, and keeping them in at night. Fortunately, they were healthy, and I’d had them since they were kittens.

    That’s another issue. Sometimes if a cat was living as a semi-feral for awhile, as Mitzy was, it may be even harder for them to be confined inside. I could have chosen to leave her on the street, or gotten her neutered then returned her to the street, as in TNR. She’d already had 2 litters at a year old.

    I did take her to the shelter, hoping she’d be adopted, but after a month in the holding cage, they were going to euthanize her as “unadoptable”
    because she was so fearful of people. I took my chances, and adopted her. She knew me because I’d fed her when she was living on the street. It didn’t take long before we bonded, and she trusted me. It did take awhile before she trusted a few others, and she’ll never be one to go to strangers.

    There are predators out there, and not just of the animal kind. I’d really prefer to err on the safety side, for myself and her.

    • I just thought of another reason not to let cats out, that benefit the guardian and the cat.

      Another story of a friend’s cat who slipped out the door, and was gone for 3 days. I told her to put the litter box out, with food, and some of her used clothing.

      The cat came back after the 3rd day, covered in stickers. This is a long haired Himalayan, so you can imagine the grief over this.

      The cat was licking himself and getting stickers in his mouth. My friend sat for hours, taking them out.

      So, there you have one more danger from the outside that isn’t from another animal or human.

  3. Sandra I agree with you that “doing the best” for our cats is subject to our circumstances and location.

    It’s a fine balancing act of weighing up the safety of the local environment, the cat’s personality and needs. So long as the cat is happy and healthy, then whatever choices the owner is making, are surely the right ones for their cat?

    The UK is a fairly cat-friendly society, so it is considered relatively safe to let them out during the daytime. Even vets and rescues support cats having access to a garden. I don’t let them out once it’s dark outside because that’s when they are most likely to be involved in a road accident.

    Mine have all died of cancer or kidney disease. Conditions they would have developed even if they had never set foot outside. Cancer it seems is becoming more prevalent. Though it may only appear that way because cats are living longer and advances in veterinary medicine make it easier to diagnose.

    • I agree that doing best for our cat is subject to circumstances. However my experiences tell me that circumstances don’t come into it with respect to letting a cat out if the owner is unable to do it emotionally.

      • Very true Michael. Owner emotions play a big part and I’m beginnning to think that social conditioning does too.

        • Nice point. Very true. I think the outdoor debate goes to the heart of our relationship with the domestic cat and the concept of the domestic wild cat. There is a partial failure at the heart of wild cat domestication.

  4. I’m glad you posted this. I’ve been struggling with this since I first got my cat. Salem is 4 years old, very friendly, social, curious, and loves to play and prowl. It’s just the two of us most of the time, so I’m his sole source for socialization and play. My gut instinct tells me he would be happier if I let him go outdoors during the day. I also know it’s not right to leave him inside all day alone. I always had indoor+outdoor cats growing up and it never occured to me that people kept their cats completely indoors.

    I admit I have some anxiety about letting him outside due to some negative experiences as a child. My sister found her cat on the front porch one day after school with severe injuries paralyzed from the waist down. Still alive, no blood, just broken, really bad experience. My cat, the litter mate, started running with the neighborhood strays after that and we eventually never saw him again. (In hindsight, it’s interesting how the cat’s grief manifested itself). I know I would be heartbroken and feel very guilty if something happened to Salem. Even with all that, I believe in my heart he would be a happier cat if he wasn’t locked up alone all day. Quality of life over quantity.

    I’ve asked the vet and friends who have cats, and they strongly discouraged letting him outside for all the reasons you described – saftey, preventing injury and illness, fleas in his long fur, people targeting black cats, etc. My old roommates, one who was very close to Salem, are the only people who have recommended letting him outside.

    I’ve briefly considered another cat for companionship, but I don’t really want one. I don’t see how adding another cat to the mix would solve the problem, and I might become resentful. Salem has lots of toys, a 6 foot cat tree (about 1.8 meters), and open windows. I try to invite people over as much as possible. He walks right up to visitors to say hello, so I worry about him going off with someone else – especially if they start feeding him. Another issue is he won’t wear a collar. Total distress. You’d think the collar was made of barbed wire.

    I’m leaning towards letting him out during the day, but I’m not sure how to go about it. I can’t imagine it’s a good idea to just open the door and hope for the best. I asked the vet when I first got him, and she said indoor is the better way to go and the general consensus is that cats are better off indoor only. I had no reservations about letting him outside when I first got him, but the negative incident from years ago coupled with the horror stories from the vet and friends have made me reluctant to do it.

    If I let him out, what if he runs away? What if he gets hurt or sick? What if someone hurts him or steals him? What about fleas? Would I lock a dog or other living thing in my home to “keep them safe”? I abhor caging birds, and I think zoos are unethical for the most part, so how can I justify locking up my cat the way I do?

    Friends say I’m so crazy about Salem that I shouldn’t risk harm or death by letting him out (that doesn’t really make sense now that I’m typing it out). Or I get the “bad owner” side eye. I still feel bad about him being bored and alone indoors for 8-9 hours a day. Of course I’d feel horrible if something happened to him, but isn’t that kinda selfish? At the same time, I would never forgive myself if I had to take him to the vet because I didn’t listen to her “professional opinion” in the first place.

    Not quite sure what to do 🙁

    • CeeCee, deciding what to do for the best is a dilemma isn’t it? We want maximum happiness and safety for our cats, there’s no standard formula for getting that right because we all live in different locations and our cats have their own opinion on whether they want to go outside or not.

      Have you considered the idea of taking Salem outside on a harness? That would give him an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, whilst you can assess how safe the neighbourhood is and how cautious he is. If you feel that it would be safe to let him outside alone during the day, you can then do so. Or you can continue only allowing him outside on the harness as a happy compromise for both of you.

      Michael recently wrote an article on here about taking his cat Gabriel outside on a harness and it seems to be working out beautifully for both of them.

    • CeeCee, you describe, brilliantly, the dilemma of fighting with one’s anxiety about letting him roam and one’s desire to give him the best and most natural life.

      There is no clean answer. It is strange that the outside is so dangerous. Or is it?

      It seems you are working which means you are away for 9 hours. This means that if you let him out you cannot react and take action quickly if needs be. If you were retired like me, it is different.

      I am here most of the day. I can let him out and if he is not back in within 40 mins I can call him and so on. I can keep an eye on things. It is a decent compromise. Semi-supervised outdoor cat.

      I think this is a factor in your decision. Personally, I don’t think I could let my cat roam freely all day while I worked.

      Perhaps you could let him out in the evening when you are back home provided the risks are assessed and found to be low.

      • I work during the day, so my cats are allowed outside when I first get up or as soon as it’s light outside. Typically they just want a quick patrol of the garden and surrounding area before coming back inside for their breakfast. When I leave for work, they remain indoors until I get home. They are allowed outside again when I return home from work.

        At the weekends when I’m home, they can go outside as often as they want because should an emergency situation arise, I’m there to deal with it.

        The only exception to the house rules is my oldest cat Horace. He was a senior ex-stray when I took him in and he gets quite agitated when confined indoors for too long because he refuses to use a litter tray. He survived living rough for so many years, that I credit him with having enough street-sense to keep out of trouble.

    • CeeCee, I don’t understand why it would be selfish to feel “horrible” if something happened to him. I feel badly when something happens to my friend’s pets, like the cat that got torn apart by 2 pit bulls.

      Also, just because a vet gives you a “professional opinion”, remember it’s just an “opinion”, and we all have them. It doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong.

      As for your cat being alone 8-9 hours a day, this is very common for people who work. Remember how many hours cats sleep a day? A lot! My cat sleeps most of the day, and even a lot of the night.

      There are ways to keep your cat from being bored:
      interactive toys, cat DVDs, cat music, etc. I’d rather risk my cat being bored, than exposed to dangers outside when I’m not around to supervise.

      A halter and leash might be a good idea. I found a wonderful halter on EBay that was made of soft reversible cotton with velcro fasteners, and sized for her measurements. It’s much better than the kind they sell in pet stores. And I wrote my contact information on it, in indelible black ink.

      There was an incident where she broke out of the leash, leaping up on a roof. The neighbor found the halter and returned it to me. I had been able to get Mitzy down, but the halter was left in my neighbor’s yard.

      Also, I got a RED leash, so it was very visible if
      she was wondering around without me holding on to it. It’s amazing how our eyes can spot red, even if not looking directly at it. She’d go after birds, and I’d go after her!

      Micro-chipping is one way to get animals returned who’ve run away, but only if someone brings them in. If people see a cat with a collar, they may assume it’s from the neighborhood, and just out for a stroll, with the guardian’s permission.

      So many considerations, with pet guardianship! Life was much easier without them, but not as much fun. (most of the time)

      Having a wild animal trust us is very rewarding. I think Michael has a wild fox friend, that he’s taken some beautiful pictures of.

      I’ve only experienced wild ferals trusting me, but still it was pretty great.

    • Thanks for all the great suggestions! Salem will be an indoor cat for now. I certainly won’t leaving him outside while I’m gone all day. He’s really pretty and very friendly. A few people cautioned that someone might steal him.

      I want to make sure he’s happy and healthy, and I’m not limiting his quality of life for my own emotional benefit. As usual, I’m probably overthinking it. As many of you have said, he sleeps all day even when I’m there. In fact, he still has bed head with his little lion mane smushed up on one side when I get home from work. He also knows how to get toys out of the toy box on his own if he gets bored. I leave a little bit of water in the tub since he likes water so much. His tree is in front of a big window, and I might put a bird feeder outside.

      I did learn that I was misreading his behavior during our first year or so. He can be quite demanding for attention, usually when I’m doing something that doesn’t involve him like reading or working. When I call him, he ignores me. I open a book, and here he comes. If I ignore him, he starts knocking books off the shelves. Apparently these aren’t necessarily behavior problems due to boredom – nope, just him being a cat.

      • CeeCee,
        Thanks for sharing about the things you do for Salem, to prevent boredom.

        Putting a bird feeder in the tree is a wonderful idea. I have one hanging from my porch, in addition to a bird bath, and a hummingbird feeder.
        Mitzy loves to watch the birds, but can’t get at them. I never did this with my other cats, because of circumstances, and mostly they were indoor/outdoor.

        Thank you again for sharing!

  5. This is an interesting topic, and one I haven’t seen before.

    Since we all live in a variety of situations, we’re not always able to provide the best environment for our cat.

    If we rent a room, like I do, I’m not able to build indoor structures that my cat would love. I do have a spot above my closet, and have put a simple board to connect it with another surface. So, my cat has the option of two or three different high places.

    I have a small porch off my room, and have enclosed it in wire, so she’s safe, yet can see her world.

    Just after I installed the wire, she escaped over the top, because I’d left her cat “condo” too close. It was at night, in the middle of the worst
    rain storm we’d seen in years. I went out in the pouring rain, with a flashlight, calling for her. After an hour or so, I gave up, and realized that she might be gone for good. We’d only been here for less than a week.

    I put her litter box out on the covered porch area, and went back to bed with a heavy heart. About 3AM, I woke to a “meow, meow”, and I was in disbelief, but ecstatic! (Now, nothing is left close to the wire fencing!)

    Our pets rely on us for protection, as do children.
    In my thinking, being in “control” is equated with being “responsible”. I don’t live in a safe place to allow Mitzy free reign outside. And when I had the choice, I used a halter and leash. The problem was that she picked up a lot of fleas from the grass. So she experience the “joy” of being outside, but the “agony” of infestation. I wasn’t using “spot on” flea “control”. Ah, there’s that word again!

    Some parents allow their children to wander outside
    unsupervised, and are surprised when harm comes to them in one of it’s many forms. Others let their kids “free feed”, and have no regular bed times.

    My intention in controlling Mitzy’s environment and food is to provide her with the most optimum conditions I’m able to. Her health is my main concern. I spend time with her daily, brushing, playing, snuggling, napping, ear cleaning, talking to, and generally checking her body for hidden injuries.

    Cats and children seem to want to go outside. But just opening the door and letting them go seems irresponsible, unless you are sure of their safety.
    But we know that both kids and cats get kid-napped. So, I’d rather be safe than sorry that I wasn’t a protective guardian.

    Mitzy has optimum care because I’m retired, and spend most days at home. When I had cats before, I lived on 5 acres in Hawaii, and they had access to the outdoors while I was at work. But I always brought them in at night. Wild boars can do quite a bit of damage, but the vet bills were the reason I kept them in!

      • Michael, to answer your question. Yes, sometimes my desires take precedence over Mitzy’s happiness.
        I visit my son which means I’m away several days, and although my roommate feeds her, he doesn’t clean her box. She’s used to it being cleaned as soon as it’s used! I’m sure she doesn’t like going in a dirty box.

        She’s alone during that time I’m away, and since she’s used to me being around, that could be stressful to her.

        Sometimes when she cries at midnight to eat, I may just roll over, and go back to sleep if I can, knowing she won’t starve.

        I’ve stopped leaving food out all the time, but if I did, it would make it easier on me. But my recent research has convinced me that it’s not in her best health interests to do that.

        There must be other ways I put myself before her, but these are all that come to mind at the moment. It would be great to hear from others on this subject.

        • I thought you’d answer like that. You’re are a top cat guardian. I don’t know of a better one.

          There has to be some sacrifice. Perhaps the degree of sacrifice (to one’s own preferences) is the way you measure the quality of a cat caretaker.

  6. Most diseases are species specific. Other than rabies, I’m not sure which diseases people fear their cats bringing home. I’ve never caught anything from mine and they are vaccinated for their own protection against infectious feline diseases.

    • Fleas and ringworm would be my guess. Of course you can give flea preventative, and ringworm is not as much of a risk with adult cats than with kittens, but having dealt with ringworm when my kittens were young — it is a pain in the neck even if you don’t catch it yourself not to mention very expensive.

      I am actually fairly open on the subject in that I don’t believe there is only one right way. I don’t have an issue with other people letting cats outside which many Americans have an issue with, but I keep mine in. I don’t have an opportunity to build a fence as I live in a townhouse-style condo and I don’t own the outside. The condo rules is supposedly indoor-only cats, but it’s not really enforced. I also signed an “indoor only” contract with a rescue where I got my cat. Even without it, with roads not far, I am fairly afraid to let mine out. Besides, one time that one of my cats who was about 8 months at the time got out, she spent much of the time scared under the bush, then came back and attacked her brother. This was not the usual play fighting they normally engage in, it was all out attack, the poor thing (who is 30% bigger than his sister but still) went to the toilet right there where he was from stress and then run and hid in a corner. I had to do some work to restore peace between them and I don’t care to repeat the experience.

      So here are my reasons for keeping them inside, and I am the first to admit that some of them are selfish:
      1. I don’t want to lose them. I don’t want to run around searching for either of them nor do I want to find them under some car, I see enough dead cats on the roads.
      2. I don’t want to worry about applying flew preventative that may have side effects.
      3. I want to reduce the number of vaccinations. For example indoor-only cats don’t need FELV. Every vaccination is a tiny but existing risk if injection side sarcoma. FVRCP is recommended every 3 years, but many feel that the immunity lasts longer. With indoor-only cats I feel comfortable increasing the interval. If my cats were going outdoors, I’d probably not be comfortable to go longer than 3 years. Rabies is state law around here, so I don’t really have much leeway there (bugging my vet now about why 8 months after 3 year Purevax was finally approved they still use every year version and if they’ll plan to get 3 year Purevax before my next visit).

      4. I like squirrels jumping and running outside my window and don’t want either of my cats kill them.

      So these are my reasons. But really, I think every situation is different. I wish I had an opportunity for an outdoor enclosure. But I do play with my cats every day, and they also play with each other.

    • I think it is more about fear of the unknown. People aren’t sure what might be brought in from the outside and if there other cats in the home they are vulnerable to transmission.

      Also cat bites and scratches can put people in hospital. It is just a perception. It is largely misconceived.

      The anti-cat brigade on city councils always refer to feral cat health risks and they are referring to risks to the health of people. They exaggerate the situation.

      • Interesting points Michael.

        I guess I’m looking at this from a UK perspective as opposed to an American one. Thankfully no city councils here imposing any laws against cats being allowed outside, so no exaggerated claims about disease spreading cats. I’ve seen that accusation levelled at cats many times on-line and I think it just gives ammunition to cat haters.

  7. Whilst I understand people keeping their cats indoors where the local environment is unsafe for them, I do think you’re right that the “control” issue is more common and one people perhaps don’t want to admit to themselves.

    Cat-proof fencing could allay most of the fears of people who don’t want to let their cats outside and would be preferable to those “catios” or fenced enclosures. (They remind me of caged zoo animals.)

    • I love catios and enclosures. However, I believe that some people find them inadequate not from the perspective of cat safety but from the perspective of the cat bringing in disease to the home. Therefore even with the space and resources they don’t build enclosures. Large enclosures are rare which is unfortunate.

      I am pleased you agree with me in principle. A lot of people won’t admit that they want control rather then making decisions on the grounds of cat safety.

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