HomeHuman to cat relationshipDifference in Attitude The Reason Why Americans Keep Their Cats Inside


Difference in Attitude The Reason Why Americans Keep Their Cats Inside — 37 Comments

  1. Thanks for your article Michael: It contains some information regarding the indoor/outdoor life style that I advocate for and couldn’t find elsewhere. I find that as an American my opinions on cats and keeping cat(s) is more aligned with most Europeans than other Americans. I feel that I am in a minority in America and that many people attempt to shame me for allowing ‘my cat’ to be out of doors unsupervised. I feel that cats confined indoors are basically lack richness in their lives. I admit cats in my area do have to deal with the challenges of wildlife – Racoons, Opossums, and an occasional Coyotee or Eagle.
    I refer to the cats that my family provides food and care for – not as our cat or cats but instead that we are their people. The cat(s) come and go as they please. They don’t have to come back, but they do come back according to their own free will.
    I’ve cared for two cats over the past 31 years. I met both as adults. They each spent time with me for 15 or more years each. This means their life spans were probably 17+ years each.
    I am presently providing care for a ‘Kitten Rescue’ cat, 18 months of age that obviously has been exclusively an indoor cat. This cat seems to have no interest in going out doors. While I have not interest in maintaining a litter box. This is a problem. The cat seems content to sleep in one room all day and nearly all night. It doesn’t know how to play, it’s just plain boring. I want to enrich this cat’s life with more experiences but It seems disinterested or afraid of anything new.
    I very much prefer cats that want to spend some time out of doors, especially the good rat cathers. See ‘Bert the Cat’ https://www.facebook.com/BertTheHunter/?ref=br_rs on facebook.

    • Hi Kenneth, I forgot how long my articles were in those distant days! I may have underestimated the predator factor in the US. There is certainly an issue with coyotes which is not the case obviously in the UK. Your rescue kitten being so fearful (apparently) is sad. Although the cat may have a character which is suited to the quiet indoor life. She/he may come out of her shell actually. I’d be surprised if she didn’t. As mentioned, almost all Brits let their cat roam freely which is too slack for me. Too many cats die on the road in the UK. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Sorry to comment on an old article, but America’s attitude towards cat has troubled me for quite a while. I think it is laughable that they think they have the right to tell people in other countries to keep their cats inside (for their own safety, they say), while being one of the only countries in the world that legalises declawing. It speaks volumes about the hypocrisy of these people. America seems to hate cats, despite having a few species of native cats-for example, mountain lions, bob cat and lynx (they hate those too and think nothing of killing them. Hunting them is legal in many parts of America, go figure). Anything that bad happens to a cat is blamed on the owner of the cat, even in the event of someone else’s wrong doing. If an owner of a vicious dog let their dog run around off lead illegally and it runs onto someone else’s property and kills their cat-it’s the cat owners fault for not having their cat indoors. If someone shoots a cat with an arrow for minding its own business on its owner’s property-the cat owner is at fault for not having their cats indoors. If someone traps their cat and burns it alive on Halloween-it’s the cat owners fault for not having the cat indoors. You see where I am going with this. All of these things have actually happened and every time someone has had the nerve to blame the owner of the cat in their time of grief, not the person who deliberately killed the cat. It’s sickening. Australians have a similar attitude, despite cats being legally allowed outside in much of Australia. In Brisbane, where I live, it is only suggested that they are kept in the confines of one’s property if possible and indoors at night, but only because they can get lost and end up in a shelter. Cats and dogs are all microchipped to prevent this. People have been blamed for letting the cats go out when a neighbour’s dog escaped and killed the cat in its backyard. I have seen someone boast on the same forum about keeping the cat stuck on a lead while in the back yard, which would be a guaranteed death sentence for the cat in that situation. You never have someone blame the owner if the victim is a dog, only if it is a cat. It’s ridiculous. People that say cats must be kept indoors are the same people that let don’t give a second thought about leaving their dogs out to bark all day, letting their dog off leash illegally, letting their dog crap everywhere without cleaning it up and have a callous attitude towards cat owners when their illegally off leash dog kills someone’s cat on the cat owner’s property. Cats have every right to enjoy outdoors just like dogs do. And cats can be contained on their properties just as easily as dogs. It’s possible to let one’s cat go outside and still keep it safe and free of disease. Just cat proof your yard. It’s cheap and easy to DIY and there are a wide range of methods. Temporary cat proofing is also possible on rental properties, just remove it before you move. Why more Americans don’t do this is beyond me. I guess they have this weird all or nothing attitude. To them, cats can’t be outside no matter the circumstances. It’s very strange.

    • Hi Elaine, no need to apologise for commenting on an old article. I like it and like your thoughts. There is sense in what you say. However, I am not sure I totally agree with you. There are certainly a lot of people in America who hate wandering cats and it does not matter if the cats are domestic or feral. Like Australians they are concerned for their native species. I certainly agree with you on this point. There is a bit of a love-hate relationship with the cat in the USA and feral cats take the brunt of the hate element. And sport hunters of which there are a lot in the US like to take pot shots at cats. And 2+ million healthy cats in shelters are killed annually and…declawing as you say. There is an unpleasant element or attitude towards cats from a significant section of American society. But there are also cat haters in the UK and they poison cats etc.. I could go on for pages but I’ll stop there. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Growing up, my cats were all outdoors. Two were found dead in our yard, another mysteriously vanished. Another we found dragging her back legs around, paralyzed. Then, there were all the feral cats that hung around over the years. They came and went. Only one of these we found dead (it died under our house on top of the heater while we were gone for a trip, imagine coming home to a house smelling like dead cat )but who knows what happened to the others?

    Our house was on a cul-de-sac surrounded by woods, a low traffic area, and neighbors were not a problem. I believe it was just the wildlife. There are plenty of poisonous snakes where I live (copperheads) and even feral cats caused a problem for our cats, deciding that our garage was their territory and fighting our cats over it.

    Now a days there is a coyote problem. Coyotes were brought in to manage the deer and they’ve taken over. They weren’t around when I was younger (I live in the SE USA) but they pose a problem now, and some of my neighbors have said their cats have gone missing, which they believe to be due to coyotes.

    I don’t know how the wildlife in the USA compares to the UK. You mention population differences but did you consider population density?

    In any case, I think the biggest factor in the differences is culture. People do what’s considered culturally acceptable. Considering the dangers posed to outdoor cats, an American won’t think twice about taking them indoor, and why should they? Everyone else does it. It’s even encouraged.

    Now consider, if no one had an indoor cat, they would be less inclined to make that choice. People do what other people do. The more people that do it, the easier it is to do.

    • Thanks for commenting DS. I agree with you. There are good reasons to keep cats indoors in America and predators are the biggest reason together with sick individuals who like to kill cats. In the UK predators of cats don’t exist (the fox might take the odd cat but rarely) so it’s traffic which is the biggest killer.

  4. And now that I think about it, I have to retract my statement that Europe might be more civilized than America. I remember seeing on this very site an article about a suspected cat serial killer who uses a machete to kill cats. Probably the tip of the iceberg. The sad fact is where ever there are humans there will be animal abuse. No place on earth is immune from that.

  5. I have always seen keeping cats in as like home schooling. I think Americans are more paranoid and more controlling of their families than are Europeans. Home schooling is considered missocialosation in Europe

    • Beth, I’ve seen way too many incidents of brutality towards stray cats (and dogs, for that matter) to ever let my animals roam free. Years ago my next door neighbor’s kid doused a pregnant stray dog with gasoline and burned her alive. The same idiot later used his BB gun to kill off every squirrel and pigeon in the neighborhood. When he finished with them he turned his attention to cats and dogs. He fired at my mother’s dog one day and I jumped the fence and chased him into his house. I’ve rescued kittens from death by stoning by gangs of kids. Walked up on another group of young would-be Lords of the Flies who made a sharpened spear from a street sign and were attempting to lure a stray dog in close enough so they could spear the animal. And I won’t go into much detail about certain pit bull owners (and I use that word loosely) who routinely use stray cats and kittens as chew toys and training aids for their dogs. Speaking of pits, I was standing at a bus stop one day and a man pulled up, opened up the door and kicked a pit bull female out onto the curb. He cursed at her, said she was worthless because she wasn’t ‘mean’ enough. He was right. She wasn’t mean enough. She smiled and wagged her tail the whole time. I found her a good home the same day.

      I live in a large city in the Midwest. It may well be that Europe is more civilized than America. I don’t know. I do know what I’ve seen. All these incidents happened in different neighborhoods, some even considered to be ‘good’ areas. I feel that I would be putting my cats in danger if I opened up the door and allowed them to roam. The ironic thing is, I’ve adopted cats who had the run of the barn and the farm they grew up in when they were kittens. After I adopted them they showed absolutely no interest in going outside and even fussed and meowed when the door was open. They made no move towards the door and wanted me to close it.

      We can agree to disagree, Beth and Michael. I wouldn’t call my attitude “paranoid and controlling.” I want to keep my animals safe, and I will continue to keep them inside.

  6. Its all I’ve ever known ‘cats are a free spirit’ Its always been a given here in the UK to see cats roaming freely no one bothering them. Thats how I’ve grown up you see and to me its so alien to hear of cats being catnapped and take to a shelter to be killed even though the nappers know they are someone’s loved companion. Cat abuse is rife in America and the stupid laws only bring all the other cruel stuff together. Whatever happened to compasion and common sense?

    Pathetic! Thats all that comes to mind! The American people should mind their own damn business and leave the cats alone!

  7. Well as most of you know my cats at this stage have the option of going in or out. Most prefer out but if there ever came a time when it was too dangerous i would prob have to have them in. The thought of having them on a leash is abit inhumane i feel. but i guess if there was no other option. In the winter they r inside alot anyways, they absutly hate the wet weather were all inside yesterday. Rebel hated it meowed at me all day long. even when i patted him and told him its ok.

  8. I keep my cats inside for their safety and my peace of mind. I live in a very heavily urbanized area. Cars are the biggest threat, but there are also diseases, other animals and non-cat people to worry about. It is in fact against the law for animals to be outside without a person holding a leash, so what was posted about animal control is very real. But honestly if I lived in the country, the only difference is I might have a fenced play area where they can spend a little time outside, but they would be inside probably 23 hours of the day. I live with cats because I enjoy their company after all, so it defeats the purpose to leave them outside.

    • Nice comment. Thank you for commenting. Good commonsense. I agree that in highly urbanised areas where there’s lots of traffic a person has to supervise their cat if their cat goes outside. But the point I’m making in the article is that a far higher percentage of Americans keep their cats permanently inside when very often there is no obvious reason why this should be the case.

      For example, in suburbs in America there is more space than in Europe and houses are often detached with reasonable sized gardens. Even in these homes people keep their cat inside permanently, it seems to me. Why don’t these people build a cat-proof fence around their garden (there are many companies producing these) and then let their cat enjoy a bit of nature in their back garden (backyard).

      Or, alternatively, build a decent-sized enclosure that extends into the backyard. When you see cats being kept in under these circumstances you have to come to the conclusion that there is a different culture or attitude in respect of American’s relationship with their cats.

      • Michael, I think people do provide what they can. What they call it might need clarification. For exampke, I have a friend that lives in a high rise condo, as do I, but with a screened balcony, which I don’t have. When my friend is home, during waking hours, the balcony door is left cracked open for the cats to roam back and forth. Now, they do get all excited when they see birds on trees but of course they can’t get to them so I’m not sure if that is just torture for the cats, but at least they get to breath fresh air and the birds are safe. If you asked my friend, she would tell you that her cats are indoor cats, so I would be careful about assuming too much from a simple statement like that.

  9. Jeez – ‘the spread of disease’ – my goodness what a bunch of hype. OMG a cat just entered my field of vision – RUUUNN – gas mask!! Quick! We are all going to potentially die horrible deaths and bring the rest of society down with us (actually this would be a positive thing but lets forget that for now).

    Thank the lord for those responsible folk who lock up their cats from going outside. Well don’t to them. They are protecting others from needless and horrible death and destruction.

    Just to be clear – No other animal threatens instant death like a cat does, and that’s why all the other animals are allowed outside. It’s only those cats that spread the evils so better they be locked up for our safety and their own good.

  10. I think that it comes down to the fact that there are such immense urban areas in the United States where the type of government control is necessary to keep animals safe. I had all but two of my seven cats trapped and taken in to animal control by a neighbor or killed by cars on a nearby road in just a matter of months. Look at my sister’s cat Georgie who was injured someway while out roaming in the closed community she lives in. I think that Europeans may be looking out for cats like we did before the end of the 1990’s here. No one expects them here now so they are more likely to get ran over. I would love for cats to roam and love to see them out doing it, but I am not willing to risk their lives. The birds are safe. That is just a fallacy.

    • I had all but two of my seven cats trapped and taken in to animal control

      I have heard about this sort of thing going on in America when neighbours trap another neighbour’s cats. But what right did he or she had to do that? Did the person trap the cats legally or illegally? It seems to me that there is a very fine boundary between legally trapping and illegally trapping. Obviously there were no laws preventing your cats going outside otherwise you wouldn’t have allowed it.

      As for cars and traffic generally, I agree that it is the biggest killer and I also agree that cat should be kept in or heavily supervised if a person lives in the vicinity of roads. Either that or build a large enclosure.

      Dan, are you saying that outdoor domestic cats are less often seen in America since the end of the 1990s? And is this because of legal restrictions? Or is it because people don’t like it?

      • Sorry, my comment was a bit of a rant before… so…

        Property owner’s have the right to not have wandering animals on their property. Thus we as pet owners have the responsibility of keeping our pets away from our neighbors lands. In 1991 our neighbor called animal control and they gave him a trap to trap our and everyone else’s cats. They were taking to animal control and adopted out before we had a chance to get to them. The policy has been changed. The fault was ours and animal controls. Our neighbor was fully in his rights. We had seven cats in a mobile home. We can only legally have three cats max and with our square footage animal control would only let us adopt two.

        Outside enclosures are the best solution. Angled fence tops are even better. I cannot encroach on my neighbors rights, nor do I want my kitties to miss out on the outdoors. I cannot have more than three adult cats in my home and I would be sure to walk them/clean up their droppings as we go. It’s a new world…

        Let’s look at my friend Gary in Utah. He lives in the middle of no where. His neighbors have all left their property, leaving their barn cats behind. He has adopted one who lives on his back porch. He built her a kitty fort out of old couch cushions. At night all these cats join her in her little fort and of course he feeds them all. One of the cats decided the porch was hers. She blocked his cat from coming inside. I advised her to use water to keep her away from the door, but he has the right to poison this cat. It has no owner. Unfortunately it is the ‘rules of the wild west out’ out in the boonies. Abandoned or feral cats are considered vermin and there is no animal control to call. Again, it is not the animals fault. It is the owner’s who abandoned them.

        So that is all I know about the laws… The bird paradigm was spread by news, talk shows and the internet. It was avant garde for a time to put bells on the cat. I think this may be the real reason cats are kept inside by the majority of Americans, with fear of death and animal control issue making up the for the rest of the 50%.

        These are the only answers I know of.. There could be different laws in other states.

        • Thanks, Dan. Your comment educated me a bit more about the American way of life. I agree completely when you say a property owner has the right to not have cats wandering on their property. In the UK, as far as I recall, the situation is different in that the person has no right to hurt a cat if that cat comes onto their property. If they do it would be criminal damage or a crime under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Clearly, although in the UK we respect property rights as much as Americans do, we also respect the rights of the domestic cat and other animals and of course in this instance there are competing rights.

          On the one hand there is the property rights of a person, while on the other hand there is the life of a cat. It is a balancing act. In the UK a person can only prevent a cat entering their property by using humane methods that do not hurt the cat. Also, from a legal standpoint it is not trespass if a neighbour’s cat enters his neighbour’s property. In short, it is something that people in the UK probably accept much more readily than Americans do in the USA. For me, our culture in respect of the domestic cat is better but I’m in no way criticising anybody when I state that. I fully understand the American viewpoint.

          With respect to the feral cat that you refer to in your comment (living in the countryside), I also understand the argument. However, I personally don’t believe that there are any circumstances of this nature under which it is morally acceptable to kill a cat of any kind, stray, semi-feral, feral or domestic: they’re all the same as far as I’m concerned because they are all living creatures with equal rights under the law and we must remember that people created feral cats through carelessness and negligence. That surely must have a bearing on how we treat them. But if the American law allows people to shoot feral cats then so be it but the far as I’m concerned that sort of law is unpleasant.

          • Oh, I forgot to mention, it is now illegal to kill a pet in Phoenix. This is a case of public attitude and outrage leading to a law being created. Thank heavens! I too think that it is an abomination to kill any animal (accept for want of food), especially cats and other pets. I’m thankful that the UK kitties are safe. Someday it will be the same in the United States. Can there be any other way?

        • It’s very upsetting when your own neighbors are trapping your cats for animal control to pick up. That happens in my neighboorhood too.
          I’m very surprised that your cats were adopted out and not killed.
          Animal control is my enemy and has made my life a living hell on more that one occasion.

          • Yes, they didn’t have the same rules in place back then. Our three tabby kittens and Maine Coon Sir were gone in less than 2 days! We never had a chance. TC was so timid she hid until we called her name. She meowed so loud! Poor baby!

            Sorry you’re having so much trouble. Some ares of the nation are in the dark ages. It will take time, but I can’t help but think the enlightened attitude that is taking root all over the country will become the rule.

    • The reason why I did not publish your original comment is because it’s just the usual rant. You have said it all before and it has the tone and tenor of a complete rant written by somebody who hates feral cats and who likes to shoot them. Why am I going to publish that on this website? If you want to rant then e-mail me and I’ll read your rant but I’m not going to expose other visitors to your idiotic rants. It upsets them. Personally I find them ridiculous and almost amusing because only a crazy person can write what you write.

      Rather than being a silly troll hiding behind proxy e-mail addresses and computer IP addresses why don’t you allow me to interview you online on Skype? Let’s do that. Let’s have an interview on Skype and we’ll see if we can record it and turn it into a video for everyone to see.

      You’re going to run away now aren’t you under your stone!

      • ********

        NO sane person in the world wants to get a bunch of ******* invading their personal lives. All that do learn this lesson learn it far far too late.

        Take this most recent example, a loving veterinarian who tried to save the life of a sick cat from one of their outdoor hoarded colonies. These sociopathic and psychopathic wastes-of-flesh cyber-bullied this caring and loving veterinarian to suicide.

        banvetabuse D0T blogspot D0T co D0T uk SLASH 2014_03_01_archive D0T html

        blogs D0T hudsonvalley D0T com SLASH pets-power SLASH 2014/03/03 SLASH veterinary-community-alleges-cyberbullying SLASH

        Anyone need only Google for: Loews Hotels Feral Cats, if someone doesn’t believe me to see what you cat-licking sociopaths do to everyone.


        Added by Michael:

        The website that Woody refers to is:


        This website discusses the fairly recent story all the veterinarian who was bullied ostensibly into suicide by woman who wanted to claim what she believed was her cat from the veterinarian. I wrote about it myself. The nasty woman concerned is not a cat lover in the true sense. She is just a nasty person and for Woody to refer to this particular matter as an example that people like cats are horrible and crazy is ridiculous. Everybody knows that this woman who bullied this thread was a nasty person. In addition we have no idea of the background to this veterinarian and how she felt generally. There may be a lot more going on in her background than we know about so once again it is completely inappropriate to quote this matter in support of his ranting arguments.

  11. I would hate to live in America and can’t understand why the authorities are so down on cats, there seems to be no laws to protect them and we know definitely no law apart from a few cities to stop vets mutilating them by declawing.
    I can understand keeping cats in if there are dangers outside from wild animals and traffic but they shouldn’t be in danger from people, yet it seems they are.
    It must be a nightmare for carers of ferals, like our Dee here is, worrying about their safety.
    People caused the feral problem in the first place but it’s the cats who suffer.
    It breaks my heart that humans have made parts of this world so dangerous and unwelcoming for cats, it doesn’t seem to count that they were here long before us, that they have the right to live as cats were meant to live, to enjoy freedom, nibbling grass, climbing trees, basking in the sun.
    Cats lives to me are very important, it’s essential to me we make them as happy and as natural as we can, but unfortunately too many other people don’t agree, they give no thought to how to make their lives fulfilled.
    We wouldn’t live anywhere where our cats couldn’t have their freedom, it isn’t so good here for us right now but it doesn’t matter as it’s safe and cat friendly and that’s the main thing.

    • Ruth, it seems to me that the greatest danger to the outside cat is people and heavy-handed legislation restricting people’s freedoms to decide for themselves how they wish to care for their cat. It also seems to me that there are too many people who wish to hurt cats in the USA. Or they are obsessed with their land and stopping anybody or anything coming onto it.

      I still believe that this is about possession/ownership and the laws are insisting that those people who “possess” a cat should keep the cat inside as if the cat is a piece of furniture. I feel that it is about that.

  12. It’s all a mix and mess of everything you wrote.

    My theory about the attitude:

    It’s not necessarily the caretaker’s desire to keep their cat inside. They’re just subjected to so much grief and misery if they don’t. They’re pretty much forced to do it by law. Animal control has the right to pick up any free-roaming cat and take to the county shelter. If the caretaker should, by some miracle, find that the cat is there and not killed yet, they are subjected to fines and fees in order to retrieve their cat. Shelters keep lousy records, but these incidents are recorded and held by the Clerk of Circuit Courts. So, any subsequent offense of the same nature will result in even bigger consequences.

    Secondly, at least in my area, non-cat caretakers have a very low tolerance to seeing any cat on their property. They are very likely to call authorities, especially if the cat has “soiled” their precious garden.

    Thirdly, the local branch of the Humane Society and every adoption shelter (not county) that I know of has the indoor only clause in their adoption contract. If the adoptee breaches, the shelter has the right to confiscate the cat.

    For myself and a lot of caretakers of indoor/outdoor cats I know, it’s terrifying. We have to be vigilant and worry like crazy if one or more aren’t in sight. I have a couple that will go back to visit their colony for a day or two sometimes, and I’m out of my mind while their gone.

    • And, I believe that this crap, along with ignorance on the part of caretakers, is why a lot of the declawing is happening.

    • It seems then that I am incorrect in saying that outdoor cats face the same hazards in the USA and Europe. In appears that the hazards, one way and another, are greater in the USA sometimes just from other people who don’t like cats on their land. That must stem from a dislike of cats.

      How widespread are regulations preventing cats being outside unsupervised? Do you know?

      The shelter attitude seems very dictatorial to me. I would have thought that if they pick a decent cat caretaker then they should leave it up to the person to decide how to look after their cat.

        • I’ll try not to rant too much.
          But, I think people would be more prone to adopt cats if the crazy laws wouldn’t make their lives miserable.
          If they would just lighten up some, maybe there wouldn’t be so much shelter killing.

        • Dee, I am extremely surprised to read that leash laws and restrictions on outdoor cats under the law is as widespread as you say it is. I had no idea. Do we know exactly how widespread local legislation its against letting cats go outside?

          Today, I wondered whether a better law would be to insist that a cat that goes outside has to wear a GPS collar, which would allow the owner of the cat to track his or her position v.accurately. Perhaps that is unworkable but it would be a way of supervising an outdoor cat and it would allow the cat owner to have some sort of autonomy rather than bearing down on people with heavy legal restrictions.

          How does animal control differentiate between (a) a domestic cat who happens to be outside (B) a stray cat who has lost his home (C) a semi-feral cat (D) a feral cat?

          • There are 67 counties in Florida.
            I searched trying to find one site that would provide info on each county but couldn’t. All I can get are individual results per county which, in scanning, pretty much covers all. It may be enforced to a lesser degree in very rural areas of counties but but law is still on the books.

            Just from my experiences, animal control doesn’t differentiate anything. Their job is to capture and deposit at the county shelter.
            I have never seen an animal control officer ever put a hand on any cat. I’ve seen them trap and use the evil wired catch poles. Either way, each cat is then placed in a removable cage individually on their truck. They all enter the shelter the same way and there is no telling at that point which are domesticated, etc. On one of my shelter “visits” I asked how they determined adoptability and was told some sort of vague socialization testing was done. They claim to check for microchips, but several people I’ve talked with say they don’t check all, especially my most beloved hissers and spitters.

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