The question is relevant because in Australia there are places where the law places a curfew on cats. They have to stay in at night in order to protect wild animals. In Australia the authorities have become paranoid about cats attacking wild animals because Australians have killed so many with their commercial expansion.
‘What fun awaits out there in the darkness’.
So is it cruel to keep a cat indoors at night? It is ironic because years ago in Britain and probably in many other countries, it was normal to ‘put the cat out at night’ – meaning lock the cat out. I guess the purpose was to give the owners some peace and quiet because domestic cats are active at night.
Very often domestic cats are completely out of step with their human companion/guardian. When humans go to bed, domestic cats get revved up to go outside hunting. And when humans are racing around during the day their cats are sleeping in the home.
On this basis, it might be cruel to keep a cat indoors at night because the cat is being prevented from expression natural desires which need to be expressed to avoid stress and distress. These emotions can be manifested in physical health problems.
But domestic cats tend to adapt to being captive creatures in a ‘home range’ (territory) which is both too small for them and unnatural. They adapt so well that they are usually able to remove some of the stress of being prevented from behaving normally. Therefore it is not necessarily cruel to keep a cat indoors at night but these cats will probably be full-time indoor cats.
If you kept a cat who is used to going out in the day, to freely wander, and then make him captive in the night, in my view, you are asking for trouble. The cat will find this uncomfortable and probably make a fuss. He’ll complain and be active in the home and perhaps disturb his owner’s sleep.
I would argue that it would be cruel under these circumstances. But you have to define ‘cruel’. It is a strong word. It may be too strong a word to describe the treatment of a domestic cat who is kept inside at night but has access to the outside during the day. I’d prefer a phrase like ‘abusive’ or ‘unkind’ or even ‘inhumane’.
A lot of people in countries other than the US might say that keeping cats indoors all the time is cruel. This is an important topic which is fiercely debated.
We have to look at another aspect of confining cats. A lot of people would say that it is kind to keep a cat inside at night or all the time because it benefits the cat. It is safer for the cat because there might be predators outside and there are certainly cars and trucks and many roads. These are real dangers to cats at night particularly the earlier hours of the morning when the early rush hour starts.
So it might be kind to keep at indoors at night if you have that perspective and if you live in a place where there are predators who prey on domestic cats and lots of traffic.
And if in keeping a cat indoors at night you are saving the lives of birds and mice some would say you are being kind to these animals and not cruel. The birds are just as important as cats.
There is no clear answer to the question. However, the question asks if, under normal circumstances where there are no predators of cats, it is an act of cruelty towards the cat to keep her indoors at night if she normally goes outside and the answer to that question is probably a qualified yes.
Did you find this article useful and interesting? Can it be improved? Please tell me in a comment. I am always keen to improve the site for animal welfare and reader enjoyment.