Categories: cat welfare

Life is too easy for the domestic cat

It came to me in a flash about two minutes ago. Well, I’ve known about it for years and sometimes cogitated on it. The life of a domestic cat is often too easy. The reason why it is too easy is because they are domestic cats. It’s a dilemma. It is a built-in failure of feline domestication, I’m afraid. Domestic cats are designed to hunt for a living. They are prime predators. They need to be challenged. They need to be stressed sometimes to be alive and happy. They need to be at the sharp end of life not in the back room of life where they are fed cat food, kept warm, petted and loved. All these things are great but they take away from the domestic cat an essential part of his life: the challenge of survival. It is the challenge of survival which keeps him alive, alert, living in the present and ultimately content. They are programmed for that.

My cat on a summer day. Photo: Michael Broad

I had the desire to write about this because it’s about 5:30 in the morning and it’s raining outside so my cat is sitting on a cat bed on a cat tree about 6 paces away looking at me, bored. Normally he’d be outside because it is dawn, a time when under entirely normal or wild circumstances he would be outside hunting for a small mammal. I know you can’t always meet these ideal objectives, it’s impractical and a lot of people would say it’s unsafe in a modern world but he’s happier when he’s doing that.

He doesn’t have to go out in the rain because about 2 yards from him is top quality food he can eat whenever he likes. It doesn’t have to go in search of it. He is pampered and deeply loved. He’s combed every day maybe twice a day with a flea comb and he is entirely flea free and has been all his life. Touch wood, there is not a single thing wrong with him so he’s very lucky but I’m one of those people who believe that both the human and the cat need to be challenged in life to be fully alive. And it may lead to a shorter life but a happier and more productive one.

As a retired person, I make sure that I am challenged and occupied as much as I can be bearing in mind my age. The mind and body must be used like an old vehicle. If you leave an old vehicle in a garage without using it it falls to bits gradually. All people need to be active, as active as they can be within the limits of their health and fitness. The same goes for domestic cats. That is where there is a huge breakdown in my view. A lot of cat owners think that cats are independent and they can be left alone all day even if they are confined to the home all their lives. Not so in my view. This is not the sort of life that can be described as ideal for domestic cat as it can lead to boredom, obesity and ill-health.

My cat Gabriel in his garden cat enclosure. He is very active. Photo: Me.

Why ill-health? Two reasons: inactivity can cause ill-health because of various factors including obesity and in the home there are lots of little hidden hazards and poisons for domestic cats. You don’t know about them but that there in some homes, not all of them. And they are eating food which is not always of the highest quality. Yes, I’m being a bit negative but I’m being realistic. I’m a realist and if you are a realist you have two face the reality of the fact that the domestication of the cat, although impressive and amazing, cannot be described as a success from the cat’s perspective when taken globally. There’s far too much abuse and there’s far too many feral cats and unwanted cats. These are signs of failure, abject and unforgivable failure.

But let’s leave this discussion on a happy and positive note. There are millions of loved domestic cats living in homes where their human guardian does their best for them.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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