More people are keeping their cats indoors full-time but are they playing with their cat more often?

An Internet search tells me that by 2004 just over half of all cats in the US were strictly indoor cats. And, by 2014, I’m told that about 70% of cats are defined as indoors only. I am not sure that I can believe these figures. Are there that many full-time indoor cats? Whether you accept them or not there is certainly a very large number of full-time indoor cats in America (estimated: 50m). The trend for indoor cats is growing in the UK as well and I’m sure in other countries.

Indoor cat by the window
Indoor cat by the window. This cat experiences both natural seasonal light indoor light. Photo in public domain.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

And on one webpage that I’m reading written by Steve Dale on the positively.com website, there is a long list of reasons why it’s a good thing to keep domestic cats indoors full-time. All the reasons are about cat safety; avoiding injuries, avoiding drinking antifreeze put down by some nasty miscreant or being run over by a car or eaten by a coyote. The list of outside dangers is endless. The only way to avoid them is to keep your cat inside (there are hidden dangers there too by the way).

So, we receive this heavy promotion of the idea of full-time indoor cats. But we don’t get any promotion on the issue of how to entertain a cat confined to the indoors. We don’t get any promotion of the need to stimulate indoor cats; to tap into their raw wildcat within, to stimulate their mojo, to keep them happy, challenged and excited about life.

This is a desperate failure because you can’t have one without the other if you consider yourself to be a responsible cat owner. You can’t just imprison your cat and then go to work and think all is well with the world because it isn’t. Do you know what your cat does while you are away at work for eight hours or 10 hours? They are either bored or they are stressed because excessive boredom leads to stress. A lack of stimulation leads to stress. A lack of human company leads to stress too.

It’s unfair on the cats to simply think about their physical safety. In keeping cats indoors, it is all about preventing injury i.e. keeping them physically safe. But how about keeping them mentally safe as well? It is too simplistic to decide that you want to keep your cat physically safe if the cost of that is potential mental health problems.

And conditions such as separation anxiety and acute anxiety because of being alone all day are, I would suggest, mental health issues. If a cat is – euphemistically speaking – engaging in ‘inappropriate elimination‘ they have a mental health problem. If a cat is defecating on your bed, then once again there are mental health issues to be dealt with.

The problem with keeping cats inside full-time is that it places considerable extra demands upon the cat’s owner. I would argue that only a very tiny percentage of cat owners are plugging this ‘stimulation gap’ as I would call it by playing with their cat a lot more or ensuring that their home is environmentally enriched from their cat’s viewpoint. Even an enriched environment is not going to be a good substitute to going outside. And I’m not promoting the idea of going outside. I see the dangers and they concern me. I also see the dangers of keeping cats inside full-time.

It is a dilemma which is almost unfixable. And it actually points to a failure if you like in the domestication of the cat. The outside world has become too dangerous mainly because of extra traffic and cat haters. In America coyotes and predators can kill cats as well. This is why the concept of full-time indoor cat in America is more pressing than in the UK for instance.

I have a negative viewpoint about full-time indoor cats because I don’t think, as mentioned, cat owners are doing their duties adequately. They should all be building catios and large garden enclosures at the very least but we don’t see that happening. In the West there are tens of millions of desperately bored domestic cats.

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