USA: Both letting cats go outside and keeping them inside is unsatisfactory. Discuss.

In the USA, it makes perfect sense to keep domestic cats inside. All the words written in support of keeping cats indoors point to the fact that it is too unsafe outside in the USA for the domestic cat. The list of dangers are legend: road traffic, cruel people who want to hurt cats, coyotes and other predators, stray cats who carry contagious diseases, the tons of parasites that they can pick up outside etc.. To which you have to add the distaste for the predation of birds by cats. People don’t like it.

So it is too unsafe for the domestic cat outside in America.

Outdoor cat but possible dangers
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The question that follows must be whether indoor cats live in an environment which satisfies their basic needs. Yes, they live longer but do their owners make their homes sufficiently suitable for cats? Let’s not forget that (a) the domestic cat is barely domesticated and has lots of wild cat traits and that (b) indoor cats are captive cats.

How many cat owners in the USA provide a home for their cats which has been substantially ‘catified’ to use a Jackson Galaxy word? Because if you don’t cats are liable to develop psychological problems of varying severity, often mild and sometimes more serious. And in multiple cat homes indoor cats are more likely to experience stress-related disorders if they don’t get on which is fairly likely as cats are essentially solitary animals.

No one has done a survey of American homes to assess the percentage which have been modified to make them environmentally rich for their cat. The fact of the matter is that if you do modify your home to fully accommodate your cat you spoil the home visually from a human perspective so it does not happen that often. I am referring to lots of high vantage points, hiding places, a catio etc.. You have seen the homes where the full set of modifications have been made. They are rare.

Cat on ceiling mounted indoor walkway to enrichment environment
Monty in his enriched environment indoors. He also goes outside to an enclosure.
Wow outdoor climber and tree house for cats
Wow! outdoor, enclosed climber and tree house for cats. Photo: Hadley Brooks-Joiner or father.

Also vets say that outdoor cats can be braver, confident and psychologically more balanced as they are living a more natural life facing daily challenges. It is good for the cat’s brain, as is expressing natural drives to hunt.

My conclusion is that both lifestyles are less than perfect. You could argue that they are both average at best if the indoor cat does not live in an environmentally enriched home. Is that a fair conclusion and are we satisfied with this state of affairs?

There is one last point to make which further degrades the life of an indoor cat in the USA: declawing. About 25% of domestic cats are declawed. They are declawed because they are indoor cats. The two go together. Keeping a domestic cat indoors encourages declawing and declawing is simply horrible. It is contrary to all goals of cat welfare. You can add this to the negatives on the indoor cat side of the argument.

A quarter (25%) of 80 million cats in the US is 20 million declawed cats. These cats are almost certain to be living in homes that are not environmentally enriched because if an owner declaws their cat they are not in tune with the idea of making their home environmentally enriched for their cat. This is a big negative to those who argue that domestic cats must be indoors.

But outdoors is not good either. Am I painting an accurate picture? Are both options imperfect to the extent that a total rethink is required?

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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