A one-size-fits-all directive which dogmatically states that all cats should live indoors or conversely be allowed to roam outside freely is not the best way as decisions should be tailored to each set of circumstances in the best interests of cat, the cat’s guardian, non-cat owners and wildlife.
The rescue organisation I adopted Gabriel from is dismayed at my long-term plans to let Gabriel enjoy a large outside space in the form of an enclosed back garden (and possibly roam depending on the circumstances). They are fighting me over my ideas of letting him enjoy the outside safely now and for the future.
In General Brits Want Free-roaming
The rescue organisation state on their website that they have seen problems in cats homed as indoor cats and because of this will only allow it if the cat is disabled and/or has health issues. However, they fail to see a compromise, a middle ground suited to the circumstances and their statement is too dogmatic and inflexible.
Michele writes in a comment:
Michael, many of the UK cat rescues prefer cats be given free access to some time outside during the day.
I can add that some cat rescues, it appears, insist on free-roaming as is the case with me.
In General Americans Lean Towards Indoor Cats
Reading Jackson Galaxy’s book Catification he writes:
Catios to me are the great compromise. While Kate and I are (literally!) begging people to not let their cats outside, we still believe there are ways….[he then describes the compromise, the cat enclosure providing outside stimulation combined with inside catification].
Who is Correct?
Neither because you can’t generalise. The environment should be tailored to each circumstance as each is unique (see below).
In the UK, a feral cat is saved from the side of the road in winter. The saviour happens to live in a large house in London, not far from a busy road but the house has a large garden. This is a £5 million house. Through dedicated care and extensive vet’s bills the feral cat becomes a charming, slightly nervous domestic cat. The caretaker builds a fabulous outside enclosure in her garden. Her home is beautifully catified. Jackson Galaxy would be impressed. The lady is retired and spends long hours with her cat, playing with him. This is his life and it is a damn good one compared to what it would have been – short and miserable. This is a great success story. The lady deserves praise.
Yet, my rescue organisation would, on the face of it, based on what they are telling me, object to what this lady has done.
A person adopts an adult domestic cat from a friend. This cat is placid and well socialised. The cat is used to going out. Her new owner lives in the country but is nervous about the farmer’s dogs. She decides to keep her cat inside all the time. She fails to catify the interior of her home and does little to mentally stimulate her cat.
This cat should be let outside under some initial supervision. The risk of harm is less than the benefit of going outside.
A man lives in a nice house in the suburbs of a town near London, UK. He loves cats. He has cared for cats for decades. He has let them roam outside. He has lost many cats outside. Two were killed on the road. One was poisoned by a nasty neighbour. One left and never came back, preferring to live in the wild of the golf course opposite. When he was about 75 years old and when another one of his cats was poisoned he became anxious about his cats. He became a bit depressed. He took advice and built a fine outside enclosure that lead from his conservatory. Inside the home there was plenty of catification (enriched environment). He was more in control of his life and his cats were his life.
This is an example where keeping cats inside is the right answer and a compromise with a major factor being the emotional state of the cat guardian. The feelings etc. of the cat caretaker should be taken into account when making decisions.
A person lives in the USA. She has several cats. She lets them wander anywhere. It is known that coyotes roam the area and that local cat haters have fun taking pot shots at cats with .22 calibre rifles. This person probably shouldn’t look after cats but as she does she should keep them inside and build an enriched environment for them.
The success or failure in cat caretaking after adoption depends on a myriad of circumstances, including the life of the cat before adoption, the circumstances of the adoption, the personality of the cat, the cat’s health, the cat’s age, whether the cat is declawed, the level of cat socialisation, where the guardian lives, the various nature of the outside dangers, the culture of the people regarding cats preying on wildlife, how much time the guardian can spend with his/her cat, the emotions and feelings of the cat caretaker and the financial arrangements of the caretaker and so on.
It is wrong to make general rules that are meant to fit all situations because to do so can work against cat welfare.
A major reason why a large percentage of cats (is it about 40%?) in the USA are kept indoors all the time is because there is more dangerous wildlife in the USA – predators – than in Europe. That is not the only reason but it is a good one. Another is the opposite: cats preying on wildlife.
Underpinning ideas about keeping cats inside or letting them free-roam outside are the experiences and emotions of the cat’s caretaker. We can’t ignore them. The loss of a much loved cat when roaming outside because he was hit by a car or attacked by a predator can cause an emotional scare for the person. That person should be allowed to continue to look after cats but under compromised arrangements which assist the person. This may mean a full-time indoor arrangement for the cats. This is not ideal. It is a compromise but everything we do is a compromise and often far from ideal.
The tailored, compromised arrangement for cat caretaking is the best. It is more refined.