Keeping your cat indoors

Posted on: Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

It breaks my heart every time I see a “lost cat” sign on a community mailbox. Too often, kitty never comes home safely and another innocent life is wasted. How can we prevent this needless tragedy?

When you adopt a cat, you commit to giving her a loving home and to keeping her healthy and safe. The only way to truly do this is to keep her indoors. Most veterinarians believe cats should be indoor pets. So does the NS SPCA and other rescue groups. It’s a myth that letting cats roam freely outside is ‘natural’ and necessary. Cats are happy being indoors and don’t need to be outside to have a fulfilling life. Yet, some owners still struggle with the decision of whether to let their cat out.

The dangers of keeping your cat outdoors far outweigh any benefits. Statistics speak for themselves. Indoor cats live an average of 12.5 years and can reach the ripe old age of 18 or more. In contrast, outdoor cats live only two to five years.

Cats that are allowed outside are at risk of:

-Getting lost or ending up in an animal shelter.

-Being stolen and sold for research, used as bait for dog fights or tormented by an animal abuser.

-Being struck by a car and left to die by the side of the road.

-Being wounded or killed by wildlife, dogs or other cats.

-Facing an angry neighbour who calls animal control or uses extreme measures to keep kitty out.

-Contracting potentially fatal diseases (feline leukemia, distemper) or illnesses they can pass on to humans (rabies, toxoplasmosis).

-Picking up fleas, ticks or other parasites.

-Becoming ill or dying from eating garbage, unintentional poisons (pesticides, herbicides, antifreeze), intentional poisons, rodents, birds or toxic plants.

-Succumbing to frostbite in winter and dehydration or skin cancer in summer.

Other reasons to keep cats inside:

-To identify health problems early before they become life-threatening, such as urinary tract or bowel blockages.

-Unspayed/unneutered roaming cats contribute to the cat overpopulation problem.

To keep your cat happy indoors, combat kitty boredom. Here are some tips:

-Provide scratching posts to exercise her claws without damaging furniture.

-Give her a place to perch, such as a sofa by a window, window ledge, shelf or cat tree.

-Turn your windows into a cat movie theatre by putting a bird feeder nearby.

-Let your cat try out different toys; engage her in play to exercise and entertain.

-Get a second cat for companionship, especially if you’re gone for long hours.

-Bring the outdoors inside by growing cat grass in a pot for her to eat.

Here are some tips to let your indoor cat safely enjoy a taste of the outdoors:

-If you have a screened-in porch or enclosed balcony, let her spend some time there.

-Train her to use a cat harness and leash. With time and patience, a cat can be trained to walk as dogs do for beneficial exercise. Never leave your cat tied up alone outside.

-Buy or build a ‘catio’ or cat patio. It’s the perfect solution to solving the indoor/outdoor dilemma and keeps kitty safe and happy.

Whether inside or outside, your kitty should have ID tags and a microchip to reunite you should she become lost or stolen. If your cat is used to being outdoors, you can help her become an indoor cat. The key is ensuring the indoor environment is just as interesting as outside by following the tips above. Once you’ve made the decision to keep your cat inside, stick to it. Keep in mind that you know what’s best for her.

Please make a wise decision. Help your cat lead a long, safe, healthy and happy life. Keep her indoors.

Judy Layne lives in Hackett’s Cove with her husband and their two adopted pets. A lifelong animal lover, Judy is a volunteer with the NS SPCA.