Whether our feline pets should be house cats or allowed to wander outside is a subject people usually have a pre-formed opinion on. For some people, cats are allowed free reign and can go outside night and day. For others, they are kept strictly indoors all the time. Still, other pet owners let them out during the day or under supervision, and keep them in at night.
The question is, who is right? And what’s in the best interests of your cat? To answer this, it’s a good idea to distinguish between our domestic pets and their wild ancestors. Whilst wild cats lived and hunted outside, cats have been domesticated since ancient times. Not only that, many have been bred to create certain characteristics of color and style. Consequently, they are very different animals. Our domestication and interaction with them, as loving owners who feed, look after, cuddle, and pet them, has had an impact on their psychology, personality, and behavior. Add to this mix the fact that the outside environment natural to them is now gone. In its’ place is a world with automobiles, pet thieves, toxic chemicals, dense population, and other dangers.
In short, not only are our cats different, but the world we share with them is. As a result, it is generally recommended that cats be kept indoors at all times. House cats tend to live longer, they are less susceptible to catching diseases which could be deadly to them, and they avoid the dangers of getting into fights with neighboring felines over territory.
However, because cats often want to go out, many owners think they are depriving their cats of adventure. And perhaps they are, though cats that are provided with a lot of toys and cat trees, can still live happy lives. Many owners also get a second kitten as companionship, so their pets have someone to chase and play with, and so they aren’t alone all day when their humans are at work. Ultimately, it comes down to weighing up the dangers with the benefits.
This is a topic that is hard to generalize, as we each live in such unique locations. Some will be in high rise apartments, or near busy roads, or simply in dangerous neighborhoods. In these situations, the choice becomes very clear – keep your cat in the house at all times. And play games with your cat when you get home. They love chasing hands under the doona, or pieces of string attached to a stick (to keep your own hands safe)! And if your house or apartment has some great windows, house cats can still bask in the sun and enjoy the fresh air.
If you are fortunate enough to have a backyard, you could consider setting up an enclosed run or pen so your cat can go outside but still be safe. Some people have even erected them on the perimeters of buildings or through gardens so that they can really explore the world outside but not escape.
Some breeds are said to be better suited to being indoor cats. For example, Tonkinese are considered to have poor road sense. Having said that, I let my Tonkinese cat, as well as my 3 mixed breeds, out to play when I am at home during the day. I don’t live on a busy street, however, and I don’t let them out the front. Plus, I keep an ear out for any sounds of fighting. They always come in before it gets dark, too. I think because they have each other to play with there, they are less likely to look for trouble out of boredom.
Whether your pet is a house-only cat is a matter of individual choice. The benefits to their health and lifespan have to be weighed against possible disadvantages like disease. Plus, your own individual circumstances should be factored in. One thing to keep in mind is that cats do roam at night. This is when a lot of fights happen and is one of the reasons it is recommended they stay indoors then. One thing is for certain though – with a loving owner who makes sure their pets’ needs for affection and play are still met, a house cat is still a happy cat.