Indoor Cat or Outdoor Cat?

The decision whether to let your cat go outdoors may be made for you. If you live in a high-rise, or if there’s no safe place to let the cat out, then you must keep the cat in. Or your cat may be old, blind, or a slow runner, and so should remain inside. But if you live where a cat can safely go out, you have to decide. There are a lot of considerations.

Inside is still the safest place to be. On any given day, even an experienced, cautious, fastrunning outdoor cat might not come back. And outdoor cats can bring in diseases, their own and ones that other animals or even humans can catch. For these reasons, and because of the danger of adding to overpopulation through unspayed cats, many local government animal control departments have you sign pledges to keep cats indoors. The birds and other wildlife that outdoor cats kill are also a consideration.

But cats love the outdoors. Even though they are pets, deep down inside they are partly wild. They get to use some of the highest skills they have, such as patience, independence, and ability to stand cold, hot and wet weather.

Thunder and Lightning were brother and sister kittens obtained from the “pound” around Christmas ’94. From three to six months, they were let out with supervision; after that, without supervision. They were “fixed.” Lightning was out six to eight hours a day—as she still is today. Thunder, a big (13 lbs.), bright tabby, was “all cat.” He grew to spend two-thirds of the time outdoors. He would come in, eat, play with his sister, sleep, and then go out again. But late in ’98, he didn’t come back. He could have been hit by a car, “stolen” by someone else, or gotten lost too far from home. Lightning got sick for almost two months when we lost him. We still miss him.

Lightning, now almost 12, is the survivor. She is small, gray, cautious, and extremely healthy. Somehow she has never caught or brought in ticks or other outdoor diseases. She’s incredibly clean although we never have cleaned her; after 11 years outdoors, most of her paws are still pink! She has never “gone” out of turn except when we moved. She needs her claws if she must fight outside, and occasionally she uses them on the furniture. She’s affectionate indoors, and has been part of our family so many years. We’re hoping for a bunch of more good years for her.

Following the direction of animal control departments by keeping your cat indoors is the safer course, and focuses the cat’s life tightly on being your pet. Letting a cat outside gives her a more interesting life, one that exercises her “wild side,” but also presents danger every day.

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