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The Great Indoor-Outdoor Controversy

The "Old School" Opinion


Dateline: May 21, 1997
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a fellow Guide, lamenting the fact that her neighbor had trapped her cat and left him in the trap for several hours in the 100 degree heat of their southwestern state. The laws in the area allow this practice. The neighbor apparently was upset because the cat had used her flower bed once too often for a litter box. I was particularly frustrated, because this kind of problem is unfortunately common when one shares a home with outdoor cats. I was only able to echo this cat lover's advice from her veterinarian, to either keep Pussycat indoors or devise some sort of contained area outside with shade and an indooor-outdoor access.

My husband and I came from a background that treated all cats as outdoor animals. We lived in a very small town before our marriage, and found little need to keep our pets confined indoors. Indeed, it seemed then, as it does now, somehow cruel to deprive them of the glories of the outdoors they all love so well.

Some Believe Indoors is Best

However, there is a large school of thought that believes that all cats should be kept indoors, for their own safety, that of wildlife, and to keep peace with the neighbors. The CFA holds this belief. They state inequivacobly that "if you truly love your cat, you will keep it indoors.", and, "A cat which has never been outdoors will have no desire to go out."

The latter is possibly true, but what of cats who have spent their entire lives enjoying the fresh air, and sunshine, who have gloried in chasing butterflies and basking under the shade of a sheltering tree? What of the thousands of cats adopted annually from shelters, the "strays" rescued, who have lived outdoors, not necessarily by choice, but from the lack of a home? Are we to confine them like birds in gilded cages and force them to view the outdoors through glass for the rest of their lives?

Indoor Cats Live Longer?

I have read that the average life of pet indoor cats exceeds that of kitties who are allowed outdoors. Statistics do not tell the whole story, however. Could they be skewed by the fact that most indoor cats are of the pedigreed variety, whose owners are protecting their investment, and also more apt to spend money on veterinary bills than some owners of garden-variety cats, who allow their pets to breed indiscriminately and neglect necessary medical care?

My three most recent companions are living proof that cats can live outdoors and survive to a ripe old age, given the right conditions. Arthur lived to the ripe old age of 18, Shannon is approaching 18 now and hanging in there--his medical problems have nothing to do with his outdoor activities, and we keep a close watch on them. Bubba, at 13, would not be the same arrogant, swaggering beastie if we suddenly deprived him of the great outdoors he loves so well.

Best of Both Worlds

We live at the end of a long cul-de-sac street; vehicles have to practically slow to a stop to round our circle. We picked our location purposely, for our cats' protection. In our waterfront location, there are several sandy areas on our own property for our pussycats' private use. They have no need nor desire to trespass for that purpose, and we keep the areas clean.

However, I will not deny that there are other hazards in allowing them their comparative freedom, even in this relatively safe area. Although we live in a subdivision, we are surrounded by farmland, separated by water on all sides, with the natural hazards of a bucolic environment along with the beauty. Raccoons prowl our riverbanks at night; indeed, we have had bolder ones stroll through an open door on warm summer nights, looking for a little feast of catfood. Hawks and owls could easily have mistaken little Arthur for a juicy rabbit, and an occasional scent of "Eau de Skunk" reminds me of the presence of those "striped kitties", which often carry rabies. On warm summer nights we can hear coyotes howling in the distance. For these reasons, outdoors at nighttime is taboo for our brood, particularly during the warm summer months.

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