Is it best to keep a cat inside or outside? This is a topic that stirs many emotions and discussions on the topic. Each owner has to make that decision for himself. This article will touch on the pros and some of the cons of this subject and some of the concerns many professionals have.
Domesticated animals are just that, domesticated. This means that they have been bred for specific traits and behaviors that fit into co-existing with the man. This also means that the original instincts that evolve through natural selection (i.e., survival of the fittest) are altered.
Many people would like to think that their animals will do better “out in the wild” and unfortunately, lots of animals are abandoned yearly so they can “revert.” A deplorable misunderstanding, this viewpoint is more devastating than many imagine.
Every year, many animals that are released or left behind starve or suffer other types of slow death. Some animals are lucky and either adopt homes, are rescued or adapt, but it is a rough world, and those animals are rare. Even worse, those that survive compete with the natural ecosystem and balance of nature. New diseases and competition throw the natural balance off, endangering more animals and plants than many people imagine. Pets left out to meander contribute to this imbalance too.
Household pets left to roam cause and encounter problems of their own. They interfere with the natural balance and are often quite the recreational hunters since they hunt for sport rather than for need. They also help spread the flea population, can pick up diseases, and create less than amiable human neighbors. Their loud obnoxious vocalizations, fights, fecal deposits and dropping of flea eggs can make a normally friendly neighbor cranky.
The animals have challenges they face also. Some of these problems outdoor roamers encounter include:
Fights and abscesses
FIGHTS AND ABSCESSES
Meandering loose through the neighborhood, felines run into other animals. These often can be other cats from the neighborhood or wild residents. Depending on the sex and personality or territory boundaries, these encounters can become short little spats or vicious fights. The noise the cats make in their display is horrifying. Many times to those less fortunate of people (usually the neighbor) the fights and displays take place in their yard or right under their bedroom window!
The main problem for the cats is that any scratches or bites can become infected or festering wounds. Abbesses can be very serious for cats or humans. The popular saying “cat scratch fever” actually refers to a problem that affects about 20,000 people in the US a year who have been bitten or scratched. Symptoms usually include swollen lymph glands and a slight temperature. Another strain of the fever is more serious, but luckily, pretty rare.
Contact or exposure to various diseases is another concern. Some of them are infectious to humans, others are more species specific. They can be viral, bacterial, or parasitic and the listing of problems is best found at a Veterinary site on the web or from a clinic. These are some of the motivators that make me want to keep my animals in.
Some of the possibilities are that: there is a possibility of an encounter with a wild animal infected with rabies (which is an infectious disease of the central nervous system); the bites and scratches from cats can transmit a bacteria, called Pasteurella, that can cause pain and swelling; there could be a danger of tetanus.
Other problems could include: Campylobacteria enteritis which effects the small intestine, and can be caused by contact with contaminated cat feces; Conjunctivitis, caused by contact with the discharges from the eyes and nose of a cat infected with feline chlamydiosis; Salmonella, which can be contracted from mouth, eye, and fecal discharges; Toxoplasmosis, through exposure to the fecal matter of an infected cat.
Getting tired of this list yet? Try adding to it: Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), which is a virus which has symptoms of a breakdown in the immune system and biting or fighting are the more common methods of contracting it; Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), which affects the abdomen and/or chest filling them with fluid; Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) another immune system virus. Then there are things such as Feline Enteric Coronavirus, Feline herpesvirus, Feline calicivirus, and……………. you get the picture!
Another danger to you fabulous feline are those nasty little parasites that can be picked up from the soil, other animals, and contact with fecal matter. Some are contractible by humans too.
Some of these pests are fleas, ticks, mites, hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms. Parasites like ticks can expose both humans and animals to Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
In the mountains or in the city, predators can be a problem. Hawks, coyotes, cougar, and a variety of other animals, including dogs, can prey upon a cat unattended and out in the open. Some predators are bold enough to swipe animals straight from under an owner’s nose!
Many animals seem to have no fear of mechanical objects and, without proper training or exposure, many met their death from close-encounters-of-the-motor-vehicle-kind. Darting out from beneath an object, fleeing from a pursuer into the street, or deciding to dash after another animal can lead to a painful death in this manner.
People will often assume roaming animals do not have a home or someone to care for them. Some animals who disappear will find a new home with a sympathetic person concerned for their welfare. On the other hand, there are people who actually will pick up animals and sell them to research laboratories where they are subjected to various testing and other less than appealing treatment.
There are people who do not appreciate unattended animals invading their yards or interfering with their animals. Sometimes actions taken by these people against animal wanderers include poisoned bait, pellet guns, or other such devices which will wreck havoc on a dear pet, or even kill it.
CONFINE & ID
From a professional standpoint, it is recommended that you keep cats confined for the above various reasons. This does not mean they cannot go outside, however, just that there are safer ways to keep a feline.
You will want to make sure you have a traceable ID system on the cat whatever choice you make concerning confinement. These can be tags, microchips, tattoos, and other methods. If you want to have your cat out safely there are a few things to consider. Some recommended techniques are providing a cat house, leash training, and cat-proofing.
My favorite alternative is a “cat house.” These are often outside cages (adapted aviaries) with a cat door into the house. Much like a playhouse, I have seen these constructed in various ways to allow tree access, grass or garden wandering, scratchpost access, with beds, sunshine, shelter or whatever creative thing the owner came up with! They are a kitty wonderland with protection, from all the dangers listed above, in a caged paradise with more things in one location than they could ever want.
This is best done in a harness, although collars can work. Once trained to accept this, a cat can be taken out into the yard, sometimes hooked outside while the owner works close by in the garden. Trips and visits to the Veterinarian are other little jaunts are some things that benefit from this type of training and supervision.
This is a debatable subject since most animals find ways to foil our best efforts! However, high block fences where the cat cannot exit over by climbing or going under might be considered. Care must be taken that no climbing plants or trees are accessible to use for escape!
In summary, it is best to keep a cat confined from the beginning. It would be the most humane thing to do and also the safest for the animal. Remember that if you suddenly try to remove a cat’s freedom, after the feline has had free rein for any amount of time, it will not be an easy task. Again, this decision depends on the owner and their viewpoint but it is highly recommended that you consider keeping the whole kitten kaboodle under the confines of the safe haven in your home.