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Domestic cats have been an important part of our lives for thousands of years; some cultures have even worshipped cats as deities. Nowadays, cats are one of the most popular pets, with one in three households in the US having one. It’s difficult to know just how many cats there around in the world, particularly with the number of feral cats there are, but estimates suggest there are around 220 million to 600 million.
For many, having a pet cat means having a furry and fun companion around, as cats can be sassy and independent but also loving and goofy. Some have cats on farms to help keep the rat population down, although there’s some scientific evidence that suggests cats aren’t particularly great at killing rodents. One important decision most cat owners have to make is whether their cat should be strictly indoor or indoor/outdoor cats. Here are a few reasons why you should keep your cat strictly indoors.
Reason #1 – To Protect Your Cat From Predators and Other Threats
Depending on where you live, your cat could be up against a variety of dangers while outside. Some are human in nature, like busy streets and cars. Unfortunately, domestic cats are accidentally hit by cars worldwide and getting hit can cause massive injuries or can even be fatal. Cars aren’t the only threat to domestic cats. In the Pacific Northwest, there’s a wide range of wild predators that would take your cat as their dinner. Birds of prey (like bald eagles), cougars, coyotes, and even domestic dogs can injure or kill a domestic cat. Outdoor cats can even get into fights with other cats, which can easily cause injuries. There are so many reasons why cats may fight, including the fact that they are naturally territorial.
Reason #2 – To Keep Your Cat From Getting Sick or Injured
Unfortunately, there are plenty of ways your cat can get sick or injured both indoors and outside. Outdoor cats have a higher chance of contracting Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), as the most common way it’s spread is through biting. Biting, of course, can happen during cat fights and if the other cat is FIV+, the bite could infect your cat. Transmission of the virus between friendly, indoor-only cats is relatively low.
Reason #3 – To Protect Wildlife From Your Cat
Cats are both prey and predators so while they’re in danger from larger animals (and even other cats), they can also cause irreparable harm to wild animals. Our feline friends are often incredibly skilled hunters and are responsible for killing billions of animals worldwide. And as mentioned below, many cats are carriers for parasites that are harmful or even fatal to other animals.
Reason #4 – To Limit The Spread of Parasites
Some cats are carriers for the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which can infect and cause issues in other warm-blooded animals. While cats aren’t affected by it, the parasite can be spread via their feces and several sea otters have died over the years because contained stool found its way through a sewage treatment plant (because owners flushed cat waste) or storm runoff. Other marine mammals have been infected with different strains of the parasite, which can cause the disease toxoplasmosis. Humans can be infected with t. gondii but the parasite usually remains dormant after causing mild flu symptoms. Pregnant folks, babies under 6 months, and immunocompromised people (like those with weakened immune systems from things like cancer treatment, transplant therapy, or other infections) should avoid cleaning the litter box, as they’re most at risk for issues associates with the parasite.
To avoid the spread of this parasite, keep your cats indoors so they don’t kill or eat potentially infected birds or rats and properly dispose of cat waste. Do not flush any pet feces or waste down the toilet, as sewage treatment plants are rarely capable of screening for parasites found in pet waste. For a majority of folks, the landfill is the best option for pet waste but it’s also possible to compost that same waste.
Reason #5 – To Better Understand Your Cat’s Health
The nice thing about indoor-only cats is that you’re able to keep a much closer eye on them and might be able to notice health problems before they get really bad. Indoor-only cats use litter boxes for any and all elimination and while cleaning them is a pain, doing so allows you to see any iffy stools or if your cat is urinating too much or too little. All of that could indicate a health problem and if your cat is going to the bathroom outside, you may not catch the problem. Indoor cats also have a longer lifespan on average, usually living 17+ years compared to the 2-5 years of outdoor cats.
Myth #1 – Indoor Cats Are Destructive and Bored
It’s true that cats need enrichment and plenty of play to prevent boredom and to keep them active. Letting them outside can introduce them to a new environment and keep them active. But there are plenty of ways you can keep your cat entertained inside! Toys like teaser wands, catnip scented toys, scratching posts, and even wall shelves they can climb are all great ways to keep your cat entertained.
Myth #2 – Cats Can’t Go From Outdoors To Indoors Only
Transitioning cats to indoors only can be a bit of a challenge but it’s entirely doable. They might need help learning how to use the litter box but many cats instinctively understand what it is so housetraining doesn’t usually take long (unless there’s an underlying health issue). Additionally, finding ways to allow for their natural behavior to happen even inside will allow for an easier transition. For example, you can save your furniture and allow for your cat’s natural scratching behavior by having scratching posts and cardboard around the house. Toys and structures that allow cats to be up high or to use their hunting skills can also provide entertainment and keep your cat happy.
Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not you should keep your cat strictly indoors is entirely up to you. While it’s annoying to have to clean litter boxes all the time and even more annoying when cats wake up one morning and choose chaos, there are several reasons to have your cats remain inside and plenty of ways to keep them entertained.
Have you ever had an indoors only cat? Let me know in the comments!