Some animal behaviourists, animal welfare organisations, researchers and scientists are attempting to convince us that cats can live longer, healthier and happier lives if we keep them permanently indoors because they do not suffer any physical, mental or behavioural harm by doing so and we protect them from the dangers of the outside world. The Australian RSPCA has a new catchphrase: “safer at home don’t let them roam” and calls the procedure “cat containment“. But some might argue it is another example of our arrogant belief that we always know what is in an animal’s best interests.
The issue is becoming very complicated and it would appear that we now have a variety of categories or species of felis catus or domestic cat:
- the purely outdoor cat;
- the purely indoor cat;
- the sometimes in and out cat;
- the free to go as you please cat;
- the inside cat occasionally caged outside to get a piece of R&R from indoors.
If you own an “outdoor” cat at the moment, i.e you allow it to go outside of its own volition, those who promote containment believe you can do the cat a big favour by making it a permanently “indoor” one. This is often accompanied by much contradictory advice of what to do if your cat does not necessarily agree with the decision. By being indoors they avoid the dangers of being killed in road accidents, annoying neighbours, being attacked by other cats or animals, getting trapped, catching diseases, getting lost and stops them eating other animals.
These are all practical and sensible reasons, particularly if you live in countries like Australia and New Zealand where you do not have any choice but to keep them contained.
Some cats resist containment.
If a cat should stubbornly resist being kept indoors and persists in mewing and howling, pestering to go out or trying to dash out an open window or door at every opportunity causing distress to the owner we should do all we can to keep them entertained. If this fails we should put them in outside cages or enclosures for short periods to experience the great outdoors and satisfy their yearning for freedom, but this seems to contradict that they suffer no mental or behavioural harm.
But being an indoor cat can also have its risks such as falling to its death from balconies or open windows which is well documented or in many countries being put through painful operations such as being declawed.
A contained cat is obviously safer but whether it is happier is another question.
The truth is that most cats are inclined to live predominately indoors as they love the comfort and stability but most given the chance like a bit of R & R outside. There are a percentage who are of a nervous and timid disposition and perhaps suffer from agoraphobia and in these cases keeping them confined is not a an issue. But there are some who love to roam outdoors or have the choice of going out and returning when they choose.
So what is best? Realistically an indoor or contained cat is obviously safer but whether it is happier is another question. Personally I believe that wherever and whenever possible it is best to get to know your cat’s character and traits first and then decide the best compromise rather than imposing a lifestyle on them of our choosing. All cats are individuals and therefore should be treated accordingly.