Animal Rights and Wrongs.com, along with my other blog: animalrightsandwrongs.uk. are predominately animal welfare focused websites and have over 150 articles on pet-keeping, animal welfare, rights and law issues. Read more articles on the main site by using this link: Animal Rights & Wrongs UK


Showing posts with label Cats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cats. Show all posts

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Indoor cats are safer but are they happier?

Indoor cat at window

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.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

UK cats cannot trespass - the right to roam

Cats are footloose and free

Unlike any other animal, cats have the unique, quirky and wonderful status under UK law, of the right to roam. They do not have to be securely confined and can roam without any fear of legal repercussions for their actions. They cannot trespass so neither the cats or their owners are liable for anything they may do in the way of damage, soiling or causing nuisance which is extremely annoying for those who hate them.

This has come about because like most captive animals,  a cat’s legal status is that of property and to kill or harm them is classified as criminal damage under Criminal Damages Act 1971 or theft under the Theft Act 1968. Their “freedom” is guaranteed under the Animals Act 1971 which makes provision with respect to civil liability for damage done by animals. Cats were assessed as being less likely than other animals to cause damage or injury and so were not included in the Act. Technically we do not even “own” them. 

So they are footloose and free in many ways and there is no mandatory need to neuter or vaccinate them, no restriction on how many you can have in your possession, no licensing or registration and no controls over breeding and this is where the problem lies.

This situation in many instances can lead to people taking the law into their own hands and committing retaliatory acts of cruelty on them or even to shoot, poison or otherwise kill them. Some people have even been known to go to the lengths of catching their neighbour’s nuisance cat and abandoning it a long distance away.

Their freedom comes with drawbacks

Although this status is wonderful for the cats it comes with many drawbacks. The lack of control has led to an ongoing “cat crisis” in the UK which has lasted for decades involving thousands of lost, abandoned, and unwanted cats. Charities spend huge amounts each year trying to repatriate them and combat indiscriminate breeding and feckless ownership.  

They have  a perceived reputation as a nuisance and many people view them as a vile pest and they hate them. This hatred stems from their destructive behaviours and toiletry habits in garden flower and vegetable beds, their penchant for showing their natural instincts by catching birds, amphibians and small animals and their use of claws to cause damage. Cats face similar problems all over the world, particularly in the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Cats Matter Too

When it comes to legislation our focus is consistently on dog issues, and cat interests are totally ignored as though they do not matter. It is impossible to ever get control of the cat population, enhance their reputation and to improve their well-being, health, and welfare without some form of legislation. I am not suggesting for one minute that the “freedom to roam” status of cats should be stopped or restricted, but there is a definite need for some form of legislation to protect cats, their ‘owners’ and cat haters from each other and improve the general well-being of UK cats.