Friday, May 30, 2014

There’s No Place Like Home: The Importance of Keeping Pet Cats Indoors:A Guest Blog by Nancy Peterson, Cat Programs Manager for The Humane Society of the United States

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), more cats are living the good life – indoors. Since the APPA first began tracking the percentage of cats kept indoors during the daytime, the number has risen from 57% in 2002 to 64% in 2012; in 2002, 68% of cats were kept indoors during the night compared to 76% in 2012. That’s music to my ears.

"Jenny" photo by Nancy Peterson


When I worked as a registered veterinary technician in San Diego, California, good Samaritans often brought in injured cats whom they’d found outdoors. My beloved cat, Stu, was one of them. Young boys on their way to school found him on the side of the road. He had been hit by a car. The boy’s teacher brought him to our veterinary clinic and we were able to repair his broken jaw and other wounds. We called him Student Cat and estimated that he was about 4 months old. I cared for him for several weeks before he got adopted by a nice family. Unfortunately, someone in the family turned out to be allergic to cats and they brought Student Cat back to the clinic. The family was very sad because they’d grown to love him in the four days they’d had him.

When I opened his carrier and picked him up, he started purring immediately. My heart melted and I decided to adopt Student Cat. He’d been through so much and I didn’t want anything else bad to happen to him again. He joined my household of two other stray cats, Buddy, whom I found in the parking lot where the veterinary clinic was located, and Daisy, who was left behind when her family moved.

It’s not surprising that I acquired most of my cats from the street. According to the APPA, more people (35%) get their cats as strays than from any other source. Did you know that stray and feral cats, known collectively as community cats, contribute 80% of the kittens born each year and are the most significant source of cat overpopulation? Did you know that cats can reproduce when they’re only 5 months old? So, in addition to keeping cats safe indoors, it’s very important to spay and neuter them in order that their offspring don’t become part of the overwhelming population of cats being cared for by animal shelters and rescue groups.

Once stray cats join my household, they become indoor cats. I’m convinced that they live much longer and better lives than they would as outdoor cats. None have shown the slightest interest in going outdoors again. Even though my cats live indoors, they all wear safety collars with ID tags just in case something happens. You never know. They could sneak out the door if someone isn’t careful or they could become displaced during a storm. In fact, one day Daisy did sneak out the door to chase an insect. She froze in fear and I did too.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that people who let their cats roam love their cats, and they think it’s cruel to keep cats indoors. Although it wouldn’t be good to keep cats indoors with no way for them to exhibit their natural behaviors, cats who are provided with a stimulating environment can live happy, and safer, lives indoors. Instead of chasing a leaf, they can chase a ping pong ball; instead of climbing a tree (and possibly getting stuck up there), they can climb a carpeted cat tree; instead of relaxing outdoors in the sun, they can get some rays and watch the world go by from their window perch.


"Luna" enjoying the sights outside, photo by Nancy Peterson


Because my cats live indoors, I notice if one suddenly goes to the litter box more often than usual. As soon as I noticed my cat Buddy straining to urinate, I took him to the veterinarian. He had a bladder stone which had to be surgically removed. I might not have noticed Buddy’s problem if he went outdoors and a male cat who can’t urinate will get very sick very fast. He may never have come home and suffered in great pain. Another time I was getting ready for work and Daisy had a seizure. I could have missed that if she was allowed outdoors.

Speaking of safety, an indoor lifestyle for cats also protects them from being hit by a car, mistreated by mean people, being injured by other animals, and having other life-threatening or fatal encounters. Keeping cats indoors also protects birds and wildlife who may fall victim to cats and helps keep the peace between neighbors who don’t appreciate cats using their garden as a litter box, walking on their cars, or upsetting their indoor cat.
"Toby" photo by Nancy Peterson


An indoor lifestyle doesn’t have to mean that your cat never has the opportunity to enjoy being outdoors. I’ve trained one of my current cats, Toby, to “walk” on a harness and leash. As soon as he’s out the door, he munches on a plant and relaxes under a bush. Since he’s not that interested in going outside, I haven’t continued the walks. Why risk getting fleas or other parasites when he can munch on cat grass and relax on his cat tree inside. My other current cats, Luna and Jenny, are on the timid side and would not enjoy the harness and leash.

I really want to build a catio (a screened in patio enclosure attached to the house) for my cats to give them a greater opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in a safe setting. I think we would all enjoy being together in the backyard while I garden. You may want to consider a cat-proof fence for your yard but remember that although it will keep your cat in, it won’t keep out other animals who could harm your cat.

I’m not the only one who hopes you’ll keep your pet cats indoors. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), many other national organizations, animal shelters and rescue groups, veterinarians, and wildlife advocates also recommend keeping cats indoors. The HSUS has lots of good information about adopting a cat, resolving cat behavior issues so you don’t put your cat outdoors as a solution, keeping cats happy indoors, transitioning a cat from living outdoors to indoors, and more.


For decades, The HSUS, the nation’s largest animal protection organization, has promoted the important message of keeping cats indoors.  Nancy Peterson, a registered veterinary technician and award-winning writer, joined The HSUS in 1998 and has served as the Cat Programs Manager since 2005. Nancy’s current family consists of rescue cats Luna, Toby, and Jenny. 

63 comments:

  1. The Kitty Krew are outside cats because they are semi feral but they stay in our backyard and we don't live near any busy streets. Mama would love for them to be inside.
    The rest of us love being inside kitties and highly recommend it to all cats.

    Kitty Kisses,
    Cindi Lou & The Kitty Krew
    Georgia, Adam and Gloria

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  2. The only way Waffles goes outside is on a harness and leash and usually in his Waffle Wagon. ; )
    I'm purrfectly happy hanging out inside. And Glogirly is very happy about this too...as is our vet. We agree with your guest blogger...there are just so many risks to an outdoor lifestyle for cats like us. We live in the city, very close to busy streets and scary sounds. There's even a railroad track right behind our townhouse. That being said, we are both microchipped. You just never know...the unexpected could happen and one of us could be lost.

    Great post!!!
    ~Katie

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    1. you are so right! I am not a fan of harnesses (call it paranoia), because I have heard of too many cats slinking out of them. When I used to take my Angel Bobo out he had a leather dog collar and chain link leash (yep, he did!) Dog items are much better made than cat items are. One thing I have been greatly remiss with with Cody that I MUST fix is he isn't microchipped. Dakota is, but Cody isn't.

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  3. great post, my cat was one that loved to go out but where I lived it was pretty safe for him and when I walked the dog he would come with me he even would wait with me for crossing roads too sadly both have crossed the bridge a long time ago,xxx Rachel

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  4. We love Nancy! She is so smart!

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  5. all 11 of mine are indoor only babies. . . <3

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  6. Great post but I think over here it is not that common to have indoor cats.
    Have a fabulous Friday.
    Best wishes Molly

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  7. Glad about this. Especially the bit about being able to stay in close touch with medical issues. Thank you Caren and Nancy!

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  8. I agree with you. I believe kitties are safer and live longer lives indoors. All of my kitties are indoor-only cats. They wear breakaway safety collars with ID tags as well. I believe you can never be too prepared.

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  9. Just the other day a dead cat was lying at the edge of the road like…roadkill. It was someone's pet I'm sure. Awful. Thank you for a wonderful article on a very important subject. And Caren, thank you for sharing it. Those of us non-cat-owners who think cats should be inside are really not trying to be a drag (I like cats!), as some people assume.

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    1. Oh Amy that is just tearing me apart. Just awful. I am grateful that Nancy shared this post with us.

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  10. My kitties are all indoor. A friend of mine used to let her cat out on the deck in a harness, until one time he got free, went missing for a few days then when they finally found him, he had been attacked by something, and had an infection, and had some major work at the vet done. Luckily he recovered just fine. But it could have been worse! Needless to say, he hasn't been back out since!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

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    1. Jenna I am glad that all turned out well for that kitty. That is part of the reason I am super anti harnesses, too easy for cats to slip through them. My Angel Bobo had a leather DOG collar and a chain leash (also for dogs), they are made much stronger than the cat products are.

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  11. We are total supporters of INDOOR only. Terrific post!

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  12. We are great supporters of indoors only too. I am allowed outside in a harness and leash with a human hold the leash at all times. They have never let any of their kitties roam. It's so sad when we read of a kitty that was outdoors and got killed either by dogs, poison, or hit by a car. It's so sad and doesn't have to happen. We indoor kitties are very happy.

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    1. Mario you are sooo right that it doesn't have to happen!

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  13. We are indoor cats too... :-) Have a PAWSOME weekend! xoxo Roxy & Tigerlino <3

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  14. All the previous cats were indoor cats. Then Mum and Dad let Angel Céleste and Angel Loupi go out as they got a house with a garden. They learned the hardest and saddest way that it was not a good idea. We are now indoor cats and are lucky enough to have a wonderful catio. Thanks to your guest, Cody, she's right. Purrs

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    1. you KNOW my heart TOTALLY goes out to you (((((hugs))) and MUCH LOVE!

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  15. Mine are indoor only. I have 2 strays. One was a throw away cat(people threw away outside to fend for himself)and the other I don't know. He just keep showing up hungry and dirty and covered in fleas(& I couldn't leave him out there anymore). I thought he was a small kitten and he was 7 months at the time. Now he's a big healthy boy. I have had a few stray cats in my lifetime. Really great post.
    Sue B

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    1. Sue, yay for strays! My Angel Bobo was a stray too. I found him during a blizzard in 1990. For 2 weeks I tried to find his owners, never did. After 2 weeks, I said, that's it, he's mine. I had him for 18 yrs and he was about 6 mos old when I had found him and rescued him from the storm. Nancy DID do a great job!

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  16. If you live away from dangers like roads, etc, it might be fine to let a cat be outside, but we are totally against it. Our cat Tom had to be outside when he wanted to be or he would make a mess in the house. Mom never liked letting him out but had no choice. Where we lived in Germany it was a pretty safe area for him. We moved to the US and he came along. During the winter he was depressed and did not go out. He couldn't understand the cold and snow in MN, but when summer hit, he was out a lot but stuck right around the house. Sadly, one September evening in 2008, he was on the deck around 8pm. A bit later, Mom called him to come in but he was not around. We never saw him again and don't know what happened. It bothers Mom to this day. Cat bro Bert always tries to go out, but he is simply not allowed. We can't lose another pet.

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    1. Emma that totally breaks my heart and I am so deeply sorry about Tom

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  17. We are indoor cats, too, and very happy about it. Cats in our neighborhood have been killed by coyotes, and the risk would be too high for us to go out even if we were determined to. Indoors is where we belong, for sure.

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  18. I like this post because it points out some advantages to keeping cats indoors that I never even thought of. We lost too many outdoor cats....to being hit by cars, disappearing completely (we'll always wonder what happened to Tasha), and the final straw was when one got killed by the dog next door. Now we keep them indoors, and there is so much less to worry about! We have a nice screened porch so they can go out and enjoy the fresh air in the summer.

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    1. Jan my heart sooooo goes out to you and I send you MUCH LOVE and many, many ((((hugs))). Now you don't have to worry and the kitties are safe AND happy!

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  19. Dis be a pawsum posty. Meez agwees 1000%. Havvin lost so many furiends tu caw accidents and uddew healff issues dat kulda been caught and tweated meez pweshates anytime sumpawdy keeps der kittys inside. Also da dwivews of da caws dat won't be hittin' yous purrecous furmily membew fanks yous. Aftew a kitty dats been let outside gets hit by a caw evewpawdy wants tu blame da howwid dwivew. Well deys not all howwid and lots of dem awe animal luvvews dem selves. And deys gotta now liv wiff yous decision tu let fluffy woam fwee. And....well sowwy Carena nd Cody but as yous know dis is a big pet peeve wiff us and hits vewy close tu home. Pweshate da posty. Hav a Pawsum weekend.

    Luv and Hugs and Kitty Kisses ♥♥♥

    Dezi

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    1. Dezi I soo agree that Nancy did a pawesome job with this post and it hits home for me too. Too many kitties are accidentally killed as a result of roaming. just want to keep them safe! Love and hugs and kitty kisses to you too! Have a great weekend!

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  20. Great post! All our cats are indoor cats but we do let our foster cat out into our little enclosed garden area but only when one of us can supervise him for an hour or so and then back inside he goes! We have friends who insist on letting their cats out to roam and who infer our cats have a sad life being stuck indoors.I disagree! Our cats are happy but it does take more of an effort to have them inside. First, you have to clean up litter boxes, second, you must be certain to provide them with stimuli ; toys, scratchers, cat trees, bird t.v.etc. It's definitely easier on your time and pocket book , to let them out but they far too often pay for this supposed largesse with their lives.

    the critters in the cottage xo

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    1. Hi my furiend! Yes! Nancy did a great job. I agree a zillion percent with what you said and you said it purrfectly!

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  21. We agree whole heartedly with everything you said! We are all indoor cats, and all of us were homeless at one time. We have been out on the street and we had enough of it. No one is even interested in going out, in fact, we prefer not to. Besides fleas, diseases and cars we have coyotes and our county has warned pet owners to keep pets in the house. It's just not safe out there!

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  22. Ditto. Coyotes were seen in my street last week, and a cat, owner unknown, was killed by it. Mine were safely asleep in their cat beds inside.

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    1. Oh Greg I am so sorry to hear that! A few years ago a friend of mine that lives in a rather affluent subdivision here in Michigan, with large, beautiful homes, couldn't find her cat. It turns out, a renegade coyote had gotten it. She even lived by a busy road, who would think a coyote would be around an environment like that? Sadly, it was.

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  23. We believes in indoor cats, especially in the city.
    Although we let Nellie,Kozmo and Jo-Jo outside in Midway, they were NOT allowed out until they were trained. They come in when they are called, they come in to use the litter box and they are NOT allowed out between the hours of 4:30 PM to 6:30 AM,
    Yes cats are trainable and they do abide by the "house rule" without too many infractions.
    Great post!

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    1. I LOVE your "house rules!!!" Those seem quite workable to me!

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  24. Great post! All of my gang stay indoors, and they never have much interest in going out. The only one who does is Sophie, and she gets to go out on her leash. I definitely agree with keeping cats indoors - too many risks outside.

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    1. Yes Nancy wrote a great post! My Angel Bobo also used to go out on his leash. I tried taking Cody out twice, he wanted no part of the outdoors which is fine with me!

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    2. Yes Nancy wrote a great post! My Angel Bobo also used to go out on his leash. I tried taking Cody out twice, he wanted no part of the outdoors which is fine with me!

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  25. Great post.
    I never had an indoor cats...I had a cat once and he got out as he pleased. Now, my 'wild' cat is also free to go wherever she wants. We don't actually own that cat but she hangs up in our house all the time and catches the mice.

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  26. I agree completely. My cats don't seem to be lacking for anything and are happy and stress free being indoor only cats

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  27. Molly the Wally said it right! Until I joined the cat blogosphere it never entered my head that people would keep their cats indoors as a rule. Here in the UK, they don't generally. Austin is very well trained to come when called and I know he would be very unhappy indeed to be indoors all the time. If we lived in the middle of town I would be much more wary. Also there are fewer natural predators in the UK than in the US, also, I believe, fewer ferals/strays. Small country, less room, more need to control animal numbers.

    I wasn't going to leave a comment as I am now aware of people's thoughts on this, but decided to put in my tuppence worth. xx

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    1. Carolyn everyone's opinion is important! If I lived in an area where I could "control" Cody's outdoor experience (such as being out with him, or in an enclosed area), I would take him out if he had an interest in being out. I did take Cody out twice and he had zero interest in it which is fine with me. My Angel Bobo used to go out only on his leash. While Austin and other kitties may come when called, one of my fears is the sick nature of society. There are people who hate cats, who poison cats and those are just a couple of things that would cause me great alarm. There are always 2 sides to every issue!

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    2. I totally understand your fears, Caren. The sick people who are around who would hurt animals are very much in my mind. If I lived in a less rural area, and and an area where animals generally were less cared for, I would think very hard before letting Austin out. x

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    3. Carolyn ((((hugs)))) and much love!

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  28. Great post Caren, as I type this the four girls are sleeping with the pups at 11.30pm by the fire..three of the girls go out as far as the house yard...that's it and Cleo does wander the property,this changes in Summer when snake season arrives then they are inside..they are all in before dusk even if they are in the porch as are the pups..here on our property they are pretty safe and once the fencing is finished with cat capping then they will be inside with access to the back of the house yard and still be safe but with a huge area..if we lived in the burbs they would be inside all the time hugs Fozziemum xx

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  29. Great post thank you so much! We are indoor kitties and mom snoopervises us if we go out in our fenced in yard.
    Marty

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  30. Wonderful post, Caren and Cody. Thank you for sharing! All of our cats are indoors-only ... cars, coyotes, foxes, racoons, dogs ... there's just too much scary stuff out there. And they seem totally happy and content. :)

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    1. you are welcome and I thank Nancy for being our guest. I couldn't agree with you more!!!!

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  31. A great post! We fully support indoor only cats - the Pawesome Cats family are indoor cats, they're happy and healthy and we know they're safe from the dangers of the outside world!

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  32. Really fabulous post, everything was said so well and eloquently. And yep, we are indoor only kitties too...my Human would be a worried basket case allowing us to roam!

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  33. This is a great post! Here in the UK it's actually not the norm to keep cats indoors but I keep my Athena in because there are just so many dangers out there. As I work from home she never gets lonely and I play with her as much as I can.

    I need to build her a catio though, or some garden enclosure so she can enjoy some of the outside safely.

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  34. Being indoor sure is more safe than being out there. I wish all kittys have their furever home.

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  35. Great post! The only time Alex was allowed out of the house was when we brushed his hair - he'd hang on the deck table. we don't yet trust Lucy to do that… She has no fear!

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  36. Hello and thank you to everyone who posted comments. I'm sorry to be late responding. I'm very happy to see that so many of you keep your kitties safe indoors. Stay tuned for my future guest blogs thanks to Caren and Cody.

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    1. Hi Nancy thanks so much for stopping by! Your post was fabulous and Cody and I greatly look forward to your future guest posts with us!

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