Aren’t Cats Naturally Outdoor Animals?
The cat has become the most numerous and arguably the most popular pet in the United States over the past twenty years. Along with this growing popularity, cats are increasingly kept indoors at least part of the day, and many live entirely indoors all of their lives. Despite this trend, some cat lovers still wonder if the indoor life is really best. Clearly, the cat evolved in the outdoors and, under the best of circum- stances, can take very good care of itself there. Once weaned, even fairly young feral kittens are quite successful in finding food and companionship with other cats. Together, colonies of cats find ways to protect themselves from the lethal dangers of most environments, or at least most members of the group manage to do so. Anyone who owns an indoor cat has seen the fascination the cat has with the go- ings on outside the screen doors or windows of the house. The sights and sounds of birds, squirrels, insects, and the like are endlessly entertaining, even mesmer- izing for the “captive.” In fact, cat-entertainment videos with hours of tape de- signed to bring the outdoor world inside to the housebound feline are widely avail- able and sell well. It seems inescapable that the cat is in its element outdoors, and longs to be there as much as possible. Without a doubt, the little wild cat in even the tiniest kitten seeks the natural life of the outdoors. This is the reason many cat owners feel conflicted about the almost unanimous advice of cat care specialists to keep pet cats indoors exclusively. In an age when it is unusual for large special-interest groups to agree on any- thing, there seems to be one thing upon which all mainstream animal-welfare or- ganizations can agree these days. Pet cats should not roam free outdoors. Groups such as the Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Humane Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Association of Fe- line Practitioners all advise strongly that cats be cared for and enjoyed within the safety of the home. The advantages to this lifestyle are obvious and very com- pelling.