Readers reply: should I let my cat outside? | Cats

Should I let my cat outside? Apparently she’s in danger – and is a danger herself. Alicia Burton, Shrewsbury Send new questions to [email protected]. Readers reply Outside cats kill songbirds and small mammals. They use neighbours’ flower beds and children’s sandboxes for litter boxes and spread disease. Cats should be […]

Should I let my cat outside? Apparently she’s in danger – and is a danger herself. Alicia Burton, Shrewsbury

Send new questions to [email protected].

Readers reply

Outside cats kill songbirds and small mammals. They use neighbours’ flower beds and children’s sandboxes for litter boxes and spread disease. Cats should be kept inside. PennsylvaniaModerate

Where I live your cat might get eaten by a coyote, so no. Also they are terrible on birdlife. If you must, create a nice catio for outdoor fun. I think cats that have never been indoor/outdoor do OK indoors-only, but it is hard to change from being in and out to in-only. martimart

Cats are outdoor creatures – if you can’t allow them outside, for whatever reason (and there may be good reasons not to in some locations), you shouldn’t have a cat. To keep a cat inside-only means you have put your desires ahead of his/hers. I don’t have a dog because I can’t give one what it needs – the same applies; it’s selfish and cruel. It’s not unlike people who declaw (anyone who does so should have the same done to them) – if you don’t accept the risk of damage to furniture etc, don’t have a cat. We’ve always had a cat flap and so know that the cat chooses to live with us – she could leave at any time but doesn’t. I am not sure it’s healthy to keep an animal trapped with you against their will. bobbitygobitty

My cat was a rescued feral kitten, he barely survived starvation on a Miami street before I saved him. He adores my screened-in porches and lanais, where he can be “safely” outside without actually being outside. I’ve left my front door open by accident and he cringes away from it. He knows what is out there. He sees them (the wild animals) from his screened porch and he wants nothing to do with the outside world. Slinger

People tend to have very emotional responses to questions regarding pets, so this particular debate tends to get quite heated quite fast. My view in general is that it just seems odd we have this weird exception where cats are concerned. If I chose to keep a dog or some other animal and I let it roam around other peoples’ gardens unsupervised doing its business on the lawn they would be rightfully angry with me. But if it’s a cat it’s fine for some reason.

My preference in general is for people to keep their pets on their own property, or otherwise under control (eg, on a lead when out of the house), but where cats are concerned free-ranging has been the norm for so long that it would be hard to put that genie back in the bottle (or that cat back in the bag).

It seems undeniably bad for the cats (we had several that were killed on the roads when I was growing up), and bad for wildlife. Even ignoring the death toll on small mammals and birds, inter-breeding with free-ranging housecats has all but wiped out Scottish wildcats as a separate species. Pode

If you are worried about whether they’ll be OK being indoor-only cats, don’t worry. There are about 75m of them in North America. The vast majority are just fine. In many cities in Canada and the US it’s against bylaws to let cats free roam. If you have space, a catio is the perfect solution. KimberlyCoast

Once I got a couple of chickens (free to roam). Then I got rats. Then I got a cat. Now I no longer have rats. She hunts all night, sleeps all day. She seems to need to touch base with me once a day, but apart from that is doing her own thing. I put that down to me allowing her to fully pursue her instincts, so I am mostly OK with the small mammals she brings in. The bat was like something out of Hammer horror film, though. How a cat catches a bat remains a mystery. lcj4949d

Like everything, it depends. If you live in a high-traffic area, there is an increased risk she could be injured. If you live close to a nature reserve there is an increased risk she could snack on an endangered or protected species. If you live in a quiet-ish neighbourhood and she has a bell on her collar, you’re probably OK. Stroppimare

I’ve shared space with cats and they were all outdoor cats, to be fair I never thought of keeping them in. Sure there are dangers out there, but I feel they have a life much more in tune with their natural instincts being outdoors roaming about, doing their thing. I wouldn’t have a cat and keep them in, I’d feel cruel keeping an animal just for my own selfish pleasure if it couldn’t live as it wanted. As I’m away a lot I don’t have a cat now, however the local neighbourhood has a few cats bouncing around. They mainly seem to laze about, occasionally shagging and fighting with each other. Nice life for them. Liverpooldave

I adore my cat and would never let him outside for the simple reason that it’s an ugly and dangerous world. If I let him outside, he could get hit by a car, he might be injured by some unpleasant and unstable person or he might be kidnapped and I’d never see him again. At home he has his big lovely cat bed to relax on, loads of toys and access to fresh food and water. I think if you truly love your cat you won’t put them outside. Hyufcdtb

I am pretty sure that even if he was capable of making a rational, risk-based decision, my cat would still choose to go outside. The world is dangerous for humans too, but we don’t sit at home scared to go out. whatwasigoingtosay

If possible, harness train. A cat who has a strong urge to go outside will more than likely tolerate having a harness as they’ll start to associate the harness with outdoor access. Keeps them safe while enabling them a bit of freedom. I adopted my cat when she was about six months and harness trained her a few months later. Hilarious floor flops at the first attempt, but the desire to be outdoors over-rode her initial resistance to the harness and now she comes running when I jingle the harness for her. I will likely draw the line at pushing her around in a stroller – witnessed someone in my neighbourhood doing this with their cat last week. The human looked ridiculous, but I must say that the cat looked quite content and imperious. Jammygal

Do not harness train your cat! Cats are flight animals and harnesses impede their ability to run off when they’re stressed or feel a sense of danger. It will have a negative impact on their overall welfare and severely impacts natural behaviours. Please do proper research on cat behaviour. If you want to let your cat outside you should actively play with it for at least 15 minutes a day and feed it a high protein/ real-meat-rich diet – this has been proven to decrease the amount of wildlife cats prey on. Additionally, do not let them out at dusk or dawn but just during the day. GoblinBombardment

This reminds me of one of the Inspector Morse episodes, Who Killed Harry Field? The titular Harry being an artist (and murder victim) with a sideline in concocting bogus coats of arms complete with Latin mottos for the credulous. Here goes …

Morse: “Felix noctu exponendus” [Laughs].
Lewis: lt’s the way you tell them, sir.
Morse: lt’s translated for the Pfeiffers of Chicago as “Happy the man daring to go out into the darkness.”
Lewis: What’s it really mean?
Morse: “At night, put the cat out.” Mobilepope

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