Rarely have I seen a seemingly innocuous comment on Twitter blow up like “Cats should be indoor pets only.”
As it turns out, there’s a whole world of people out there who think that keeping a cat indoors 24/7 is some kind of crime against feline nature (not to mention their furniture). And I don’t mean people who own farms, granaries, or other venues in which cats are present primarily as working animals. I mean ordinary suburbanites who cherish their feline companion as part of their own family.
Suffice it to say, the risks to an outdoor or indoor-outdoor cat are many, and the benefits to the cat don’t really outweigh those risks. Nor do they outweigh the risk the cat poses to local birds – and many bird populations are struggling already.
But don’t take my word for it.
Currently, I have three cats who were once all strays. Here’s what they have to say about why they much prefer living inside a human house.
Melody was born on the streets of Jackson, Michigan. Along with her mother and siblings, she was transported to the local Humane Society, where I met her while working as a volunteer. It took me two weeks to get her to come out from behind a cat condo and give me an exploratory sniff, at which point I decided she needed to come home with me.
Melody enjoys napping, playing fetch with a hair tie, and using her Dickensian orphan vibe to get food and treats, which she especially loves. She says, “The house is full of food, and I mean FULL of it. They have an entire cabinet stocked with JUST canned cat food! I don’t have to find, stalk, catch or kill anything. All I have to do is make this face and boom, Fancy Feast.”
We met Pippa in October 2018 when she climbed my husband. Someone had dumped her at my in-laws’ farm, but her lack of a winter coat and snuggly manners made it abundantly clear that she had spent the first six months of her life as a house pet. We suspect she was purchased from an unlicensed breeder by someone who had no idea that Siamese are among the most assertive, outgoing, and demanding cat breeds out there.
As a true princess of Siam, Pippa demands only the best in care and comfort. As a full-time indoor cat, she gets it.
Pippa says, “Humans live THE MOST plush lives, and I am an expert on Being Plush. Everything they own is either covered in padding or is a hard flat surface ideal for knocking small objects off. And get this – CLIMATE CONTROL. No freezing in winter or baking in summer! It’s all a little short on cat hair, but I don’t mind contributing mine.”
“And get this,” Pippa adds. “In the winter, when it gets cold and awful outside? They put a fire inside a box. For me. It heats my personal cat sauna, which is just there, under the bricks, behind where I’m lounging in this photo. There’s nothing this nice outdoors!”
In addition to enjoying the plush surfaces and cozy winter wood stove heat, Pippa has also found that year-round indoor living is a great way to get the attention she is due as a Cat.
“When it comes to being Supreme Feline Empress, I have one rule: NDPM (Never Don’t Pet Me),” says Pippa. “When I lived outdoors, nobody followed the rule! No one! You had ONE JOB, humans! Anyway, that’s why I found a mark and charmed him by being too cute to resist. Also, he had a soft warm winter coat on and it was October (see: humans live plush lives).”
When Pippa first climbed my spouse, she was a hot mess of fleas, ear mites, three types of worms, and a wood tick that had lodged between her shoulderblades where she couldn’t reach and had already sucked enough of her blood to make it twice its normal size.
Melody, when she first arrived at the Humane Society, was in similarly rough shape. But since she’s become an all-indoor cat, Melody says, “I haven’t had a single flea, tick, ear mite, or worm of any description since I got here. I haven’t caught feline leukemia, FIV, distemper, rabies or even a cold. And they BRUSH ME. OH MY BAST, I LOVE THAT BRUSH.”
That’s not to say the cats don’t ever get to see the great outdoors. We just take them out in controlled conditions, where we know they’re safe from cars, neighborhood dogs, marauding cat-haters, coyotes, and so forth.
Melody is still too petrified by the harness to enjoy sojourns outdoors, and Gracie (see below) is too old to really enjoy them anymore – she just looks at me like I have personally betrayed her by putting her outside. Pippa, however, loves a good adventure in the backyard and will put herself into her harness in order to get one.
Here’s Pippa, singing her favorite autumn song:
You can eat a dead leaf
I said YOUNG CAT
You can eat it with ease
I said YOUNG CAT
And then go back inside, where you
BARF! IT! ON! THE! CARPET!
(MEOW! MEOW! MEOW! MEOW!)
It’s fun to eat and then
BARF UP THE LEAVES
It’s fun to eat and then
BARF UP THE LE-EAVES
You can eat a whole leaf!
You can even eat two!
You can BARF! THEM! BOTH! IN! MOM’S SHOE!
At 14 years old, Gracie is the oldest of our three. My neighbor found her wandering the streets in the summer of 2008. Gracie was born deaf, which made the streets an especially dangerous place for her. We suspect she was abandoned after someone adopted an adorable Turkish Angora kitten from an unlicensed breeder, only to discover that Angoras are almost as demanding as Siamese – or, with her utterly un-showable facial features, she was dumped by a kitten mill.
In addition to being deaf, Gracie has immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, which we were fortunate enough to catch before it killed her. For the cost of one highly undignified pilling session a day, Gracie has gained an additional five years of life so far.
When asked to comment on the benefits of living indoors, Gracie replied, “Buzz off. I’m trying to sleep in this comfortable safe space where I know no predators can take advantage of my advanced age, autoimmune disorder, or deafness by sneaking up while I’m vulnerable.
I would have been dead years ago if I lived outdoors. Instead, I’m queen of a warm, clean, comfortable castle, with servants whose opposable thumbs are here to serve my every whim.
If living outdoors is so great, let’s see you do it.”
You can send cat treats and toys to their Highnesses by clicking here. Put “for cats” in the comments so I’ll know the gift is for them. Thank you!