I feel like a doorman. I’m constantly letting my cats in and out of the front door. Mercifully, I’m not home much, but when I am, it’s in and out, open and close, pause and wait, scoot or boot. I’ve contemplated the merits of the totally indoor versus outdoor lifestyle, and each has advantages.
Indoor cats are of course cleaner than their outdoor counterparts. Their paws are pristine, they don’t have sticks and leaves tangled in their pants. Their coats are softer. And the house is tidier too. They don’t track in mud-or white paste, if like me, you have a disintegrating oyster shell driveway. My new cat Atticus is predominately white. Imagine that, a clean white cat! My Maine Coon Chewbacca goes out. Some days, he looks like a ragamuffin. Also, sometimes I wonder where he is. You always know where an indoor cat is. (Unless the visiting vet is coming, then he’s no where to be found!)
I have spent endless nights awake wondering when a cat is going to return. Or if he’s been in a fight, or if some varmint got him. I’ve had a cat go off in a plumber’s truck, to be returned an hour later having sprung out of a box behind the seat. That same cat spent three harrowing days 80 feet up a tree after being chased by a neighbor’s dog. I was frantic, trying to coax him down.
I don’t’ even want to think about poisonous plants, rabid raccoons, fast moving vehicles, lightning strikes or anthrax. All of these can pose a threat to an outside cat.
Cats who stay in usually remain parasite free. Unless you live in an old house and mice get in, indoor cats are generally not hunting, potentially picking up intestinal parasites.
Then there’s the flea thing! Going out means Fluffy or Felix can get fleas, which he’d be more than happy to share with everyone else in the house. Of concern too is that cats often scurry in leaf litter where ticks abound, and may bring these harmful pests inside.
So why do I let my cats out? Well, they’re happier. They’re not bored. They’re not destructive. And they’re more active. I have a big yard and my house is not too close to the street. So they spend their energy the
way nature intended-patrolling their territory and investigating their realm. And they don’t bother me for food all the time, which means I’m not tripping over them constantly and I can actually get something done.
Cats, like people, need mental exercise. Keeping them cooped up limits sensory stimulation and can lead to boredom and destructive behaviors.
During the seemingly-endless winter months, I invested in some interactive toys to get my cats moving. Toys with mechanical mice or programmed laser lights mimic the predator-prey relationship which is vital to a cat’s well being. And it’s entertaining for me too. It’s a hoot watching Chewy zoom after his elusive laser ‘prey’. Whether your cats are indoors or out, make sure they get exercise.
And if your cats do go out, be sure they are protected against fleas and ticks, and have some form of identification, like a microchip.
Celeste Conn, VMD
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