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Indoor Versus Outdoor Cats

You have provided your kitty with a myriad of toys, a beautiful and comfortable cat tree to climb and lounge on, delicious food and treats, a scratching post and even catnip. But even with all these comforts and your devoted attention and love, you know he pines to go outside.

Having shared my life with both cats and dogs, I made a decision early on to keep my kitties inside. As intelligent as these graceful creatures are, they usually fail to look both ways when crossing the street, something I have actually watched many dogs do. Rather, they usually dart quickly and run for dear life and unfortunately don't always make it. I also knew I would never forgive myself if I called them to come in one night and they didn't return.

I'll never forget the afternoon many years ago when I was driving home past a long row of parked cars when I heard a terrible thump! and watched helplessly while a cat streaked away down the street. I told myself it must be OK because it was still able to run but my stomach was in a knot and even now, I get upset thinking that I may have killed or injured someone's pet.

One of the statistics I read about outdoor cats said that most of them are killed by cars and here in Arizona where I live, we also have what I call “the coyote factor”.  Essentially, this is the irrefutable fact that coyotes have to eat too, and that any small animal is fair game.

Despite my decision to keep my two cats indoors, however, I knew a woman who hiked with her three cats on a regular basis! None of them were tethered in any way and the vision of the four of them traipsing down a trail together makes me smile. She told me that she taught all of them the word “Coyote!” and that when they heard it, they would quickly gather around her and stay close together till they all arrived home safely.

I have also known several kind hearted, creative people who built their cats elaborate outdoor areas that were completely fenced on all sides and on the top so they could enjoy their time outside without their guardians worrying about them. Some of these were accessible by a door inside and some required that a person accompany the cat or cats to the enclosure.

One precaution about letting your cat outdoors: check with your vet to make sure that he or she has all the necessary vaccinations to prevent any potential illness they could contract when outside. A cat who is kept indoors probably will not need a full panel of vaccinations as he or she will not be exposed to all the possible health hazards.

Additionally, know that if your cat goes outside there may be other risks too – fleas, being chased by the dog next door, herbicides and pesticides, contact with feline leukemia virus, respiratory infections and worms to name but a few.

Weigh all the pros and cons and make a realistic decision based on the time and resources you have available. If you live on a high traffic street, for example and have a cat, letting him out unsupervised will likely increase the risk of him getting hit by a car. On the other hand, if you live in a sleepy neighborhood and can monitor your cat's time outside in the safety of your fenced backyard, it may be a wonderful opportunity for her to enjoy the great outdoors. You may be able to leash-train your cat with a harness or teach her to walk with you as my acquaintance did. Building a large, safe enclosure outside for your cat is a great solution to balancing your cat's time inside and outside. Whatever you decide, make your kitty's health, safety and well-being your primary concern.

Deborah Dobson, Fizzniche Staff Writer