I know this is a controversial topic and it is not one that I take lightly. My cats and dogs all mean the world to me and I’d never intentionally do anything to bring harm to any of them. Everything I do, I try to do with their best interests in mind. I want them all to live forever and since that’s not possible, I want the time that I do have them to be the best it can be. After weighing the pros and cons, observance, and even discussing it with the animal communicator, who agreed with me, I’ve decided that my cats are all happiest when they are free to come and go outside as they please.
I know this situation is not ideal for everyone and probably for most, keeping the cat(s) in an enclosed porch/catio like this popular little portable one, http://amzn.to/2CtzSc8, or even on a leash like this one, http://amzn.to/2CqobUt is definitely the responsible thing to do. Even though the cats are not allowed to come and go freely, they are at least able to enjoy the sun, fresh air, ground beneath them and all the sights and sounds of the outdoors.
Why my situation is different than most
Where I grew up, even though it was out in the country, we lived off of a somewhat busy blacktop. Even though we had a pond, pastures, and woods behind us, for some reason, some of our animals would get out on the road. I have no idea how many cats and dogs we lost on that blacktop during our almost 15 years there, but it was a lot.
Road location was one huge factor that drew me to my current house. It is far off the road and that road is a gravel road that is only lightly traveled. That’s not to say that one of the cats getting hit by a car couldn’t happen, it’s just not likely. In the almost 18 years I’ve lived here, I’ve had one dog get a slight leg injury when it first came and apparently was still in roaming mode, while I was at work years ago. Knock on wood, that’s been the only incident I’ve had.
Of course, having a road anywhere near you is always scary if you have pets. If I lived in town, or close to a road, my thoughts on cats being outside on their own would probably be completely different, depending on my particular situation. My thoughts would also possibly be different if I had close neighbors. But since my situation is what it is, I wanted to share why my cats are allowed outside.
When I took in my first cat, KK, in 2012, he was the first cat I had ever had as an adult. It was also a brand new experience of having a cat indoors. As a child, we weren’t allowed to have indoor pets. Looking back, I think my mom, whose rule it was, was completely wrong on that and it cost us more than a couple of pets over the years. But it was a different time back then and pets, while cared for, definitely didn’t have the cushy lifestyle that most do nowadays.
The cats came and they wanted outside
KK was older, estimated at around five years of age when he showed up, and clearly used to a life outside which was evident by his ragged ears. While mostly content indoors, he did expect to be let out when he requested it. It wasn’t always an ideal situation, but it was manageable. He would go off and do his thing and then come back and hang out inside until his next need for an outside visit arose.
When Julien, my 2nd cat showed up in 2013, having two cats wanting in and out at different times was more challenging. After careful consideration, I finally decided to put in this cat door, http://amzn.to/2C8NTJl, to make everyone’s life better. It allowed KK and Julien to come and go as they wanted without waking me up at 5 am to go outside or at 5:10 am to come back inside. It also saved my door trim, which KK was abusing as his way of letting me know I was being too slow or not responsive at all in opening the door for him when he meowed at all hours wanting out.
When Will’s Grandmother passed away in the Spring of 2014, leaving her young indoor/outdoor cat without a viable option for a forever home, I told him we’d take her. Once here, and being an indoor/outdoor cat also, Sissy obviously didn’t want to suddenly be cooped up indoors, either. She also wanted to be able get away from the other two cats, as she was used to being in a single cat home.
After KK, Julien, and Sissy had all become accustomed to their life of coming and going as they pleased, that pretty much guaranteed all future cats that came along the same privilege. In the beginning, I had no idea that would someday be seven cats. Despite one lost cat and a recent close call in the nearly six years of allowing my cats outdoors, I feel the risk versus the reward has still been worth it.
Inside cats vs. Outside cats
The argument that it’s dangerous for cats to be outside is a very valid one. I do agree that in most instances, cats being let outside unsupervised or unrestrained, especially in town, is extremely dangerous. However, given where I live and my particular situation, I feel like the risks really are about as minimal as they can be.
Sadly, I know people who have solely indoor cats that have as bad or worse of a track record than I have. My Aunt lost her 100% indoor only cat after it got its collar hung up and was strangled. I’ve also read plenty of stories about ‘indoor only’ kitties that have been killed in clothes dryers, under chairs, from eating or drinking dangerous things, and by other accidental means. Every time I hear about a house fire where pets were lost, I’m somewhat comforted knowing my cats have their own door (that the dogs could bust out of too, if they really wanted) if my house ever caught on fire.
I also look at this subject in the context of would I rather my cats live to age 15 or beyond and be obese, unhealthy and/or unhappy or would I rather they have possibly shorter, but ideal cat lives. That’s a life of sunning outside, walking through the grass, catching mice and such, climbing trees, and enjoying the fresh air. If the latter means that they will only be with me for 10 years, then so be it. It’s so obvious every time we are outside, or as I just watch them out the window, that they love being able to not just watch the world go by from the windows, but to actually be a part of it.
If I truly didn’t think they cared much about being outdoors and wouldn’t be anxious, upset or unhealthy by being restricted to only indoors, I wouldn’t feel so strongly about it. Having seen how happy they are to be able nap out on the concrete patio in the sun or be able to run across the yard and up a tree, or chase butterflies or each other, I just can’t possibly deny them of that. Being able to come and go as they please has provided me with six happy, healthy, lean cats that all get along and have no behavior issues.
Keep in mind that I work from home and don’t leave very often. When I do, it’s for usually no more than a few hours. Because I’m home all the time, I know all the cats’ routines. I know when they come in, when they go out, when they eat, when they nap and where they nap. I do no less than five head counts each day to make sure everyone is accounted for. If someone breaks routine, I notice it. If they aren’t inside when they normally are, or in one of their sleep spots, I go out and call for them. I also pet and pick up every cat at least once a day and check them for anything unusual.
When any of the cats are outside, it’s somewhat comforting knowing that Jake, my young and energetic mixed breed dog, is almost constantly watching or on the move around the property. Knowing he’s out there keeping potential predators away gives me some peace of mind. Is it a 100% guarantee of safety? Nope. But nothing is, including a life indoors.
Even though my cats are indoor/outdoor, most of the day they are inside sleeping or eating. They also spend much more time indoors when the weather is anything but ideal. If we know a storm is coming in and everyone is not accounted for, Will or I go outside and call for whoever is missing to get them back before the storm hits. Every single cat comes when called, so although it may take a little while for them to make it back from whatever location they’ve ventured off to, they always come when called.
Letting my cats go outdoors isn’t due to my not caring or being reckless, or getting them out of my hair. On the contrary, I let my cats go outside because I love them so much and want them to have the best life possible. I feel like where I live and the conditions are about as safe as they can be for outdoor cats. If I lose any of them before they make it into deep old age, then so be it. I’d rather live 50 great years than 100 mediocre or unhealthy ones and I’m sure if they could talk, my cats would feel the same way.
I used to be a ‘dog person’. Then one day a cat came along and my outlook on cats changed dramatically. You can read about how it happened here, http://savingcatsdogsandcash.com/i-used-to-just-be-a-dog-person/
To see the daily antics of KK, Julien, Sissy, Rosie, Cooper, and Moose and my four dogs, check out my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/savingcatsdogsandcash
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7 thoughts on “Why I let my cats go outside”
I have to agree with you wholeheartedly. We live in a similar situation, out in the woods, not near any traffic, and we do let our cat in and out when she wants. We do have predators in the area (foxes, bobcats, cougars, coyotes and gray wolves), but we always make sure our cat is in at night and when we leave during the day to do errands. We try to be aware of where she is when she is outside. That is the best we can do to take precautions but to allow her her natural life and activities as a cat. We would be devastated if a predator took her, but it does not change our resolve to allow her to live, for the most part, as Nature intended. We think that keeping a cat indoors out of fear of what may happen to her would be about the same as keeping a child from growing up and leaving the house to explore their own life and interests and to become fully adult. Overprotection is not healthy for them and comes from a selfish desire rather than a place of doing what is best for them.
Just wanted to add that I know that cats are nocturnal hunters, so we are not totally giving her complete freedom in that regard, but we feel better about reducing her chances of being taken by other nocturnal predators, and that gives us some comfort. She also finds plenty of mice, rats, voles, lizards and other things to hunt during the day, so she’s not that deprived.
I’ve had both indoor and outdoor cats and the saddest part of my outdoor cats ( I inherited them when I bought the acreage) was all the birds they killed. I’m all for letting them out in a controlled environment, but I’m not putting birds or squirrels at risk anymore, especially now that I have the choice.
Martina, I completely agree with you. My cats have access to a screened in outdoor room, but I would never let them out on their own beyond that room without supervision. I need to know where they are and what is happening to them. There are too many dangers out there–speeding cars, wild animals, mean people. My neighbor’s cat was poisoned by someone. She got another cat that she was letting out. One night the cat didn’t come home. She never saw him again. She came crying to me. My sympathy was with the cat. He paid the ultimate price.
I agree with your views and also believe that many cats are happier when they are allowed to experience nature. I live in a small town and have a large yard on a quiet street. There are no predators, and it’s a safe environment for humans and animals. The first cat I let outside had lived in various apartments with me for the last 12 years. She lived 4 more wonderful years before dying of natural causes. Since then I’ve had another 4 indoor-outdoor cats, and one was almost 20 when she died. I don’t usually let the cats out unless I am home, so I know exactly where they are. They learn the perimeters of the yard and don’t roam. Unlike your cats, mine don’t respond to being called, but they do show up eventually. Only two incidents in almost 30 years could be attributed to the cats being outdoors, and neither resulted in serious illness or injury. (One cat had a bot fly larva and the other got a superficial wound from an air gun.) I currently feed a semi-feral cat who lives outside except when it’s very cold, when I let him into my garage. Without a doubt, all of my cats have been well cared for and have let me know how they wanted to live, with joy.
The fact that you consulted an animal communicator, too, is very interesting, and a huge plus.
I share your worry about the danger of a house-fire, or something similar.
We adopted a 13 year old cat who had been living in a small city apartment. When she came to us, she made it clear that she needed access to the great outdoors. She was obsessed with it. I sensed that she was angry that this had been denied her for so long. I am not making this up. When you spend a lot of time with animals, you can pick up on their psychological energy.
Her owner, who had since moved to an even smaller apartment, wanted her back. If we had relented to returning her, we knew for certain that this cat was doomed to fall into terrible depression, and very likely would have died as a result. There was no way we were going to fail this cat. It took two years for her to finally relax and realize her joy of the outdoors was not going to be taken from her. Cats DO die from despair and depression. People who work at shelters see this.
With over 25 years of living with cats who all have been allowed outside, the only hazard has been from feeding kibble.
I have observed that spending quality time with each animal, every day, makes an incredible difference in ensuring they stay close to home. It is the same as with children. When you show that they have importance and value to you, they feel it, and they are more careful. And this is what you, CC, are doing.
It disturbs me when people throw blanket statements out, saying all cats should be kept indoors. The fact is, as you point out, everyone’s living situation is different. If one must keep cats indoors, then PLEASE make sure you provide ample mental and physical stimulation. And if possible, a catio, because they DO need fresh air, grass to eat, and sunlight.
They ARE animals. And they CAN get terribly depressed. You have to try to imagine if you yourself could never go outside, and had to live the rest of your life in a small space, according to someone else’s rules, with no fresh air or sunlight. It is prison sentence. Thoughtful people who care about animal welfare know that zoos are terrible places for animals. This is the same for domestic animals.
Cats have an INHERENT need to explore, and also to run. Very similarly to dogs (which is why taking a dog for a walk, and providing opportunities to run, is vital). Whenever I see our cats make mad dashes, I know I am doing the absolute right thing to allow them the joy of being outdoors. If I myself love and need the outdoors, then so too do they need it.
As for killing birds, the huge numbers some people like to claim are FALSE. It is humans who are the worst offenders of killing, maiming, and destroying the habitats of wildlife. I keep a bird feeder at our place. I have learned the best way to set it up to minimize bird deaths by cat. It is not impossible.
This is a very good resource concerning cats VS birds:
Two other domestic animals that most people do not realize need opportunities to run around, and get fresh air…
rabbits and guinea pigs.
We acquired a guinea pig when my husband’s daughter, who was 11 at the time, was living with us. Things I learned about guinea pigs:
They need a warm nest to burrow into.I discovered this error one night when I could hear her having respiratory problems. Guinea pigs are from temperate climates. Their natural habitat is sandy banks in which they make burrows. Immediately, full of remorse, I provided her with a big warm nest.
In the summertime, I built a large outdoor pen for her to enjoy fresh grass and air and sunshine, during the day, bringing her in at dusk. When I would carry her out to it, she was jumping out of my arms in excitement.
I did put her down on the ground one time, not in her pen, to see what she would do. She happily waddled down the driveway. And I mean HAPPILY. She ran under some bushes and I thought: Uh oh. But I called her and she came.
When she was in the indoor pen, it was large enough that she could make mad dashes around it. Guinea pigs LOVE to be able to run!
They are social creatures. They need a colony. Wiser guinea pig lovers have several pigs in their care. Never just one. I got a rabbit to keep her company, thinking this would do. Not so great an idea. They were indifferent to each other.
What I learned about rabbits:
When Lily was indoors, I would often let her out of her indoor pen. She loved to run around, and she would dig at and roll on the couch. Of course, you do have to be wise to a rabbit’s need to chew on stuff. At the time, I did not know much about this. Rabbits have to be able to wear down their teeth, or else they grow too long. Their teeth are always growing.
I made an outdoor pen for Lily, to be in during the day. She began to dig a tunnel. But luckily did not get very far. One day she escaped. I chased after her and caught her. She escaped again. I gave up. I got wise. Lily needed to stay outdoors. Where we were living there was a barn. She made herself a nest under part of it. She stayed on the property, which I attribute to her having been female. I could no longer get close to her. But that was okay. I had become wise to the reality that rabbits NEED to be outdoors – FREE.
It disturbs me greatly when I see rabbits kept in small cages. It is like keeping a horse in a small pen for its entire life. Wise people know that equines must ALSO have space to RUN.