My Indoor Cat Wants To Go Outside – Should Cats Be Kept Indoors?


My Indoor Cat Wants To Go Outside – Should Cats Be Kept Indoors

Domestic cats are killing animals and birds

Domestic cats are currently the most popular pet in the world — and they have been linked to humans as far back as 9,500 years ago. They are cute and cuddly, but they can also be deadly. Many people in my neighborhood allow their cats to wander out-of-doors without a second thought. Recent studies in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere in the world have shown that domestic cats can take an enormous toll on mammals, birds, and reptiles living around them. Baby birds that have just left their nests are especially at risk since they cannot fly well and often land on the ground.

My Indoor Cat Wants To Go Outside – Should Cats Be Kept Indoors

Domestic cats are such a problem that the American Bird Conservancy has launched a program called Cats Indoors: A Campaign of American Bird Conservancy. This program falls under the eliminating threats to wild birds category. In this world of climate change and habitat destruction, birds already have enough obstacles to overcome. There is also the issue of keeping your cat safe and healthy, both of which are better accomplished indoors.

How many birds and other animals do outdoor domestic cats kill?

Domestic cats are not native and are not part of “natural” ecosystems. However, they act as predators to native birds and other wildlife — equivalent to or surpassing an invasive species. Indeed, the domestic cat may be the most prolific invasive species in the world. Many studies have been conducted in the United States and abroad in an attempt to measure just how many birds outdoor domestic cats can kill.

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Because of abandoned and un-neutered cats, there are also millions of homeless cats in America today. These cats have no choice but to hunt wildlife in order to survive. However, ultimately we cannot blame cats for this issue – all the blame lies with people.

The following information has been paraphrased from the American Bird Conservancy website:

Exact numbers will never be known, but based on research it is estimated that cats kill HUNDREDS of MILLIONS (100,000,000’s) of birds and over one BILLION (1,000,000,000+) small mammals (including rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks) every year in the United States. University of Wisconsin ornithologist, Dr. Santley Temple estimates that 20-150 million songbirds are killed each year by rural cats in Wisconsin alone.

Both domestic cats which are allowed outdoors and stray/feral cats are considered feline predators by the ABC.

Cats compete with native predators and can often out-compete them because they have a stable food source and are not vulnerable to changes in prey density. Unlike native predators, domestic cats are often vaccinated and therefore are immune to common diseases. However, many unvaccinated cats spread diseases to wildlife.

Keeping your cat safe and healthy

Life outdoors is risky for cats.

My Indoor Cat Wants To Go Outside – Should Cats Be Kept Indoors

Cats kept exclusively indoors most often live longer because they are exposed to fewer threats. Outdoors cats run the risk of contracting deadly diseases such as rabies, feline distemper, or feline immunodeficiency virus. Outdoor cats could be killed or injured by cars or by dogs and native predators like coyotes and owls. Many cats also get lost or are stolen or poisoned by ingesting chemicals/rat bait they find outside. Worms and other parasites can also become a problem if a cat is eating rodents.

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Aside from keeping your cat safe, it is also courteous to keep your cat indoors. When you let your cat outside, it does not stay in your yard (unless of course, you have some kind of shelter). Your cat will end up wandering into other people’s yards and becoming a problem. I have spoken to numerous fellow birders who have complained about cats sitting under their bird feeders and killing birds. Because many people do not bother to put ID tags on their cats, concerned neighbors do not know who to talk to about the issue. This can also be an issue with dogs and other animals, so please always remember to supervise your pets while they are outside. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

My Indoor Cat Wants To Go Outside – Should Cats Be Kept Indoors

Common misconceptions:

— Bells on collars do not prevent cats from killing birds.
— Injured birds which “escape” from cats usually cannot survive.
— A well-fed cat will kill birds because of its predatory instinct. Just because your cat does not bring you birds does not mean it is not killing them.
— If your cat goes outdoors it is safe to assume it’s killing and eating something.


My Indoor Cat Wants To Go Outside – Should Cats Be Kept Indoors

What can we do?

First and foremost, keep your cat indoors and spread the word to other cat-owners you know. If you must let your cat outdoors, consider purchasing a cat enclosure to keep both your cat and wildlife safe. Domestic cats face many dangers if left outdoors unsupervised. Most importantly: make every attempt to keep your cats indoors during summer when baby birds are leaving the nest and most vulnerable. Unfortunately, this is the season when most cat owners allow their cats outdoors.

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The American Bird Conservancy’s solution is simple: keep cats indoors.

If you are unsure about whether to keep your cat indoors, please have a conversation with your veterinarian.

Share your opinion…

This can be something of a controversial issue, but it is also an important conservation issue which every cat owner needs to consider and be aware of.

What is your opinion on cats being allowed outdoors?

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