Q. My cat has enjoyed being
outside for many years. How can I bring him in now?
A. You can help your cat
make the adjustment gradually by keeping him inside for longer and
longer periods of time, or you can bring him in and not let him
outside again. Either way, the trick is to give your cat lots of
attention and play time, and the ability to look out of windows
without knocking over plants or breakables. Provide your cat with
cat condos or other appropriate places to lounge, play, and scratch.
You may want to consult your veterinarian or local animal shelter
for tips, or see the fact sheet,
How to Make Your
Outdoor Cat a Happy Indoor Cat.
Q. It's not natural for
cats to be inside all of the time. How can I deny my cat the
pleasure and stimulation of being outdoors?
A. Cats are domestic
animals and do not need to be outside to be content. There are many
hazards to being outdoors that may shorten your cat's life or cause
your cat to become seriously injured or ill. Indoor cats can get
plenty of pleasure and stimulation if they are regularly played with
and receive lots of affection. If you still want your cat to
experience the outdoors, but without the risks, you can train your
cat to go outside on a harness and leash or build a cat enclosure.
For more information, seeCat
Q. I've always let my cat
outdoors. It's safe here. Why is that a problem?
A. There are many hazards
to free-roaming cats. Outdoor cats can get hit by cars, attacked by
dogs, other cats, or wildlife, contract fatal diseases such as
rabies, feline distemper, or feline immunodeficiency virus, get
lost, stolen, or poisoned, or suffer during severe weather
conditions. Your outdoor cat's fleas, ticks, or worms can be
passed on to you and your family, make your cat sick, and cost a lot
of money to treat. For more information, see Why Allowing Cats
Outdoors is Hazardous to Cats, Wildlife, and
Q. My cat is so old, I know
she doesn't hunt. Why should I sacrifice her freedom?
A. She may die sooner if
you don't move her indoors. Elderly cats who roam outdoors are even
more susceptible to feline diseases and to injuries from other cats,
wildlife, or dogs. Even if she doesn't hunt, move her in for her own
safety. She'll live longer.
Q. My vet told me that
it's O.K. to let my cat out for long periods of time. Surely my vet
A. Many veterinarians as well as animal
welfare organizations support keeping cats indoors for their own
safety as well as to prevent them from killing wildlife. If your cat
is gone for long periods of time, you may not find out if he's lost,
stolen, or injured until it's too late. The American Veterinary
Medical Association, the nation's largest professional veterinary
group, passed a resolution on June 1, 2001 strongly encouraging cat
owners in urban and suburban areas to keep their cats indoors. The
Association of Avian Veterinarians and the Alliance of Veterinarians
for the Environment also support keeping cats indoors.
Q. What diseases or
parasites can I get from my outdoor cat?
A. Rabies is a big concern,
as well as cat-scratch fever, toxoplasmosis, and in the southwest,
plague. Parasites such as fleas, ticks, hookworm, or roundworm can
also be transmitted to people from outdoor cats. Always keep your
cat's vaccinations current, and wash your hands well after digging
in your garden or changing your cat's litter box. Keeping your cat
indoors is the best way to ensure that you and your cat will stay
Q. I put a bell on my cat
so she doesn't kill birds or wildlife. Why should I keep her
A. Scientific studies have
shown that cats with bells on their collars still kill wildlife
because they can learn to silently stalk their prey. In addition,
birds or small mammals do not necessarily associate the sound of a
bell with danger, and bells on collars offer no protection to
helpless young animals. See the fact sheet,
Predation on Birds and Other Wildlife.
Photo: Dr. Gil Ewing
Q. My cat is well-fed
so he doesn't hunt when he goes out. Why should I keep him inside?
A. Scientific studies have
shown that well-fed cats do kill wildlife because the hunting
instinct and the urge to eat are controlled by different parts of a
cat's brain. Although he may not eat what he kills, the fact that he
has a full stomach does not mean he won't stalk and kill an
Q. Don't cats just kill
diseased or old animals?
A. No. Cats kill adults as
well as the young of many species of animals. Birds that nest or
feed on the ground, such as quail or sparrows, are easy prey for
cats. Cats also kill helpless young animals in their nests, such as
baby rabbits or baby birds.
Q. My cat doesn't kill
anything but mice. Since mice are pests, isn't my cat doing a
A. Cats do kill mice, but
not just the House Mouse, an exotic pest species. They kill native
small mammals which are important sources of food for native
predators such as hawks, owls, and bobcats. Cats also kill small
mammals which are in danger of becoming extinct. In some parts of
the country, domestic cats may be so numerous that they compete with
native predators for food. In addition, a recent study in Wichita,
Kansas found that cats, whose owners believed their cats never
killed birds, actually did have the remains of birds in their
Q. Don't cats control rats,
mice, and other nuisance critters?
A. A study of stray cats in
the city of Baltimore, Maryland showed that the cats did not prey on
rats over 6 ounces. In fact, cats were seen eating side by side with
rats at garbage dumps. There are other studies that show Black or
Norway Rats are a very small part of a cat's diet. House Mice,
another exotic pest species, can live in small spaces, such as walls
or attics, where cats cannot follow, so cats do not do a good job of
eliminating these rodents either. In fact, food that is left out for
cats can attract and support rodent populations.
A. Make sure your cats are
spayed or neutered before moving them indoors, and train them to use
a litter box. This can be done by first using soil in the litter box
and gradually replacing it with cat litter. Keep the litter box
clean by scooping it daily and changing the litter regularly.
Even so, a small percentage of cats will continue to spray when
moved inside. Consult your veterinarian or animal behaviorist for
advice on how to diminish this behavior. A long-range water pistol
or shaking a can filled half-way with pennies are harmless ways to
curb a cat from undesirable behaviors, including spraying
Q. I'm afraid my outdoor
cat would cause damage to my furniture, carpets and drapes if I kept
her inside. Should I have her declawed?
A. The Humane Society of
the United States (HSUS) opposes declawing as a painful and
unnecessary operation that removes the first digit of a cat's toes.
Instead, The HSUS recommends trimming a cat's claws every one to two
weeks and training cats to scratch in designated places such as cat
scratching posts. Products are available to discourage your cat from
scratching on furniture, such as Stickypaws. Plastic caps are
also available which fit over the cats' claws and last four to six
weeks before needing to be replaced. For more information, see
Q. I can't take my cat with
me when I move. What should I do with him?
A. Do not abandon your cat.
Abandoning cats is illegal and cruel to the cats and local wildlife.
If you cannot find a good home for your cat either through family or
friends or by advertising in the local papers, then take your cat to
a local shelter where he stands the best chance of finding a good
home. See the on-line National Shelter Directory (link) to locate a
shelter near you.
Q. What should I do about
the stray cats who show up on my doorstep?
A. Do not feed stray cats
without an intent to adopt and keep them inside. Feeding stray cats
without making a commitment to giving or finding a permanent home is
not fair to the cats, local wildlife, or your neighbors. Feeding
cats allows them to breed and their populations can quickly get out
of control. These cats suffer short, miserable lives, and can cause
flea infestations and transmit serious diseases to humans. They can
also impact populations of native wildlife. If you can't adopt the
cats or find them homes, call your animal control officer or humane
society who can safely and humanely remove them.
Q. By having the cats
trapped and taken to a shelter, aren't you just killing them? Isn't
A. It is inhumane to leave
the cats to overpopulate and to suffer and die a slow, painful death
from injury, disease, getting hit by cars, starvation, attacks from
other animals, poisoning, and severe weather.
Q. Is it safe to approach
A. No! Stray animals can be
aggressive and can transmit serious diseases to humans, such as
cat-scratch disease, plague, or rabies. Avoid contact with stray
animals and call your local animal control officer who can safely
and humanely remove the animal.