About 5.4 million cats are killed by cars each year according to Animal People Online News, May 2001. This is about a million more than what are killed in U.S animal shelters! Many accidents happen as even the most careful driver can have a totally unexpected incident of a cat running out in front of their car and having to swerve or jam on the brakes to avoid hitting it. This figure alone is reason enough for me to keep my precious kitty inside. When we humans began to domesticate cats we took on the responsibility for their health and welfare. They depend on us for their safety and good health. Here are some other reasons why I think cat owners should consider keeping their cats indoors.
Indoor cats will never be challenged by other cats to attack one another. Cats are very territorial and will defend their territory to the death. This fighting can result in severe puncture wounds, infections, and abscesses; even deadly diseases such as FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) if not treated immediately. Unaltered competing males may engage in bloody and occasionally fatal fights as they follow their mating instincts. Even casual contact with other cats can result in the transmission of parasites, such as fleas or ringworm, or more serious communicable diseases such as FeLV (Feline Leukemia), FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) and URIs (Upper Respiratory Diseases).
Indoor cats are safe from all predators. Many cats have been nabbed by raptors, attacked and killed by coyotes and raccoons, and even large dogs, many of which have been trained to attack. Your cats' claws and fangs are not sufficient to protect himself from such attacks. These animals cannot really be blamed when it's their instincts that take over their behavior.
By nature most cats like to widen their territory by roaming outdoors. Unfortunately, many cats venture out too far and consequently lose their navigational sense and become lost. Some of these cats are confiscated by animal control authorities, and some are "rescued" by cat lovers who do not know that they should check for tattoos or microchips. Some get hit by cars or get into other dangerous situations or starve to death. Of all cats that are turned into shelters only 3% are actually re-united with their owners. Collars can break and even microchips won't guarantee the safe return of your pet.
Many outdoor cats are stolen by people who will sell them to research laboratories, or use them as bait in the training of fighting dogs. Psychopaths, and very sick-minded people will steal them to "practice" torture on. These types of low life people will pick your cat up right off your front porch or front lawn, especially if your pet is friendly. These type of people are out there.
An indoor cat can never cause problems for your neighbors like urinating and defecating in their gardens, lawns, and sandboxes. These wastes can transmit harmful organisms to humans. Barefooted children are frequently in contact with these germs and put their hands on their faces and into their mouths. Many people who don't like cats trespassing on their property will call the local animal shelter to remove your cat as a stray. Some cat hating neighbors will not even think twice about poisoning or killing your cat in whatever method they see fit. I personally have heard one man say matter-of-factly that he would "trap the nuisance cat in a cage and then dispose of it by lowering it to the bottom of the lake". This is truly how some people think. Cat owners should never take a chance with their precious pets.
There are also youth gangs and other cat haters that actually seek out cats and other small pets for target practice. Although there are some animal protection laws in existence, they can never serve to replace your beloved animal companion, or comfort you in the loss of your loved one.
Sicknesses are discovered and treated much sooner with indoor cats. There are several diseases outdoor cats can acquire as we've already seen. There is a very common condition called FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease) that many cats, especially males, do get. The first signs of this sickness are straining and frequent trips to the litter box, sometimes with blood, and urinating in unusual places. For all illnesses it is important to obtain prompt medical care, but with FLUTD it is mandatory that your cat be treated immediately or he could die within 24 hours. An outdoor cat owner will never see early warning signs like this for many health problems.
Poisons. If you notice things like blood in the urine or stool, drooling and vomiting with blood, muscle tremors or high body temperature your cat could have consumed rat poison, snail or slug bait, antifreeze, have eaten toxic plants or even been bitten by a snake. Every day dogs and cats are being bitten by other animals, swallow dangerous objects, and ingest poisons. You will never see early warning signs of many sicknesses and poisons with an outdoor cat.
Indoor cats won't endanger wildlife by chasing and killing birds, squirrels, rabbits or other small animals. They can be perfectly content if you provide them a spot by a window to observe outdoor life, and especially if they have never been outside before, they won't even miss it. Your cat will also sit for hours and stare intently at fish in an aquarium, and only lick his lips occasionally!
For your cats' exercise needs there is a vast selection of interactive toys at your local pet food retailer, as well as scratching posts, climbing towers and many other indoor toys. I like to use a laser pen light to play "catch the light" with my cat, Maui. He will literally chase it anywhere you point it! He also loves to race after a small ball as I toss it up and down the stairs for him. These, and other cat toys are much safer for your cat than having to run from outdoor predators or cat fights. Maui also loves to play catch the string with me while I pull it around the house. Sometimes while doing my household chores I'll attach the string to my belt and he'll follow me everywhere I go. It works, and it's free. These little games you can play with your cat will give him all the exercise he needs, plus they create a strong bond between you and your pet.
An indoor cat is always safer, healthier, and happier. But, if you still think you would like your cat to be able to enjoy fresh air, sunshine and the ambience of trees, bushes and plants, I recommend a cat fence. There are several available to choose from. Here are some links for them. Assembled properly they can be very effective in keeping Kitty in your backyard.
Also, see an article called "How To make Your Outdoor Cat A Happy Indoor Cat" by The American Bird Conservancy. http://www.abcbirds.org/cats/factsheets/outin.pdf
You could also build a cat enclosure something like this. Just make sure it is covered, as cats and other animals could climb in and out!
Some cats can be trained gradually to a harness and leash, especially when they are young. Basic training can be found at http://cats.about.com/library/howto/htwalkleash.htm
Keeping your cat safe and well is a legitimate concern in our world today. Your kitty will thank you with his genuine and unconditional love that only animals can give!