View Full Version : EarthTalk: Should house cats roam free outside?

May 25th 08, 11:11 PM

EarthTalk: Should house cats roam free outside?
It’s better for the health of the cat – and far better for the many
small animals that cats hunt – to keep them indoors, some say.

By THE EDITORS OF E MAGAZINE | May 23, 2008 edition

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Q: Please help settle the debate about whether or not my cats should
stay in or go out. My neighborhood is relatively safe for cats, vis-ŕ-
vis car traffic, and I think it is more natural for them to be outside
and not always inside. They do kill wildlife, including birds, but
aren’t they just taking the place of natural predators that once did
the same?
– Bill Thomson, Bangor, Maine

A: Most environmental advocates say that keeping cats indoors is
better for both the health of the felines themselves and for their
prey. Scientists estimate that the typical free-roaming house cat
kills some 100 small animals each year. This means that the 90 million
domestic house cats living in the United States alone are killing
hundreds of millions if not billions of birds, small mammals,
reptiles, and amphibians every year. And while house cats on the prowl
may serve to replace the natural predators long ago extirpated by
humans, their popularity as pets puts their population density far
ahead of those that came before them.

“Cat predation is an added stress to wildlife populations already
struggling to survive habitat loss, pollution, pesticides, and other
human impacts,” says the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), which in
1997 launched its controversial Cats Indoors! campaign to educate
animal lovers about the benefits of keeping Tabby inside. ABC also
points out that free-roaming cats are exposed to injury, disease,
parasites, and collisions with cars. They can get lost, stolen, or
poisoned. To help drive its point home, ABC produces a wide range of
educational materials (including a brochure, “Keeping Cats Indoors
Isn’t Just for the Birds”) and public service announcements in service
to their ongoing campaign.

Nonetheless, many cat lovers believe that it is inhumane to confine
felines indoors, since they have evolved as hunters and thrive on the
natural stimulation only available outside. To help soften the blow
and wean your cat off of the outdoors slowly, ABC suggests gradually
curtailing your cat’s out-of-doors time over the course of a few
months until it is eventually not let out at all. In doing so, you
will need to provide your cat with a lot of attention and play
indoors. New scratching posts and toys are a good bet, as they may
entertain cats that ordinarily occupy themselves chasing birds and
rodents. ABC suggests hiding various toys around the house so cats can
sniff them and not miss so much the thrill of the hunt outdoors.

One last bit of important advice: Many fear that confining their cats
indoors will lead to more shredded upholstery. But declawing your cat
should never be an option, says veterinarian Christianne Schelling.
Cats’ claws are a vital part of their anatomy, she says. Declawing is
not simply fingernail trimming but the removal of the last joint of a
cat’s “toes.” It is a painful procedure and can lead to serious
physical, emotional, and behavioral complications.

Alternatives to declawing include providing scratching posts in
various locations around the home, and trimming your cats’ nails
occasionally. This involves trimming only the clear tip of the nail
(never the pink or dark fleshy parts, which are skin) and should be
done only upon first consulting with a veterinarian. Another option is
a product called Soft Paws, lightweight vinyl caps that you apply over
your cat’s claws. They have rounded edges, so your cat’s scratching
doesn’t damage your home and furnishings.

May 26th 08, 06:41 AM
I was able to TRAIN my 3 cats not to scratch our furniture with only
gentle admonitions and removing them from the scene. They learned
after 2 or 3 lessons. Of course they had plenty of scratching posts,
including a few cardboard boxes sitting around (their favorites!) and
2 posts on the cat tree I bought. Two of them died last year, killed
by cars ( still grieve, as one was my "soulmate" kitty). The
remaining sweet girl is an indoor cat now, and accepted it gradually,
as you pointed out. She's fine with it now, but it does require extra
time from me to play with her every day. But I could do worse with my
time. It's fun anyway.

Their breed is part oriental or siamese, which may have made them more
trainable. That's what I have heard. Anyway, good luck everybody.
Carol :)