Thursday 19 August 2021

What is the at the root of the indoor-outdoor cat debate?

The image below spells out in simple terms the root issues in the debate about keeping cats indoors full-time or letting them go outside. It really is about cat safety and protecting wildlife against allowing a natural life for a domestic cat with a reduction in safety together with predation on wildlife.

The indoor-outdoor cat debate
The indoor-outdoor cat debate. Image: MikeB based on Pixabay image.

There appears to be a general trend towards keeping cats inside. What is the motivation for this? Is it genuinely to improve domestic cat safety or is it more about convenience for their caretakers? Perhaps it is about both. I am generalising. There will be people who are thinking solely of their cat. And the cat comes before wildlife I believe.

People don't want the inconvenience of taking their cat to veterinarian who has been seriously injured on the road. There will be high cost and plenty of stress for the person and an incredible amount of pain, stress and discomfort for the cat. Life is far more even and undisturbed for the full-time indoor cat and owner but it is at the expense of boredom and an unnatural world for the cat, which is infrequently made more exciting by the caregiver.

The argument about indoor only or indoor/outdoor cats. Image: PoC.

I feel like I have to take cynical approach on this and claim that people are drifting towards the indoor solution because it suits them. There is also the anxiety factor. If a good cat caregiver is genuinely concerned about their cat's health, which they will be, to allow their cat to go outside is to invite anxiety not in the cat who is highly energised and excited but in the person who is anxious as to whether their cat is going to be injured or worse, killed.

The major dangers are road traffic, in America predators such as coyotes, and there is always that nastiest of animal: the miscreant, abusive young male human who takes pleasure out of taking pot shots at domestic cats with a BB gun or even a .22 rifle. That's the worst-case scenario almost or there is a poisoner somewhere out there who takes pleasure in poisoning cats with antifreeze. Even stabbing them seems to please some people such as the Brighton Cat Killer.

So, I think this big debate comes down to the personal feelings of the human caregiver and what they do is dictated by which decision improves their lives. That sounds like selfish and uncaring attitude but I stress that I am generalising. Humans are inherently selfish. That's why the world is in a mess. And humankind has a habit of ranking themselves above animals. When push comes to shove, the animals take second best (e.g. house fires: cats die, humans escape). 

The cat, himself or herself, doesn't understand these nuances in the argument. All they want to do is to go outside and hunt. They don't understand why they've been kept inside but they learn to accept it over many months and snooze and sleep the days away. They don't see the danger and when and if the danger arises, they accept it. It is a natural event to them. They don't rationalise that but it's a simple acceptance.

Domestic cats don't fear death like humans. They don't think about the future and whether they might be killed when they go outside. They live in the present. All these complicated thoughts about what the future might hold and whether a domestic cat might be killed are in the heads of cat caregivers. That's why they are at the root of the debate and in my view, it boils down to convenience and I don't blame people for that.

Map showing attitude to indoor cats
Image: MikeB

Life is complicated for people. They want to simplify it and keep their life as calm as possible. They don't want massive emergences and upsets and catastrophes to occur. They want their life to be controlled and controllable. This is at the root of the debate about indoor/outdoor cats and full-time indoor cats.

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