Thursday 2 December 2021

Domestic cats are not selectively bred to live indoors 24 hours a day

Some people might find the title provocative. There is a movement towards confining cats to inside the home 24 hours a day. I'm told that in the US about 40% of cats are now full-time indoor cats. I'm a fan of full-time indoor cats because it's peace of mind for the cat owner, safety for the cat and wildlife is not attacked. It's a triple winning method of cat caregiving.

Domestic cats are not selectively bred to live indoors 24 hours a day
Domestic cats are not selectively bred to live indoors 24 hours a day. Bored 24/7 indoor cat snoozes his life away. Photo:Pixabay (modified by MikeB).

The only problem is how domestic cats adapt to full-time indoor living. Domestic cats are adaptable, we know that. Therefore most do accept confinement 24/7. The question is: what are they feeling? What's going through their mind? As mentioned, they are not selectively bred to live like that.

They are made to roam over up to 100 acres or more. In Australia feral cats can have home ranges of 500 acres and more. Indoor domestic cats have to adapt to living in 1/4 of an acre.

The weakness I see in this method of cat caregiving is that cat owners don't really realise the responsibilities that they have to counteract the mental problems that can emanate from confinement. You won't notice those mental problems, probably. They may be manifested in signs of boredom and the cat crazies as they are euphemistically called.

RELATED: Cat breeders should selectively breed for cat confinement.

There may be signs of stress sometimes with inappropriate elimination. There may be cystitis causing inappropriate elimination. All may seem well. But cats are very good at hiding their mental state.

I think I can say with complete certainty that 99% of the inside of homes of full-time indoor cats have not been modified in any way to make it more suited for a domestic cat. In short, there's been very little environmental enrichment. 

RELATED: Extreme breeding of cats creates misleading facial expressions.

But cat confinement demands environmental enrichment. Can owners really have to dispense with the usual notions of what the inside of their home should look like. It should look like a cat jungle of some sort. It should be an amalgam of what a human wants and what a cat wants and needs. But they aren't. They never are. They are human homes designed for humans to live in and the cat has to adapt to it whether they like it or not.

In the UK, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 is based upon a cat owner's duty of care. Anyone responsible for an animal must take reasonable steps to make sure their animal's welfare needs are met. When you confine a cat to a home you have to consider their welfare needs.

The life of a cat is centred around hunting. It's in their DNA. It is inherited as part of their memory. The do it instinctively. The need to hunt to be whole. We know that. How is a cat going to hunt inside a three-bedroom semi-detached home? There is only one way: play-hunting. And a cat owner has to set up that form of play. If the owner doesn't, they are not meeting the welfare needs of their cat. And 99% of cat owners don't meet those needs. I'm painting a black picture but I'm convinced that I am correct.

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