Cathy Freeman of Biloxi writes about her cat, Clarrie, with a burning question close to my heart. “I have a cat who is very dear to me. She has never been outside of our home. In three weeks we will be moving to a house on a quiet street. How should I go about introducing my cat to the outdoors safely?”
It didn’t take me long to compose my reply: “Don’t.”
There are so very many advantages to a cat being an indoor pet. They can never be infected by deadly diseases transmitted by other cats such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Their vaccinations against Feline Leukemia Virus and upper respiratory viruses will never be challenged.
They avoid many physical dangers, too. Remember the story about a dog doused with gasoline and set on fire? More common injuries result from fights with other cats, attacks by dogs and high speed encounters with automobiles. Let’s not forget my patient, Phantom’s, chest wound from an irresponsible pellet gun owner. All of these kinds of injuries are common. Many of them are deadly.
None occur to the strictly indoor cat.
“But my cat needs to go outdoors”, is a reply we often hear.
Why would he need to go out? If he has food, water, shelter and love and entertainment inside your house, he has everything he needs. In an ideal situation, start new kittens indoors and never let them out. Then, they never have outdoor experiences that they long for. I have raised numerous cats this way, and, believe me, they want for nothing. As in Clarrie’s case, kittens raised this way don’t know there’s anything to miss outside, because they can’t miss what they have never even experienced.
If you have an adult cat that you want to keep indoors, it is a gradual process to make the transition. I have found that it is typically easier to do from winter to spring, since most cats are spending more time indoors in cold weather anyway. Once they have spent 4-5 months inside you “just say no” when they start to ask to go out. Most cats will give up after one to two months of asking, and the requests will come farther and farther apart.
The procedure is similar in summer and fall, but you will likely get more “requests” from a cat who is used to going out, especially when the weather is nice. And it will take a little more patience and understanding to withstand all those requests.
One critical factor to mention here is that male cats must be neutered and female cats must be spayed for this to work. Otherwise, the drive to go out, find a mate, and reproduce will be too strong to hold them back. “Wait until marriage” is a fine concept for people, but it is not workable for cats.
And if you are not going to keep your cat inside, spaying and neutering are a must. Sexually intact cats roam more, fight more, get diseases more often, and, most importantly, contribute to the pet overpopulation epidemic. See your pet’s doctor to get this essential surgery performed.