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Indoor Cats

This weekend we got Oliver a huuuuge cat tree. We weren’t sure he’d use it, but he immediately climbed straight to the top. Now he’s sleeping on it, watching our bird feeder from it, tossing his toys up and down it, and doing acrobatic leaps off it. It’s a real hit.

Isn't he adorable?

Now you might be thinking, “Isn’t this an environmental blog, not a pet blog?” I do admit to a ridiculous fascination with my cats, but keeping them indoors is actually an environmental issue. Domestic cats are unnatural predators for birds and small mammals whose populations may already be declining because of habitat loss. According to the American Bird Conservancy, “nationwide, cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion small mammals, such as rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks, each year.”

Feral cats are a major part of this problem (which is why we need more trap, neuter, return programs), but 65% of housecats are allowed outdoors. These pampered, healthy, well-fed cats have an unfair advantage over wild birds and their native predators. This is why the Audubon Society and the American Birds Conservancy strongly recommend keeping cats indoors.

But it’s not just me and the bird people who think cats should be kept inside. The Humane Society, the ASPCA, and vets recommend it, as well, for the well-being of the cats themselves. According to the ASPCA, the average indoor cat lives 10-12 years, while the average outdoor cat lives only 2 years.  Outside dangers include traffic, predators (dogs, foxes, hawks), diseases from other cats (rabies, FIV, feline leukemia), poisons (antifreeze, pesticides, herbicides, rat bait), parasites, cruel people…the list goes on and on.

People often worry that their cats’ quality of life will be reduced if they’re kept inside, but proper enrichment can make their lives very fulfilling. The important thing is to allow them to engage in their natural behaviors, like hunting, scratching, climbing, and hiding. The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Indoor Cat Initiative has lots of information on this—you should check it out.

The cat tree is a step in the right direction. One other thing that we do along these lines is hide Oliver’s food in his various toys and perches around the house. We began doing it to give Jasmine time to eat without him bothering her, but we’ve kept it up because he seems to like “hunting” for his food.

We love our cats and the birds who come to our feeder; by keeping the cats happy indoors we’re protecting them both.


Comment from Dan Walsh
Time October 23, 2009 at 10:22 am


Nice post and thank you for commenting on mine. Keeping them inside seems to be the consensus solution. My wife and I have allowed a rescued cat into our home and struggle with its apparent need for “street time”. Your suggestions will be helpful.

Comment from Brenda Pike
Time October 23, 2009 at 1:48 pm

We’ve rescued two cats, and both took to being inside quite well. We kept one ourself and held the other one for a couple weeks until a friend could take it. They were both more energetic than other cats—one chewed the cords off the blinds—but they were also kittens. I think it also helped that we took them in during very cold weather, so they were more than happy to be out of it. The Indoor Cat Initiative has some suggestions on how to bring an outdoor cat indoors.

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