An article in the NYT about cat enclosures and habitrails – if you’re urban, or living somewhere full of fishers and coyotes and cars, or just determined to protect your cat as much as possible, this will give you some great building (or buying) ideas.
Cats live longer, and more safely, as indoor animals. There’s no arguing it. An indoor cat lives up to 20 years. An outdoor or indoor/outdoor cat: more like 3 or 4, if the statistics are right.
And, they are natural (brilliant) predators designed to hunt – about whom I find it very strange to say you should ‘keep them off the ground.’ Indoor cats are also too often obese, destructive from boredom and lack of outlet for their natural behaviors, and increasingly plagued by other human-caused health problems ranging from inbreeding issues to diabetes to obsessive behaviors created by our assumption that we can make them into apartment-accessories without cost.
Like dogs, cats aren’t human and we shouldn’t treat them as if they are. When we chose to limit their movement to feet instead of miles, limit their access to sun and dirt and hunting and grass and a nocturnal lifestyle, etc., we’re protecting them from cars, dogs, wolves, owls, coyotes, fishers, parasites, disease, traps – and we’re also taking away their natural life expression in order to give them a safer one. It’s a very real trade-off: to my mind, pretending anything else is denial (as is pretending cats aren’t predators, or that predation isn’t natural).
So it’s clear, I do think it’s an ethical decision to keep cats indoors if they’re being made to live in an urban or suburban area. We have made urban environments lethal to animals.
In the country, away from roads, I have tended to take calculated risks, depending on the local wildlife and its interest in feline snacks – and have vaccinated appropriately to ward off some of the microscopic threats.
I’ve never had a happier cat than one who was able to go outside, but when I let one do this, even supervised and during the day etc., I do it knowing – every time – that I am potentially risking that cat’s life. So it’s not an easy decision, and often I’ve chosen to keep them inside.
Urban-human culture and assumptions aside, if you’re keeping your cats indoors to extend their lives, these kinds of gizmos can improve the quality of their lives immeasurably.
Plus, they’re just incredibly cool, aren’t they?
It’s not a giant field full of mice, but it’s a whole lot better than a window.