- by Jim Egenrieder
I did a good bit of pet sitting when I first moved to the Washington area from rural Pennsylvania many years ago. Back then I could not understand how some folks here could keep their cats locked up inside the house 24 hours a day. I spent much of my childhood watching the barn cats around the farm yard, and Ive always been curious of their aloof, mostly self-sufficient nature and their excellent mousing and ratting skills. I figured then that urban cats should enjoy those same freedoms.
Nowadays Im convinced that all cats should be kept indoors. Outdoor cats get in fights, defecate and dig in gardens and sandboxes, cause automobile accidents, pick up diseases and parasites, kill birds and small mammals, and they face all sorts of potential hazards every day.
That said, Ill agree that it is terribly hard to suddenly lock your pet inside for good. While a kitten kept indoors will never know what its missing, an adult cat that is used to spending time outdoors will not be happy at first. However, the staff at the animal welfare and adoption organizations can give you excellent advice on how to bring an outdoor cat inside. Stop by the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA) at 2650 S. Arlington Mill Drive in Shirlington and ask for information. In the end youll be rewarded with a healthier, safer, and more attentive companion.
Dangers to a Free-Roaming Cat
Local animal welfare groups have done an excellent job publicizing the impact of pet overpopulation. But free-roaming cats also get in fights, are hit by cars, are killed by raccoons and hawks, become trapped by their collars, pick up parasites, and are sometimes nabbed and even tortured by deranged humans. Those reasons were enough for me to agree to keep my newly adopted kitty (he came with my wife) indoors. For the same reasons, most animal welfare groups now reserve the write to revoke a cat adoption if the new owner allows the cat to leave the house.
Impact on Indigenous Wildlife
The impact of cats on the wild critters around us is most alarming. Studies in England and Australia revealed that free-roaming cats kill an astonishing number of songbirds, bats, rabbits, quail, pheasants, and other small mammals. Pet cats in those studies each killed between 40 to 200 animals over a one year period, depending on how one analyzes the data.
Our cats are widely believed to be the primary cause for the extirpation (a localized "extinction") of many species. Most biologists believe that while bells are helpful, there usually not enough warning due to a cats stalking hunting style. Most also agree that de-clawed cats are still efficient killers.
Impact on Others
Free-roaming cats can also be a nuisance to your neighbors. While many municipalities have passed laws requiring pet-owners to clean up after their pets, most cat owners make no effort to do so. Cats defecate in sandboxes, dig in flower gardens, and cause automobile accidents. They are also vectors for disease in other animals and also humans. Dog owners will testify that neighborhood cats with fish-based diets frequently deposit "treats" in their yard that their dogs find tasty.
A 12-Step Program for Bringing Your Cat Indoors, Permanently.
Over the last few years, experts have suggested several approaches for successfully converting your outdoor cat to an indoor companion. The following program combines their suggestions into a 12-step approach that will work for almost any cat.
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