Dear Pammy, Will my cat be happy inside?

A reader writes:

My new kitten is so tiny I wouldn't dream of letting her out. But what about when she grows up? Won't she want to go out? Can she really be happy always living indoors?

Dear Readers,

Yes.

I think of my cats wanting to go outside the same way I think of my teenagers wanting to go out on the town in Manhattan. Yes, they want to. No, they shouldn't.

The fact is, cats are living in a world they did not make. Their instincts and reactions are not designed for cars. They cannot judge the speed and movements of cars, which travel much faster than they have been designed to handle. There's also parasites, diseases, other animals, and bad people. There's also the chance they can get lost or trapped somewhere.

Every time we let them out, we roll the dice.

The fact that they are bigger does not qualify them to handle the outdoors better than when they are a tiny kitten. They can be happy indoors.

The outdoors is interesting because of what they can do there. Bring that part indoors. If they like to climb, get a cat tree. Involve them in activities; if a show someone is watching is on, it's a simple matter to go and get them and see if they wants to sit around being petted for a while.

Make windows both accessible and interesting. Have interactive toys out for when we are out so they can play while we are gone, and pay attention to them when we are home. It's natural to think we are depriving them of the adventure outdoors, but we are also protecting them from dangers they cannot imagine; and thus, they cannot protect themselves against.

Where I live now, there's a busy road in front of me, and a wilderness area in back of me. Keeping my cats in seems like a no-brainer. But even in areas with less obvious dangers, dangers exist. No matter what age they are, cats are not designed to handle the outside world we have made. Even in their natural habitat, they are constantly on alert for predators; this is why cats have such quick reflexes and highly tuned nervous systems.

Offering them a happy home means we take care of them; better than they can do themselves. We aren't depriving them. We are protecting them.

We shouldn't feel guilty about that.


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