The Indoor/Outdoor issue is a very controversial one among animal caretakers and humane societies. Approximately 50 percent of U.S. cats now live indoors and most shelters and humane societies would like to make that 100 percent. In fact most will not adopt cats into homes if the cats will be allowed outdoors at all, and this even includes feral cats and barn cats.
Now let me start by saying that we believe cats should be kept safe at all times. Having said that I also believe that their lives should be of the highest-quality, and that they should enjoy their lives.
To me this means that if you keep your cats indoors, they be provided with toys, scratching posts, a window seat, and a cat tree for climbing.
The cat is very adaptable and most cats, if they live in a house where their caretakers are sensitive to their feline needs and who have created a happy and pleasant environment for their cats, will live a happy and contented life.
However, there can be some problems for certain cats, and Dr Nicholas Dodman of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and Roger Tabor, British biologist and cat expert, both note that American cats sometimes have higher rates of anxiety-related problems which they think may be related to cats living indoors with no effort being made to find outlets for their natural instincts.
Holistic veterinarians Dee Blanco and Don Hamilton feel that most cats confined indoors will not attain their healthiest and happiest state. In their practice they have noticed an increase of urinary tract problems, vomiting and stress-related problems, which they attribute to the indoor existence.
Author Patricia Curtis notes in her book THE INDOOR CAT: "This is not to say that confinement can create no problems at all. The indoor cat of an uninformed and negligent owner may be neurotic, extremely unhappy, and in poor health. Some owners have unrealistic expectations of their cats; some are just indifferent. It is known that among zoo animals confinement can be a powerful stress factor… . A domestic cat confined to a house or apartment will, in certain circumstances, develop stress symptoms. "
The indoor cat may present an unwary owner with problems that stem from its situation. It may tend to chew up house plants when its craves grass, sharpen its claws on furniture for lack of tree bark, and climb the draperies or leap to the top shelf of a cabinet of breakable treasures to achieve the lofty vantage point cats enjoy. All of these traits can be dealt with successfully, to the satisfaction of both…"
One of the major reasons that nonlethal control of feral cat colonies is so contentious in the U.S. is because of the prevailing attitudes towards outdoor cats in the U.S. Many shelters find it difficult to accept ANY outdoor cats, even feral cats. Loretta Smith called me from a rural area in Pennsylvania. Loretta and her husband owned a farm and loved cats but both were allergic to cats, yet enjoyed their company, so they usually kept a few barn cats. After the last two died of old age, Loretta went to her local animal shelter and asked to adopt a few feral cats or any cats with behavioral problems who were likely to be euthanized, to live in her barn. Her offer was rejected. She was told the shelter would rather euthanize the cats than allow her to take barn cats. A few weeks later she read about ACR needing farm homes for ferals and called me They had a perfect setting for ferals: an excellent large barn with a large cage for the short confinement period. The couple spent a lot of time during the next month befriending the ferals I took them. They sent me weekly updates about the progress being made! In fact two years later, we are still in touch and Loretta loves sharing the latest stories about her barn cats!
Our position is NOT that everyone should open their doors and allow their cats out to roam around outside! We do believe that many cats, especially if given a stimulating environment, can live quite contentedly indoors, especially in areas that are unsafe for outdoor cats. For those who want to allow their cats outdoors, we promote a safe cat fence, or an outdoor enclosure.
What we do have difficulties with, however, is accepting policies that would rather euthanize ferals than allow them to live a good life in responsible care in an outdoor situation. Or when policies are in force that do not to allow nonlethal control of feral cats on the basis of "no-outdoor-cats" policies.
One of the main problems with outdoor cats is not that they are living outdoors, but that many outdoor cats are NOT neutered. This is the main cause of cat fights, and thus wound infections and viral infections, roaming across busy roads, getting hit by cars, and getting lost. If colonies of feral cats are sterilized, most of these problems do not exist to any great extent.
This brings us to address the question of managed and controlled feral cat colonies. Most adult feral cats are very unhappy living in homes. Some do adjust, others spend their lives living under beds and couches. These cats are impossible to medicate and trips to the veterinarian are difficult, if you can even catch the cat at all. Also, with the sheer number of feral cats living in colonies, it would simply be impossible to find enough homes or sanctuaries for them.
Authorities must begin to accept outdoor feral cats as part of the urban landscape so the millions of volunteer feeders and caretakers will be better able to quickly and expediently sterilize the feral population to help make them healthier and safer.