Cats – should you let them out?12 August, 2006
Before I got my Maine Coon and Bengal girls, I had moggies. I was used to letting my moggies out, and they would wander the neighbourhood. It seemed the natural thing to do.
After my Maine Coon and Bengal arrived, I kept them indoors for several months – someone had told me that if I kept them in until they were spayed they would wander less.
The first time I let them out into the garden, it was so funny to see the mix of apprehension and excitement in their little faces. The first time they climbed a tree, they sat in the branches sniffing the breeze, whiskers quivering in joy.
Both cats used to climb over the garden fence and leg it to my neighbour’s much-nicer garden. They would return home when I called them. But there were days when I would walk up and down the road shaking the biscuit tin in order to entice them back.
With moggies the fear was that they would be run over. With pedigree cats it was the same, with the added fear that they would be stolen because they were so beautiful/looked expensive.
A cat behaviourist told me that the majority of cats being run over by cars were mostly young cats. It seems once they survive past their first year as outdoor roamers, there’s a better chance of them surviving to maturity. [I need to check what the percentage is] Either they become more streetwise or they just move faster, perhaps.
A number of cat breeders I know are divided in opinion as to whether cats should be kept indoors only or allowed to roam. Some breeders stipulate in the interview and contract that the cats are to be restricted indoors. I am inclined to support them because there’s nothing more heartrending then finding out that the precious kitten you nurtured from birth to new home, has been squashed by a car.
One of the cat magazines I read (or it could have been one of the breeders’ forums) which carried a warning about a woman who kept buying Burmese kittens to replace the ones she’d let out and got run over by cars – she was on her third kitten. You would have thought the owner would have got the message about kittens not being road-savvy? What price a cat’s life? It would have been an irresponsible breeder who sold to such an owner after these multiple mishaps.
I believe that cats with access to the outdoors enjoy a richer lifestyle. However, cats can live indoors, given the right stimulation and what behaviourists call environmental enrichment.
This can take the form of sufficient cat scratching posts, high resting places, nooks and crannies so cats can hide out if they need to, sleeping places, food, litter trays (1 per cat plus 1 is the golden rule) and of course, play.
Some owners install outdoor pens for their cats. I managed to find a compromise to the indoor/outdoor problem by installing special cat fencing in the garden which meant that they could wander around the garden, but not get out.
The cat fencing I use is from Secur-a-cat. It is made up of brackets bent at an approx. 60 degree angle, which are fixed to an existing wooden fence, and netting strung in between the brackets. It works on the principle that a cat cannot climb an unsteady surface upside down. The existing wooden fencing has to be at least 5 feet high because cats can jump anything less than that without a problem.
So far it’s worked and it’s something I’ll be recommending to all potential kitten owners. My cats now get to go into the garden and climb trees and chase birds and butterflies and I don’t have to worry about losing them to cars or catnappers.
Cat fencing – Secur-a-cat. No web-site. Contact Roz/Steve on 01553 776 417 or email@example.com