My neighbor has always had several cats that roam the neighborhood freely. Most were skittish but a couple would let me pet them.
In the spring of 2022, my dogs and I noticed they had a new cat that wanted to befriend us. Jellybean would run from his spot in the neighbor’s yard and come up to my dogs as I walked them on the street. He would “play cat and mouse” by acting as if he wanted to interact with my dogs and then jump just out of reach.
He even scared us once by jumping out from behind a garbage can! Jellybean would follow us on our walk, either beside my dogs or just behind us on the road, until we got to my house and we went inside or until his owner came and got him.
Here’s a video of Jellybean walking with me and my dog, Hokie.
We looked forward to seeing Jellybean and have him join us on our neighborhood walks. But then we didn’t see Jellybean for awhile and I asked what happened. It was as I feared-he was hit by a car on our suburban road and killed.
Unfortunately this happens way too often with free-roaming cats. The best way to keep a cat safe is to keep it inside. But cats are natural hunters, you say. There are ways to help enrich the cat’s life while also keeping it safe.
Here are some reasons to keep your cat inside:
1. According to the Wildlife Center of Virginia, indoor cats are less prone to diseases, parasites, and injuries commonly associated with outdoor adventures. This leads to a longer and healthier life for your feline companion.
2. Cats are natural hunters, and when left to roam freely, they can have a detrimental impact on local wildlife populations. Keeping them indoors helps protect birds and small mammals.
3. Indoor cats are less exposed to territorial disputes with other cats, which can lead to stress-related issues. A peaceful indoor environment can lead to a happier, more relaxed pet.
4. Allowing cats outdoors can contribute to environmental problems, such as overpopulation and the spread of diseases among feral cat populations. By keeping your cat indoors, you're helping to reduce these issues.
5. Spending quality time indoors with your cat can strengthen your bond. You can engage in interactive play, provide mental stimulation, and ensure your cat's social needs are met.
Indoor environments can be enriched with toys, scratching posts, and climbing structures to keep your cat mentally and physically stimulated. For instance, some of our pet sitting clients have a “catio”-a screened area where the cat can be outside but in a controlled area. One client built a porch across the back of her house and enclosed it in screen. She even built a cat door so her cat can go from inside the house out on the screened porch by itself. American Humane has some ideas on how to create a catio.
I used to take my cat for a walk on a leash. While cats don’t walk by your side like a dog, letting them sniff the environment allows them to get some outside time while still keeping them safe.
6. Indoor cats are less likely to wander far from home or get lost. This can save you from the worry of searching for a missing pet.
7. Some areas have laws or regulations regarding outdoor cats, including leash laws and cat licensing. Keeping your cat indoors ensures compliance with local ordinances.
Remember, every cat is unique, and some may have specific needs or circumstances that allow for safe outdoor time in a controlled environment. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the best approach for your cat.