Frequently Asked Questions
On Keeping Cats
Q. My cat
has enjoyed being outside for many years. How can I
bring him in now?
A. You can
help your cat make the adjustment gradually by keeping
him inside for longer and longer periods of time, or you
can bring him in and not let him outside again. Either
way, the trick is to give your cat lots of attention and
play time, and the ability to look out of windows
without knocking over plants or breakables. Provide your
cat with cat condos or other appropriate places to
lounge, play, and scratch. You may want to consult your
veterinarian or local animal shelter for tips.
Photo: Jeff Price
Q. It's not
natural for cats to be inside all of the time. How can I
deny my cat the pleasure and stimulation of being
A. Cats are
domestic animals and do not need to be outside to be
content. There are many hazards to being outdoors that
may shorten your cat's life or cause your cat to become
seriously injured or ill. Indoor cats can get plenty of
pleasure and stimulation if they are regularly played
with and receive lots of affection. If you still want
your cat to experience the outdoors, but without the
risks, you can train your cat to go outside on a harness
and leash or build a cat enclosure.
On Hazards to Outdoor
Cats and People
always let my cat outdoors. It's safe here. Why is that
are many hazards to free-roaming cats. Outdoor cats can
get hit by cars, attacked by dogs, other cats, or
wildlife, contract fatal diseases such as rabies, feline
distemper, or feline immunodeficiency virus, get lost,
stolen, or poisoned, or suffer during severe weather
conditions. Your outdoor cat's fleas, ticks, or worms
can be passed on to you and your family, make your cat
sick, and cost a lot of money to treat.
Q. My cat
is so old, I know she doesn't hunt. Why should I
sacrifice her freedom?
A. She may
die sooner if you don't move her indoors. Elderly cats
who roam outdoors are even more susceptible to feline
diseases and to injuries from other cats, wildlife, or
dogs. Even if she doesn't hunt, move her in for her own
safety. She'll live longer.
Q. My vet told me that it's O.K. to let my cat
out for long periods of time. Surely my vet isn't wrong?
A. Many veterinarians as well as animal welfare
organizations support keeping cats indoors for their own
safety as well as to prevent them from killing wildlife.
If your cat is gone for long periods of time, you may
not find out if he's lost, stolen, or injured until it's
too late. The American Veterinary Medical Association,
the nation's largest professional veterinary group,
passed a resolution on June 1, 2001 strongly encouraging
cat owners in urban and suburban areas to keep their
cats indoors. The Association of Avian Veterinarians and
the Alliance of Veterinarians for the Environment also
support keeping cats indoors.
diseases or parasites can I get from my outdoor cat?
is a big concern, as well as cat-scratch fever,
toxoplasmosis, and in the southwest, plague. Parasites
such as fleas, ticks, hookworm, or roundworm can also be
transmitted to people from outdoor cats. Always keep
your cat's vaccinations current, and wash your hands
well after digging in your garden or changing your cat's
litter box. Keeping your cat indoors is the best way to
ensure that you and your cat will stay healthy.
On Cat Predation on
Q. I put a
bell on my cat so she doesn't kill birds or wildlife.
Why should I keep her inside?
Scientific studies have shown that cats with bells on
their collars still kill wildlife because they can learn
to silently stalk their prey. In addition, birds or
small mammals do not necessarily associate the sound of
a bell with danger, and bells on collars offer no
protection to helpless young animals.
Photo: Dr. Gil Ewing
Q. My cat
is well-fed so he doesn't hunt when he goes out. Why
should I keep him inside?
Scientific studies have shown that well-fed cats do kill
wildlife because the hunting instinct and the urge to
eat are controlled by different parts of a cat's brain.
Although he may not eat what he kills, the fact that he
has a full stomach does not mean he won't stalk and kill
cats just kill diseased or old animals?
A. No. Cats
kill adults as well as the young of many species of
animals. Birds that nest or feed on the ground, such as
quail or sparrows, are easy prey for cats. Cats also
kill helpless young animals in their nests, such as baby
rabbits or baby birds.
Q. My cat
doesn't kill anything but mice. Since mice are pests,
isn't my cat doing a service?
A. Cats do
kill mice, but not just the House Mouse, an exotic pest
species. They kill native small mammals which are
important sources of food for native predators such as
hawks, owls, and bobcats. Cats also kill small mammals
which are in danger of becoming extinct. In some parts
of the country, domestic cats may be so numerous that
they compete with native predators for food. In
addition, a recent study in Wichita, Kansas found that
cats, whose owners believed their cats never killed
birds, actually did have the remains of birds in their
cats control rats, mice, and other nuisance critters?
A. A study
of stray cats in the city of Baltimore, Maryland showed
that the cats did not prey on rats over 6 ounces. In
fact, cats were seen eating side by side with rats at
garbage dumps. There are other studies that show Black
or Norway Rats are a very small part of a cat's diet.
House Mice, another exotic pest species, can live in
small spaces, such as walls or attics, where cats cannot
follow, so cats do not do a good job of eliminating
these rodents either. In fact, food that is left out for
cats can attract and support rodent populations.
On Cat Behavior
Q. What if
my outdoor cats spray inside?
sure your cats are spayed or neutered before moving them
indoors, and train them to use a litter box. This can be
done by first using soil in the litter box and gradually
replacing it with cat litter. Keep the litter box clean
by scooping it daily and changing the litter regularly.
Even so, a small percentage of cats will continue to
spray when moved inside. Consult your veterinarian or
animal behaviorist for advice on how to diminish this
behavior. A long-range water pistol or shaking a can
filled half-way with pennies are harmless ways to curb a
cat from undesirable behaviors, including spraying
afraid my outdoor cat would cause damage to my
furniture, carpets and drapes if I kept her inside.
Should I have her declawed?
Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) opposes
declawing as a painful and unnecessary operation that
removes the first digit of a cat's toes. Instead, The
HSUS recommends trimming a cat's claws every one to two
weeks and training cats to scratch in designated places
such as cat scratching posts. Products are available to
discourage your cat from scratching on furniture, such
Plastic caps are also available which fit over the cats'
claws and last four to six weeks before needing to be
replaced. For more information, see
On Stray and Feral
Q. I can't
take my cat with me when I move. What should I do with
A. Do not
abandon your cat. Abandoning cats is illegal and cruel
to the cats and local wildlife. If you cannot find a
good home for your cat either through family or friends
or by advertising in the local papers, then take your
cat to a local shelter where he stands the best chance
of finding a good home. See the on-line
Directory to locate a shelter near you.
should I do about the stray cats who show up on my
A. Do not
feed stray cats without an intent to adopt and keep them
inside. Feeding stray cats without making a commitment
to giving or finding a permanent home is not fair to the
cats, local wildlife, or your neighbors. Feeding cats
allows them to breed and their populations can quickly
get out of control. These cats suffer short, miserable
lives, and can cause flea infestations and transmit
serious diseases to humans. They can also impact
populations of native wildlife. If you can't adopt the
cats or find them homes, call your animal control
officer or humane society who can safely and humanely
having the cats trapped and taken to a shelter, aren't
you just killing them? Isn't this inhumane?
A. It is
inhumane to leave the cats to overpopulate and to suffer
and die a slow, painful death from injury, disease,
getting hit by cars, starvation, attacks from other
animals, poisoning, and severe weather.
Q. Is it
safe to approach stray animals?
Stray animals can be aggressive and can transmit serious
diseases to humans, such as cat-scratch disease, plague,
or rabies. Avoid contact with stray animals and call
your local animal control officer who can safely and
humanely remove the animal.