Letter to the Editor: Most cats perfectly happy indoors

Got Cats?
Like many Middlebury animal lovers, I’ve been following the recent Front Porch Forum discussion about indoor versus outdoor cats. There are well-meaning people on both sides of the issue who are sharing what they see as best meeting the needs of different kind of animals and we applaud that!
Homeward Bound advocates for almost every single domestic cat to be an indoor-only pet because indoor cats live longer, healthier, lives; do not get lost or go stray and add the population of cats that potentially end up in shelters or become feral. Nor do they contribute to predation on fragile wildlife populations. It is a win-win for people on both sides of the question!
We do not believe it is in “the nature of the cat” to need to be outdoors. It is in the nature of the cat to need visual stimulation and the chance to express their inherited hunting ability — both needs that can be met by strategically placed window perches, cat trees, interactive wand toys, and owners willing to spend time actually playing with their cats — not to mention all the products on the market such Caticos, kitty videos and more.
At any given time, there is a cat or two at Homeward Bound whose activity level, predatory playfulness, and resistance to being held and handled by people leads us to recommend an indoor/outdoor home. These cats are simply too physical to be contained in four walls and they do not seek out human contact. These cats are always the exception.
In all the discussion of indoor versus outdoor cats, I noted that there was not much Front Porch Forum consideration of a particular category of cat — the feral cat. Just as feral cats live in a no-man’s land between friendly house cats and wild animals, I believe they also deserve special consideration in the question of indoor versus outdoor. Feral cats are cats that have successfully adapted to life outdoors on their own by using their predatory instincts and wariness of humans to their advantage. In general, they survive being abandoned by people or getting lost by reverting to living like a wild animal and we believe they deserve the chance to live out their lives as much as any wild animal does, avian or otherwise. Yes, they are cats, but they are not pets and to seek to change their way of life by turning them into a shelter or to treat them as nuisance animals does not seem to me very different from seeking the destruction of hawks, or foxes or other medium-sized carnivores that might haunt the birdfeeder.
So when we discuss whether cats should be indoor or outdoor animals, let’s be fair and distinguish between our leg-rubbing, head-butting pets and those shadowy felines who survive on their wits and the kindness of strangers who feed them and get them fixed through local trap-neuter-return programs.
Trap-Neuter-Return programs are also helpful in reducing predation by ferals as they promote responsible management of colonies, which included regular feeding and sheltering. The ear-tipped (universal sign of a feral cat having been sterilized and rabies vaccinated) feral may hunt for fun, but he shouldn’t hunt for hunger and this can only help.
Jessica Danyow, Executive Director
Homeward Bound, Addison County’s Humane Society

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