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If You Love Your Cat, Keep Her Inside

The following post was originally posted on PETA Prime by Paula Moore.

  I recently read a heartbreaking story about a cat named Hadley who had been deliberately set on fire. Hadley suffered painful third-degree burns on his face, ears, neck, back and legs. A photo in a Michigan newspaper shows Hadley’s blackened ears, which vets say will probably fall off because they are so badly burned.

The orange-and-white tabby is also missing half his whiskers, and much of his fur will likely never grow back. After the attack, Hadley’s distraught guardians found him crouched in fear outside their home. Bad things happen to cats who are left to wander outside on their own.

While many people mistakenly believe that their cats “need” to go outside to be happy, if you want your feline friend to live a long, healthy life, the best thing you can do is keep her safely inside with you. What happened to Hadley is far from an isolated incident. Random acts of cruelty are common, and the more than 300 new cruelty cases that PETA hears about every week mostly involve animals who were victimized after they were left outside unattended.

In June, cat guardians in two suburban Florida neighborhoods were shocked when their beloved companions began turning up dead and mutilated. Many of the cats had been gutted and skinned. Some were missing limbs. At least 19 cats were killed before police charged a local teen with the crimes. Outside cats have been beaten, kicked, hanged and shot with arrows. Some are stolen and sold for use in hideous animal experiments. Others are used as bait in dogfighting.

Even if your kitty never encounters a person with cruel intentions, there are plenty of other outdoor dangers. Cats left outside may be hit by cars, poisoned by antifreeze or pesticides from neighbors’ lawns or attacked by a dog or wild animal. Last year, I adopted a 5-year-old former stray from a local Siamese cat rescue group. When Mochi was first picked up by local animal control officers, he had a nasty wound on one of his back legs that had most likely come from a dog attack. To this day, Mochi’s leg gives him trouble, and he sometimes stumbles when he tries to run or jump.

Cats allowed to roam outdoors are also much more likely to contract devastating diseases such as feline leukemia, feline AIDS (FIV) and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Or they become infected with tapeworms, Giardia and other parasites. Mochi had roundworms when I adopted him – which I discovered when he unceremoniously deposited one on my bedroom rug. Trust me, you don’t want to see your cat hacking up a still-wiggling, 3-inch-long worm.

I do understand why some cat guardians are tempted to let their cats go outside. Mochi has lived with me for more than a year now, and he still occasionally sits in front of the door and howls – in that special way that only Siamese cats can – hoping to be let out. But I simply remind him that there is no dinner bowl outside (when animal control found him, he was little more than skin and bones) and distract him with the Cat Charmer or a toy mouse. He soon forgets all about going out.

By setting aside daily “kitty quality time” to play with your cat and providing lots of diversions – including access to windows, perches, catnip gardens, scratching posts and tons of toys – you can keep your cat purrfectly content in your home. So, please, if you care about your kitty, help him or her live to a ripe old age in the safety and security of the great indoors. And if you ever are tempted to let your cat go outside unsupervised, just think of poor Hadley and his burned ears.

Today’s concrete jungles are simply no place for our feline friends.

Commenting is closed.
  • Lizzie Smyth says:

    I can’t believe this article, much less the person who commented that they wish it was made illegal to let cats outside. I understand the worries about cats being abused by sick people, or hit by traffic, but I think to force a cat to be an indoor cat (I accept some cats naturally prefer to be indoors) forever and a day sounds incredibly cruel to me. Currently, my kittens are too young to be spayed/neutered and they’re driving me insane asking to be let outside. It’s bad enough this two month wait we have, but a lifetime of this? I’ve lost cats that weren’t road smart, and it hurt enormously, but I’d still prefer my cat have a short fulfilled life than a long boring trapped indoors forever life. I’m shocked that there is such strength of feeling against letting cats be cats to enjoy and explore the great outdoors. Concrete indoors just can’t compete with the smells, sounds and variety of the being out in the fresh air, and sunshine.

  • Pat Lemmons says:

    Some of the other commenters have the right idea. It is possible to give your cat(s) the outdoor experience without subjecting them to the dangers they would face on their own.

    We have five indoor cats who have a pet door into a two room covered kennel in our back yard. It is constructed by joining two chain link dog kennels and covering it with a pitched roof to shed rain. The ends of the roof are covered with a plastic mesh to prevent their escape. The floor is cypress mulch, which we refresh every few months.

    We took tree limb cuttings and placed them inside for trees to climb and I constructed a cat cond from plastic milk crates I bought at The Container Store. Each crate has a “floor” made from vinyl tile or outdoor carpet.

    My cats have the best of both worlds. We even have two birdhouses, four bird feeders and a bird bath, in the backyard, for them to watch everyday.

    I must also admit I have a feral cat I have been feeding for about two years. When I was able to get close enough to him, we had him neutered and got his shots. He now lives on our back deck. We sit with him every morning and every evening. I will probably attempt to bring him in when winter gets here.

    If that wasn’t enough, we have another one (Siamese)who comes for breakfast every morning but won’t let us pet him. Then we have other “neighborhood” cats who come by during the night for food.

    Our pet food bill and vet bills are quite high but we’ll keep all of our “babies”, thank you. We also have 2 dogs, a Shih Tzu & a Cairn Terrier. So, life is good!

  • Andrew says:

    This is not a black-and-white argument. While these are very heart-wrenching stories of what can happen to cats let outdoors, many prominent cat behaviorists and psychologists argue that cats trapped indoors are not living a quality life. They are hunters and explorers, something that most homes just don’t offer much of. Furthermore, studies show that indoor cats can suffer from diseases such as diabetes that result from too little activity and exercise.

    You can have cats that are indoors from birth, and they will still sit in the window and watch longingly outdoors. How would this be if it weren’t in their genes to be out there? And of course, if a cat were an outdoor cat to begin with, she knows too well how enjoyable it is out there.

    So, while I understand this protective urge we have (I’ve had two indoor-only cats), I’m not sure it’s a 100% case that pet cats should ALWAYS be indoors. It’s more rational to consider the totality of the situation — if I lived on a farm or in a rural area, then maybe I’d let the cat out, but in a busy urban environment I wouldn’t.

    Lastly, this article also unwittingly supports the misconception that cats are lone creatures. Humans too often think because cats are low-maintenance they can be left alone for long periods of time or need little interaction. In nature, cats live in colonies; so while they hunt alone (unlike dogs), they aren’t solitary creatures. Thus, a cat trapped indoors alone all day on a regular basis is not necessarily better off than one that’s let outside. Sure, he’s alive, but at what quality of life?

    So, this article would be more complete and accurate if it addressed the totality of a person’s situation — size of the cat’s indoor home, whether other cats are in that home, how often the human is home, how much activity and stimulation the cat(s) get, and what are the precise dangers outdoors.

    If you follow this article and keep your cat indoors, make sure she has plenty of stimulating toys and ways to climb (and change them around to keep interest), consider getting a companion cat, and be sure to keep her active (like chasing a laser-pointer toy or remote-control “mouse”).

  • Jessica Reid says:

    Yes, if you have cats, keep them inside, but, also, it’s important for us not to kill feral cats. They should be spay/neuter, giving shots and released. Eventually, the population will decrease without the need to kill the cats. I hope that PETA supports this important and humane approach to feral cats. I love my cats and they will always be indoor cats. If I come across a friendly stray, I will get him/her fixed and then try to find a family the kitty. If the cat is not friendly to people, I will take the kitty to alley cats or the vet to be fixed and given shots. Then, I will release him/her and continue to feed the cat through his/her life. It’s the humane way. Feral cats are like any other wild animal that lives in a city. Would we round up opposums or squirrels or raccoons and kill them? No. The same should go for feral cats.

    But, I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that domesticated cats should be kept indoors. I applaude you for that and hope your kitties live long lives filled with love and happy days.

  • Mara says:

    What would life be like to never be able to go outdoors. Would it be a sad if we did not do what we could for our pet companions to give them the benefit of sun, air, and the moist grass on a warm day to play in. We enclosed our backyard/patio for our small group of animals. Google cat fences to see what is out there and affordable. Give them a small piece of freedom in a safe environment.

  • Chris says:

    I have always had indoor/outdoor cats, even though they would occasionally get trapped in neighbors garage .. I, like many others, felt that was the way it should be. I never wanted a kitten, i have always rescued older cats .. but then along came Missy – a four week old ferile – who turned my life upside down. I tried to entertain her by taking her to my office, in the garden on a leash ..anything to keep her away from the road in front of my home. Her drama queen antics of throwing herself at the door won out, and so I gave in and let her out at night ..after all, cats need nature too! The morning I picked her lifeless body up off the road in front of my house, was the day I swore I would never give in again. I now have two one year old cats rescued from a kill shelter and another kitten, who i believe is from the same ferile mother that Missy came from. Does it break my heart not to let them out, absolutely …but until i am in a place that it is safe for them to run free … i will deal with their drama .. the alternative is the selfish way.

  • Cheryl says:

    This is an addendum to my recent message about the Invisible Fence…I am no longer considering this option. After researching it I see there is the potential for the shock to be painful, which is not acceptable. Also, predators/dogs/other cats can still come into our yard. I am now interested in constructing a fence, using The Affordable Cat Fence product. It’s an addition to a fence top that keeps cats from leaving and predators from entering. It looks like an excellent product but it requires that I build a fence – very expensive!! But I’m motivated by seeing that my kitties have (limited) access to the outdoors (like me) while being quite safe.

  • Cheryl says:

    I have a hard time with keeping cats indoors away from nature. We all need nature, as do our cats. I’m trying to find a way to let them outdoors during daytime hours ONLY when we are home (no dusk, dawn, night). Invisible Fence has my attention, as does fencing a part of the yard so they can’t get out. We’re tight on money now so specially-constructed fencing may be too expensive. Has anyone out there had any experience with Invisible Fence, or similar product?

  • chris says:

    Before our house burnt down and had to be rebuilt, my husband built a room with wire mesh onto the side of the house and put a kitty hole in the side garage door so the cats could go out for some fresh air when they wanted. He added various shelves for them to relax and because of the wire they could climb and it was sturdy enough that unlike screen, there was no way they could chew/claw out and nothing else could get in. The floor was dirt so they could do their business as well; we would just rake it out from time to time and add new dirt. People couldn’t believe we had 6 cats!

    We would love to do something similar in the near future when we can get the material together, that is if our neighbor doesn’t report us for not having a permit to build it. I don’t think it’s something the county would approve, but back then no one said anything.

  • Casey says:

    I think there should be a law stating that cats must be indoor pets.
    And if they’re found outdoors, the shelters will take them and charge an unimaginable fee to return them.
    If you let your cat roam the street, don’t blame the neighbors if their dog tears it up or if their kid shoots it with a pellet gun or ties a firecracker to it.
    Its your fault for being irresponsible, cats don’t NEED to be outside.
    Outdoor cats are responsible for excessive dog barking, dog deaths, spreading diseases, and car malfunctions.
    Be smart, keep your cats indoors.
    And if you don’t, then don’t blame others for their injuries or sicknesses, or even death.

  • Marci Hoag says:

    Great article!! I’m a Veterinary Technician at a feline only practice. We try to teach the dangers of “outdoors” to kitty owners regularly. We see so many preventable situations and our hearts break at the cruelties people inflict on the innocent. A big high five to PETA for being responsible and teaching, not preaching.
    And…Hadley lives in the same city that I do (just down the road). I’ve been following his case and making donations for his care. The public outcry was enormous! There are rescue groups here that really try to make a difference in the lives of animals. I am very humbled to be a part of this society and to know these people. Public awareness is definitely at the forefront of the agendas!! Thanks again, PETA…you do wonderful things!

  • Ju says:

    I really love cats and have 4, but they all go outside whenever they like. They’re animals, they like it outside, its unfair to keep them away from fresh air, climbing, running and hunting. I guess some people live in areas where there are dangers and I live in a small village in Cornwall, but then I would never move anywhere that wasn’t cat-safe. I’ve even lived in places I didn’t really want to just for the cat benefits. My cats love it indoors too and are free to lie on beds and chairs as much as they please, but I just cannot agree with an article which tells people to keep indoor cats. I’m not saying they can’t be happy indoors, it just doesn’t feel right to me. I think if that’s how you feel and really do love cats, don’t get one.

  • Tempest Phebus says:

    Thanks for posting how he’s doing now Mylie!! That poor baby, I hope he will find/has found a good home. My Onni Monster has a nice size puncher wound on his shoulder, I think he got into the crawlspace and hit a nail, I broke down crying over a little bit of puss and missing skin, I couldn’t imagine going through that. I went through something like what Carrie went through, except Mama had gotten out while we were out for the day and the babies had dehydrated, and when we tried to get them to drink kitten formula, it was just too late, and they went one by one. Oh it was he most horrible experience ever. My big cat just passed away because he had Lyme disease and by the time we realized it…it was too late. Since then we’ve adopted a few more(as in four, which totals to six) cats. Three are indoor/out door but MUST come in at night. I’ve found our 12 year old in a neighbors trash one evening. Not again I will say.

  • Jess says:

    Until I was about 8, we had about 5 different cats, all at different times, which lived outside. Each one of them met an untimely end, with Buddy, the last one being baited by cruel, awful neighbours who did it for no other reason than pure evil. After the death of Buddy, I was devestated, and my parents weren’t sure whether getting another cat was such a good idea. But along came Vester, and from the day we brought him home he has lived inside. He is now 12, going on 13, and he is one of the happiest, most spoiled cats you will ever find. He has no desire to go outside, and his paws are perfect pink from never being exposed to rough ground. Vester still lives with Dad, and I have my own cat, Fred. He is also an indoor cat, and he has a perfect life too. It is great to know that he can live a happy, long life with no risk of being injured or harmed by anyone or anything. I agree completely that cat’s should be kept indoors, as it seems to be a lifestyle they enjoy, and they live for a great deal longer than outdoor cats as they are not exposed to any danger. Keep up the excellent work PETA.!

  • Carrie says:

    I have four cats and they like it outside lots. So at nights I try to get them all in and let them sleep in my room so they will enjoy it indoors more.
    There are lots of dangers like a previous cat of mine named Misty got chased by a German Shepard dog and the only reason it lost the dog is through an overcrowded plant patch. He also through going outdoors caught FIV and had to be put down. But if you spay your cat the urge to go near females will decrease which will mean your cat has a less likely chance of contracting a disease from another cat.
    One cat of mine previously named sooty went out a few hours before a storm, it was raining like mad, the weather was atrocious and sooty never came back to us so he probably got lost or died, so my advice is to keep animals indoors during bad weather.
    Also try to stop your animal fighting with other animals it can make them more wary going too close to another animal which could save their life.
    My cat Beauty, who i currently have, had 4 kittens but they dies of poisoning because of flee liquid. Always double check with companies what they mean because it said on the one we used that it could have been used on pregnant cat and these kittens were born and drinking her milk and the flee stuff got absorbed into the milk and poisoned them. But if the cat was pregnant it would have still absorbed and killed the kittens inside of her. So not all flee stuff is reliable, now i stick to Spot on as their the recommended products by the vet.

  • Lisa says:

    I keep all three of my cats indoors always! A safe cat is an indoor cat!!! I live them sooooo much 2 are going on 8 1 is 3 all found as babies. one I had to bottle feed.

  • Colleen Ouimet says:

    I have 10 cats, mostly strays, all in my home. We fenced in our back yard, then put chicken wire on the bottoms and corners to seal the openings. The only time my cats go outside is if I am with them. Two have climbed the fence (and I caught them), but the rest are happy to play inside and mostly just like to eat grass so they can come back inside and toss it up again. They are happy inside and don’t need to be out. I also take care of ferals and just pray for them being outside. If anyone feeds cats outside in winter, and has problems keeping water thawed with no electricity available, please contact me at [email protected]. Thanks.

  • Louise says:

    Greetings! Thank you kindly for writing this very important article. I appreciate the other warnings from readers as well. A tip if you’d like your cats to enjoy some of the great outdoors, safely 🙂 I have 3 furkids who I adore and the youngest, Tayton, was a bit feral when I adopted him and was longing to be outside. I had the idea of putting in a pet door where the basement window is then build a yard with vinyl fencing. Well lo’ and behold with my boyfriend’s help and support, we created a 25 foot long 4wx4high kitty run in one day! Tayton became a different kitty after that. So happy! My middle guy, Shai, loves it as well – rain or shine. I love watching them chasing leaves and bugs. rolling in the straw,or sleeping on the platform we attached to one of the tree trunks. My oldest gal, Lilly, is not much into it but what’s great is, she can go out and be safe if she wants. I highly recommend it! My cats are safe from predators and they in turn can’t hurt any of the wildlife.

  • Kevin Talbot says:

    Hey great advice, also warn people about paper shredders, a dog here in NY had to be put to sleep as he licked the top of a shredder and caught his tongue,please keep out of reach and unplug when not in use

  • Bettie says:

    Excellent words of advise. I wish I could share this with friends on Facebook.

  • Petra says:

    I agree with this article. My 14 year old kitty was stuck in my neighbour’s garage for 4 whole weeks and it was a miracle that she survived as she didn’t get to eat for 4 weeks… Her only luck was that she was a huuuge, fat kitty so she could use up her body fat to survive… She came back so skinny I almost didn’t recognize her!! Now I know that if I’ll ever have another cat after her, I will never let that kitty out, or at least not alone. My sister’s cat can only go out with a guardian lol. Her kitty often goes on a walk on a leash with her… it’s so cute! and she loves it.

  • Mylie says:

    Hi Trina. This is the latest update we have heard on Hadley:

  • trina macdonald says:

    Also, does anyone know how Hadley is doing?? I know this incident took place almost 3 months ago, and I am wondering how he is doing and if he is any better, and if he is becoming a happy cat again?

  • trina macdonald says:

    I have lots of cats…2 indoor, 1 that is indoor / outdoor, and some outdoor cats which are actually strays, but we feed them and now they live on our property in the country. Bringing the strays indoors would be next to impossible, most of them you cant even pet because they are wary of humans, and the ones you can pet, will NOT let you pick them up. But Lizzy was always an indoor / outdoor cat, and now she is 9 years old, and when she is outside does not go much further than the yard. Whiskers and Meowch are my 2 indoor cats. Meowch was outside only a couple of times as a kitten before I owned him, and Whiskers was almost always outdoors in the city where I got him, I believe he belonged to someone, but was very hungry and skinny, and so we took him in. We were told by people in the neighbourhood that he was a stray, but I came to realize over time that he may have belonged to someone. Both of them will sit at the window wanting to go outside, and when they see the outdoor cats, especially when they smell the females, they look at me like, why cant we go out there too. I feel bad that they look sad about not being outside, but I tell them that they are lucky to have a home to sleep in, food and treats when they want. I remind whiskers that winter is coming and he would not want to be out there again like he was in the past. I know I am doing the right thing with them keeping them inside, and I know somewhere in their hearts they know that too.