Keep Your Cat Inside And Alive

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The cat, as we know it today, developed about 12 million years ago. Cats have had a long association with man, dating back from 3000 to 7000 B.C. In the last 10 years, the pet cat population has grown from about 38 million to 54.6 million -- an increase of 43 percent. Cats are now more numerous than dogs as pets!

Indoor cats are quiet, will amuse themselves when alone, will get adequate exercise indoors if provided with toys and climbing areas, can be litterbox trained, and are able to adjust to an owner's schedule.

Indoor cats are healthier, happier, and live longer lives than those allowed to roam. They enjoy a close relationship with their owners. In the 1970's, the average indoor cat's life span was 10 years; it is now almost 15 years, with many living into their 20's.

Outdoor cats struggle to survive against the weather, accidents, disease, parasites, poisons, abuse, fights with other cats and animals, theft, and live-trapping & subsequent loss if not claimed from a shelter. Left outside, they suffer from thirst, hunger, frostbite, freezing, and road salt which can cause their paws to crack and bleed. Outside cats have an average life expectancy of only three years!

Vehicles are the #1 killer of free-roaming cats. In any one year in Utah, from 7-10 thousand dead cats are removed from our roadways. During cold weather, cats may climb into engine spaces to get out of the cold and when the vehicle is started, the cat may become caught in the fan or in belts and pulleys and become injured or die.

When a cat comes in contact with wildlife, it may carry the plague bacillus or rabies virus home to its owner. Rabies is now more prevalent in cats than in dogs. Only about 4 percent of cats receive rabies vaccinations, compared to 60 percent of dogs!

Some dogs chase, injure, or kill cats. It is common for cats to climb into trees or onto power poles to escape -- some refuse to leave. In one year alone, HSU responded to eight such cats which had been in this situation for three days or longer.

The saying, "curiosity killed the cat" becomes reality when they are trapped in small and inviting spaces. In the last year, HSU has removed cats from inside furnace and heating ducts, junked drum fan air conditioners, chimneys, sunken gardens, vacant homes, attics, and from between retaining walls.

Some of the diseases free-roaming cats are exposed to include: feline leukemia (FeLV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), feline panleukopenia (FPL or cat distemper), feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), calicivirus, feline immunodeficiency virus (VIV), as well as infectious respiratory diseases.

They are also exposed to internal parasites, including: roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, heartworms, flukes, toxoplasmosis, coccidia, and giardia. External parasites and skin problems may include: fleas, mites, lice, ticks, and ringworm (a fungal infection.)

Possible poison sources include hundreds of gardening chemicals, fertilizers, and pest baits, as well as antifreeze and other chemicals readily found in yards, garages, and sheds frequented by outside cats. There are also many plants and shrubs poisonous to cats.

Cat fights result in bites, scratches, and abscesses which range from mere irritation to life-threatening conditions. The cost and human involvement to treat these injuries can be staggering.

Loose cats are the source of many neighbor complaints ranging from dug-up gardens and feces in sandboxes to destruction of wild birds at home feeders and damage to vehicles. Cats can cause loss of life to area wildlife, as well as domestic animals, such as pheasants, pigeons, and rabbits.

Neighbors complain about odors from urine sprayed to mark territory, spilling of garbage containers, noise from night-time 'caterwauling', and the possibility of vehicle accidents from stopping or swerving to avoid animals in the road.

Loose cats, unless surgically sterilized, become involved in the single largest cause of death for our cats and dogs -- overpopulation and subsequent destruction due to unwanted breeding.

In addition, every area has residents that dislike or are afraid of cats -- probably due to lack of understanding of their habits and traits and the cat's refusal to bow to man's every command. This results in some of the most vicious abuse the Society investigates, including: use as bait for big game hounds, beating, poisoning, shooting, trapping, hanging, burning, fireworks, etc.

There has even been a recent trend in 'humor' at the cat' expense as demonstrated by 'toys' such as Earl the Dead Cat and the Krushed Kitty, bumper stickers such as "I Love Cats -- Dead Ones" and books like 101 Uses For A Dead Cat.

It is frequently argued that a cat 'wants' to roam loose, however, humane cat owners can no longer allow this. As we would restrict a young child to its home or close supervision, we have the same moral obligation to provide similar protection for our cats.

Alternatives include: surgical sterilization to reduce the urge to mate and fight, leash or harness training, construction of catteries to provide safe home confinement, and installation of 2-door entries which limit the cat's opportunities to slip outside.

Today's cats deserve protection from the dangers posed by outdoor living. A truly humane owner will take the necessary steps to insure that their cat(s) has a safe and clean home environment with stimulating toys and climbing areas to provide exercise and fulfillment of the cat's need to explore. With proper diet, regular veterinary care, and humane companionship, there is no reason why an indoor cat can't live out a long life in safety and comfort.

The following are excerpts from a letter delivered to the home of a Salt Lake Valley cat owner from an area resident:

"What kind of neighbor are you? Think about it... Do you know, or even care, that you and your lack of control of your animals is creating misery for your neighbors?

I for one am sick of it. I can't even leave a door open to bring in groceries; your cats come in my house, and I am allergic to cats. They go in my garage, have gotten sick on my porch, they have run across fresh poured cement that had to be refinished, they have dug up flowers and seeds to go in my flower beds, and the children no longer have a sand box because they couldn't even play in it.

... My flower beds and yard and garage are NOT your cats' cat box but they smell like it. We have been awakened at 2, 3, or 4 A.M. more than once, with your cats crying, screaming and fighting outside our windows.

I have called animal control, and they suggest a cat trap, that they will provide. I DO have the right to trap your pets and get rid of them. But it may be cheaper to shoot or poison them."