Cats out of doors: On the emerging importance of outdoor enclosures for felines
After last week’s post on cats and cars, one of your comments reminded me of a great solution for cats who need some stimulating sunshiny living: outdoor enclosures.
Excited by the prospect of pushing this point, I Googled “outdoor cat enclosure: and was rewarded with a bounty of web pages devoted to feline-ready fencing and playpens designed to provide safe and responsible out-of-doors experiences for cats. I had no idea how widely this concept had been disseminated within the cat crowd. It seems I’m behind the times on this increasingly popular concept.
I’ve often decried the dangers of the outdoor cat lifestyle. You’ve heard me rail against those who would refute the evidence of feline predation on our wildlife species. I’ve blasted those against TNR for complaining without taking responsibility for their own outdoor cats. I’ve practically implored that you keep your cats indoors for their own safety.
And yet it’s true: Cats love to be outside.
The reality of outdoor dangers conflicts mightily with the natural state of the cat: moving naturally amid plants, jumping high onto branches, feeling the sunshine and breezes. It all makes for healthier living—until you factor in the risks:
- Dogs and other predators
- Inter-cat aggression
- Communicable diseases
- Inter-neighbor disputes
- Wildlife predation
- Skin cancer (especially in white cats)
- UV light-related corneal lesions
And the list goes on…(though these are the biggies that come to mind at the moment).
Yet the benefits to an outdoor life are not insubstantial:
- A lower risk of obesity and its related diseases (arthritis, diabetes, heart disease…)
- A greater opportunity to exhibit natural behaviors and the myriad psycho-social benefits that confers
- Fewer inappropriate elimination issues
- Less inter-cat aggression among household members
- Less litterbox cleaning (if any)
It’s obvious to me that the risks outweigh the benefits for most cats, but a lot of that depends on where you live. In our urban city centers it’s obvious our cats belong indoors. In rural areas their outdoor risks are minimized. In our fast-growing suburban areas and our increasingly suburbanized rural locales, however, the issue is not always so clear-cut.
A new highway nearby might well tip the scales for you, or a neighbor’s irresponsible management of his own burgeoning cat population. Whatever it may be, looking honestly at your cat’s risk and reward profile might well find you facing the prospect of an outdoor enclosure.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post in which I detail my favorite finds...