Keeping Cats Healthy and Happy Indoors

KEEPING CATS HEALTHY AND HAPPY INDOORS Prepared in collaboration with Joan Hargrave.

1) Free-roaming cats are needlessly killed and exposed to harm by many outdoor dangers. Cats kept indoors live better and longer lives than cats allowed to roam outdoors. The average life span of a cat is dramatically shorter for those that roam freely — by as much as 10-12 years. Free-roaming cats are vulnerable to many dangers, such as: • Cars and trucks (Millions of cats are killed by vehicles each year.) • Attacks from other animals, including other cats, dogs, racoons, coyotes, foxes and raptors • Human cruelty, including traps, poisons and being abducted and used as bait for dog fighting or other forms of animal abuse • Disease exposure, including parasites, worms, ticks, fleas, feline leukemia, distemper, and feline immunodeficiency virus Free-roaming cats can also spread disease—to other cats, wildlife and people (such as toxoplasmosis).

2) Free-roaming cats devastate wildlife. Every cat outdoors plays a part in harming Nature. The American Bird Conservancy states that “Predation by domestic cats is the number-one direct, human-caused threat to birds in the United States and Canada. In the United States alone, outdoor cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds every year. Although this number may seem unbelievable, it represents the combined impact of tens of millions of outdoor cats.” When allowed to roam, cats kill three times more wild birds than buildings, power lines and wind turbines combined. Every year, domesticated cats also kills billions of mammals (such as mice, shrews, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and voles) that are important to our environment and ecological function in our communities.

3) Free-roaming cats are a nuisance to neighbors, in violation of Minneapolis ordinance. According to Minneapolis Animal Care and Control: “Pets may not be left unattended in any public space. While some cat owners allow their domesticated cats outdoors, measures must be taken to ensure the cat does not create a nuisance and that the cat has adequate care and shelter.” Free-roaming domesticated cats are a nuisance because not only do they decimate wildlife that many people want to see in their yards, they are likely to stress cats inside who see the roaming cats but are unable to “defend” their territory, and this stress can cause medical problems and expenses.

Please keep cats indoors to keep them safe, protect our environment, and respect your neighbors! Cats kept indoors can be healthier and happier than free-roaming cats. Experts agree that domesticated cats live longer and healthier lives when they are not allowed to roam outdoors. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s standing policy is that pet cats be kept indoors. Their policy states that “keeping owned cats confined, such as housing them in an enriched indoor environment, in an outdoor enclosure, or exercising leash-acclimated cats, can minimize the risks to the cats, wildlife, humans, and the environment”.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the American Bird Conservancy urge people to keep cats inside, rather than subject their cats to the dangers and risks of disease outdoors and allow their cats to harm wildlife. It’s a myth that going outside is required for feline happiness. Indoor-outdoor cats can bring home diseases including rabies, plague, tuberculosis and toxoplasmosis, putting family members at risk. Tips to keep your cat happy indoors • Start them young; kittens kept indoors are usually happy to stay indoors as they grow up. • Play with your cat each day; use toys that allow your cat to stalk, chase, pounce and kick. Create a designated routine play time with interactive, wand-style toys that feature a natural prey item, such as a bird, bug or mouse.
• Veterinarian and doctor of animal behavior science Michael W. Fox urges people to keep two cats such as littermates since they generally enjoy a better quality of life and physical and emotional health adapting well to indoor-life than those cats who have no contact with their own kind in the home. Visit for details about introducing a second cat. • Install a perch indoors near a window. • Provide enclosures such as ‘catios’ for your cat to experience the outdoors safely. • Use a harness, leash or stroller for safe and stimulating walks in quiet outdoor areas. • Plant wheat grass in indoor pots for your cat to graze and a nip of catnip herb at night. • Provide your cat with fun hiding places, such as cardboard boxes and bags. To ensure that your cat stays active and maintains a healthy weight, provide them with places to climb, scratching posts, beds and toys (including toys stuffed with catnip).

• Cats can slip outdoors and get lost so microchipping cats can help rescuers return them to their homes.

Urban wildlife needs our help more than ever Cats allowed to roam are an invasive species that decimate birds and other wildlife, spread disease, and disrupt ecosystems. Scientists and researchers agree that bird populations are dramatically declining. In 2019, a scientific study by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology showed a staggering loss of birds across North America. “Common birds—the species that many people see every day—have suffered the greatest losses.” A recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune stated that we haven’t a moment to lose and we must get serious about preventing avoidable bird deaths. “If you do nothing else, please turn your outdoor cat into an indoor cat to save bird lives.”

Please keep cats indoors to keep them safe, protect urban wildlife, and respect your neighbors! For more information: