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Indoor or Outdoor Cats?


We, at 7th Heaven, have long been proponents of keeping cats indoors. We thought we were a minority voice in the wilderness, our pleas largely going unheard, lost in the noise made by the more vocal advocates of ‘it’s natural for cats to be outdoors’. However, in America, amongst animal charities and welfare campaigners, promoting the ‘indoor only’ lifestyle for domestic cats is the mainstream, majority viewpoint. In fact, the old thinking of it being cruel to keep cats inside is considered outdated and erroneous.

In the United States virtually all animal re-homing centres insist that potential new owners must keep their newly acquired cat indoors. The reasons given are as valid in Northern Ireland as they are in America.

   1.A high percentage of cats will get killed on the road.     

   2.Outdoor cats are susceptible to catching illnesses such as FIV and Feline Leukaemia from other cats.

   3.Outdoor cats can get injuries from being attacked by other cats and dogs.

   4. Cats that that are outdoors a lot can get skin cancer on their nose and ears from over exposure to sunlight. 

   5.Humans will steal and injure outdoor cats.


The facts are simple and straightforward. An indoor cat will live between 3 and 5 times longer than a cat that goes out doors. On average, an outdoor cat will only live between 2 and 5 years whilst a house cat will live between 10 and 14 years, maybe even longer. Despite these statistics it is still an uphill struggle to convince the cat owning public to keep their feline friends indoors.


The two reasons quoted by so many people who are reluctant to keep their cats indoors are -

  1.It is natural for cats to be outdoors.

  2.It is cruel to keep a cat indoors.


However, on examination, neither of these reasons stand up to scrutiny.


It may have been natural for cats to be roaming outside many years ago prior to the building of sprawling road networks and the vast increase in the use of the car as a means of transport. Ambling about a meadow, or strolling leisurely through woodland is a lot different than negotiating a road with traffic roaring up and down it every minute of the day. And, contrary to popular belief, living in a cul-de-sac does not afford your cat any more protection from the dangers of traffic.


In a recent survey we carried out, most cats that got killed by cars died in cul-de-sac. They were run over whilst lying in drive ways or underneath cars when the motorist drove off or were hit when cars turned corners and the cats were standing on the road or walking out from behind parked cars. Putting it simply, if you live in an urban area and your cat is outdoors it is always in danger of being killed by traffic.


In addition to this, there is the ever present problem of humans who think nothing of stealing or killing cats or using them for dog fighting. Unfortunately this is a sickness in our society that doesn’t look like it is going to be cured anytime soon.


Then there is the possibility that your cat will get infected with F.I.V. or leukaemia by other cats roaming about the neighbourhood or will get injured in a fight. There is the additional problem of your cat being potentially poisoned by ingesting chemicals. As cats will eat grass on a regular basis, this a constant threat if the grass has been treated with pesticide.



As for being cruel to keep your cats indoors, is it not much more cruel to increase the risk of your pet dying by letting them out and potentially reducing their lifespan by three to five times what it would normally be if they were kept safe in your house?


Indoor cats can be kept happy and content in the house if you provide them with enough stimulation, time and love. If you are out at work all day why not get two or more cats and they can keep each other company. It is not cruel to keep cats indoors, it is just common sense.


It is odd that letting a dog roam is seen by most people as negligent but letting a cat do the same is viewed as natural. Neither of them have any road sense. We often use the analogy of a three year old child. Would you let your three-year-old walk, unsupervised, outside, near a road? Well your cat or dog has no more sense than a child when it comes to road safety so please keep them indoors.


If you still want to let your cat outside, there are new fence products on the market which can stop your cat escaping from your garden. You can either buy the fence in its entirety or adopt the fence you already have. Either way, it gives you peace of mind that your cat cannot escape and come to any harm.


Personally, I enjoy the feeling of coming home from work knowing my cats will be there to greet me, safe and sound, and when I go to bed they will be curling up to sleep in the sanctuary of their own room next to mine. And when I get up in the morning they will come rushing out to meet me all present and accounted for and ready for the day ahead. I don’t think I could bear the uncertainty of not knowing if my cats would come home each night, or if I was enjoying myself and somewhere, unknown to me, one of them were lying injured. I certainly couldn’t live with myself if one of my precious little cats got killed just because I decided to let them out. It just wouldn’t be worth it.


Below are cases that highlight the inherent dangers for outdoor cats 


Case 1. Poppy 


Poppy was a female feral cat. We received a call from a member of the public concerned that she was lying in their back garden unable to walk. After taking her to the vet, we discovered she was paralysed, after being shot with an air rifle. She was also pregnant. Luckily, after she still managed to give birth, after which she was able to walk again. The pellet was subsequently removed and she recovered fully.


Case 2. Violet


Violet was a stray, female cat. She was brought into us because her ear was bleeding and badly infected. After consulting the vet, it was found it had cancer of both ears due to over exposure to sunlight. The majority of both ears had to be removed.


Case 3. Chloe


Chloe was found lying in someone's garden, barley able to move. She was almost completely bald and was in a great deal of distress. It was obvious, though, that she wasn't feral and was once someone's cat. She presumably got lost or injured and was left unable to fend for itself. If it had been kept indoors, she would never have ended up in that appalling state.


Case 4. Bella


Bella was a tiny kitten that was found wandering near a road in Belfast City Centre. It was almost totally blind and deaf, due to the suspected side effcets of being recently vaccinated. If a passerby had not picked her up when she did, Bella would almost certainly have been killed on the road.


Case 5. Holly


Holly was a female tabby cat that was nearly killed when children tried to throw her of a motorway bridge. Luckily someone stopped them just in time.


Case 6. Molly


Molly was a young cat that had been hit by a car. She broke her pelvis and had to have cage rest for four weeks. She was one of the lucky one.Vast number of cats get killed on roads in the U.K. every year.


There has also been recent cases of cat cruelty on a larger scale. In East Belfast a lady has been known to steal cats from the street. She had, at one point 70 cats, 25 of which died of malnutrition and disease, because she starved them to death.


East Belfast

Another case in East Belfast (January 2014) which made the news concerned a family who trapped cats in the street. They then fed them to their dogs.

BBC News

Belfast Telegraph


Irish News


Unfortunately, animal cruelty is widespread in Northern Ireland. The only way you can guarantee your cat's safety is to keep them indoors.


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