Keep Cats Indoors?
by Tina Kelley
Maybe it was the small tabby I saw curled up in an outside corner of
the library on a chilly day in January. Or the dead cat I found in my
driveway in February. Or the 23 threads you find on Maplewood Online
if you search “lost cat.”
But probably it is the soulful gaze and constant companionship of my
20-year-old cat, Moose, that has inspired me this morning. She sits on
my forearms when I’m blogging from home, keeping me cozy and only
once so far biting me when I typed too fast for her pleasure.
She is deaf as a child you need a favor from, so she shouts her meows
around the house, in order to hear herself. It’s a bit of distraction
while I’m on the phone with public officials, or when trying to
sleep, but I forgive her for it.
Aunt Moose, as she is known, is said to be 140 in people-years. And her
longevity is attributed to one thing: when I adopted her in Philadelphia,
five households and one husband ago, the ASPCA required that we keep
And though I suspect fur will fly when I say this, I am sympathetic to
those who argue that everyone should be required to keep their cats indoors.
According to Keep Cats Inside, Delaware already has a law that all domesticated
animals must be inside, or on a leash.
Why don’t Maplewood, Millburn and South Orange adopt similar rules?
Maybe cats that are already indoor/outdoor and can’t be convinced
to stay inside could be grandfathered in. But animal advocates make a
strong case that all newly obtained cats should stay on the house side
of the screen door, once and for all.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, free-range kitties
live less than three years on average, compared to five or six times
that for indoor cats. I can assure you my lifetime vet bills are cheaper
for this old geezer, even as she enters her third decade, than they would
be if we’d ever let her roam.
Cats kill millions of birds a year.
Once outside, they almost always lose when they come up against cars,
coyotes, dogs, poison, bad people, mean cats and starvation.
They swell the population of stray cats, which number in the hundreds
(thousands? millions?), as we’ve seen in Maplewood village recently.
Even if cat catchers had been available to come out on a weekend to rescue
the one I reported by the library, the Humane Society notes that “fewer
than 5 percentof ‘found’ cats taken in by animal shelters
are reunited with their families.”
Most get euthanized (cover your eyes, Moose).
The Humane Society even provides tips to keep your cat happy inside,
• Try different types of toys that recreate “fishing,” “chasing,” and “flying” prey.
• Leave “toys” such as paper bags and cardboard boxes out when
you are not home.
• Give your cat a feline friend—they can provide one another with
companionship and entertainment.
That would save another life, in the process. South Orange’s Jersey Animal
Coalition has 15 cats available right now, including Lani, a declawed gray kitty
rescued from the streets, where she could scarcely defend herself, and a white,
green-eyed, six-toed beauty named Hyacinth, for starters.
If there are any good arguments out there for letting a new-to-you cat outside,
I haven’t heard them.