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Why you should keep your cats indoors.

Why 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 her inside.

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, like:

• 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.

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