The long debate of indoor vs. outdoor cats has been going on for decades!

In past years, the most common cause of cats losing their lives in their new homes is largely due to them being allowed to roam outdoors without supervision. We look at the many reasons why you should keep your cats indoors and why we recommend this for any cat owner.

We take the time to grow our babies and it takes a lot of commitment and work on our part to ensure you get a healthy, well socialised, potty trained and properly stimulated kitten. When we learn of our kittens passing away in their new homes because of the sheer negligence of allowing them outdoors, it is heartbreaking for us! For you it may be one cat you lose but for a breeder, year in and year out, we go through the heartache multiple times of hearing that one of our kittens has been run over, bitten by a snake, fallen off a balcony, contracted FELV from neighbouring cats, been stolen, attacked by dogs, the list goes on!

IGNORANCE

“We have always had cats that went outside and nothing ever happened to them.”
“Our cats only go outside to use the toilet and then come straight home.”
“Our cats never leave our garden anyway.”
“Our cats are homebodies and rarely leave the house.”
“Our cats have a routine and returnĀ  home for their dinner every night.”

UNTIL THEY DON’T. These are common comments we get from owners. These are not appropriate justifications for allowing this. It is important to protect your cat from the dangers outside of your home as much as it is important to protect them from indoor dangers such as chemicals, wires, poisonous plants, etc.

Your Kioko kitten is litter trained and should not be using the toilet outside in the garden unless it is in an enclosure. It should be using a clean and appropriately sized litter box. If you do not like a litter box in your home, then don’t get a cat.

If it never happened to you before, there is no guarantee it won’t happen. Your cat will at some point be enticed to leave your garden. They are curious, willful and once allowed to broaden their territory they may very well decide the neighbours have better food or that bird they have been eyeying for months is just within reach outside the boundary of your property. Even if your cat is a homebody, at some stage the outdoors become too much of an adventure to them to pass up.

Routine means nothing if your cat catches diseases from fighting or interacting with other cats in the area, tries to catch a venomous snake and comes off second best, or decides the neighbours’ dogs would be great friends to toy with.

STIMULATION

“My cat gets destructive and wrecks my furniture if left indoors.”
“My cat is getting fat.”
“My cat climbs my curtains for fun!”
“My cat leaves hair all over my house.”
“We are allergic to the cat.”
“The cat is bored and needs adventure. It’s natural.”

Other comments we often get. If your cat is destructive and scratching your furniture it most likely does not have enough stimulation from its indoor environment. Adding more scratchers, towers, the occasional box, rotating toys or merely playing with your cat regularly will provide ample stimulation, exercise and keep them happy. A good diet formulated for indoor cats and cats prone to putting on weight is important to ensure they are healthy. We recommend Hill’s Perfect Weight and Sterilised Cat.

PRO TIP: If your cat is scratching your couch or chewing wires, use a few drops citrus oil in a spray bottle with water and spray it regularly in the areas you want your cat to avoid.

If your cat is climbing your curtains… well, what did you expect? They are cats! Provide them with cat-friendly climbing opportunities in their own dedicated area and spray them with valerian or catnip. Avoid fabrics that will tear or run easily like voil and organza.

If your cat is a big shedder, bath and groom her more often to prevent her from leaving her hair on your furniture. This is par for the course and all breeds go through shedding stages so prepare for it. Get hair removing tools for your home and feed a good diet to keep her coat healthy! Vacuum regularly and avoid dark colours if you have cats with lighter fur.

If you are allergic to the cat, speak to the breeder about your options. Allergies are manageable and if you prefer not to return your kitty as it is part of the family, you need to make a plan to medically manage your own allergies. We cannot guarantee that you will not develop an allergy to your cat, but grooming and bathing them regularly will prevent flare ups.

If the cat is bored and you think they need adventure then create some! New toys, happy oils like Valerian and Frankincense, catnip fix, rolled up receipts, teasers, laser pointers, cardboard boxes with cut outs. The list is endless. You can inexpensively create a lot of opportunities to ensure your cat is not bored. With high energy breeds, you should have already been prepared for this responsibility.

Cats spent centuries evolving and domesticating themselves to be closer to their humans – to get inside for warmth, food and companionship. They won’t have the taste for a broader territory unless you offer it to them.

HEALTH

Our guarantee is void if a cat is allowed to roam outside. It is so important that you understand the MAIN reason for this. Their health.

A cat can come into contact with many many things that you cannot control in the big outdoors! Feral populations are increasing in some areas and with that comes the increase of the spread of disease. You may not think you have a colony near you but they are there and their territories are vast. Coming into contact with other animals and feral colonies can put your cat at risk for contracting diseases.

1. Feline Leukemia and Feline Aids – contracted through fighting or bodily fluids usually. Both of these diseases are fatal. There is a feline leukemia vaccination but it is not recommended by us and it is not 100% full proof.

2. Parasites – ticks, fleas, giardia, mycoplasma, worms – these are rampant with the current climate in SA, especially with the rise of protozoal parasites due to poor water quality from the drought. Although easy to control in your home, not so easy to control outdoors and infestations can lead to death.

3. Other viruses and diseases – In South Africa we have a lot of breakouts regularly due to our climate and the lack of disease control among owners. Kennel Cough is a big one (also known as Bordatella) and can be transferred between dogs and cats. If there is an outbreak in your area, it is airborne and your cat is likely to contract it – if left untreated can lead to pneumonia. Rabies is a huge issue in South Africa, in particular KwaZulu Natal. Your boosters, rabies and bordatella vaccines can be given annually, but there is no guarantee your cat will still not be exposed. Pan Leukopenia (Distemper) is a fatal disease often carried by ferals. There are so many viruses and diseases that your cat could be exposed to and potentially not survive.

4. Dogs and other animals. It is common to see dogs roaming around and often they work in packs if they have the opportunity to leave their properties – a wondering cat is an opportunity for instinct to kick in. Hawks, and other wild species are a threat to your cat as they are the lowest on the predatory food chain – especially with being bred for and socialised for indoor family life. They are prolific predators when it comes to birds and rodents but are also preyed upon by a lot of other animals. Snakes are a huge problem in some areas and those that are venomous will fight back! We heard of a case last year of two black mambas consuming a litter of kittens… Allowing your cat to go outdoors puts it at risk for being attacked by your neighbours’ animals, wild animals and other cats protecting their territories which can lead to disease, injury or death! We have also heard of monkeys stealing kittens and killing them!

5. Cars are a huge issue. Cats allowed outside will often visit neighbouring public areas, parking lots, wander into the road or even climb onto a visitor’s tyre or sit under a car for some shade. We once had a cat that had climbed into the back window of a visitor’s vehicle and he drove off with her, only to realise later. It is so important that you restrict their access as there are many cases where cats die of heat stroke from being trapped in a vehicle or are run over accidentally.

6. Dog fighting syndicates and pet thieves are common in South Africa and their modus operandi is to find easy targets. Friendly, socialised cats will in most cases, be quite unafraid of strangers and do anything for a treat or a cuddle. If they are visible from the road, they can easily be stolen for resale or to be used as bait in dog fighting. Do not take this chance! It happens more often than you realise.

7. I have had a few owners that insist that because they live in a complex or an estate that it is secure and the cat will be safe if left to go outside. The problem with this is you cannot control how the cat will react to wildlife in the estate (will it become a nuisance to birdlife and your neighbours?) and you cannot control if your neighbours’ animals are vaccinated or healthy or even friendly towards other animals. We know of cats that were poisoned by their neighbours because they roamed around their property! Vocal breeds can be a nuisance to a quiet neighbourhood too.

8. Balconies, veranders, apartments are all a risk to your cat falling and being injured or worse! A few years ago, we had an owner once whose cats were allowed to relax on their apartment balcony, and after an incident of them both falling down 3 stories, and breaking their legs, they learned their lesson! Fixing a cat’s broken leg requires a vet who is experienced and qualified with orthopedics and the costs of these operations and recovery processes are exorbitant! Notably these cats eventually caught FELV from cats in the area because they were also allowed to roam around in their complex. A heartbreaking experience for all involved…

9. Some breeds and lighter coloured cats are sun worshippers – cats are heat seekers by nature. Exposing your cat to hours of direct sun can cause skin cancers and other issues that are detrimental to your cats’ health.

SOLUTIONS

There are ways to ensure your cat is stimulated, healthy and still gets some fresh air and exercise. We have covered a few solutions above, but it also need not be a huge expense to consider enclosures. Outdoor enclosures are used worldwide by cat owners to not only protect their cats but allow them space outdoors to do cat things and to prevent access to wildlife. Putting your litter boxes outside in an enclosure is a great way to avoid the smells in your home and you can reduce the amount of litter boxes indoors.

Enclosures can be free-standing, have tunnels or attached to your home. There are endless different types and this will all depend on your space concerns and the structure of your property. We have a huge paved area in the back of our home with an awning, so we have enclosed it with wire mesh and wooden beams to ensure the cats have a lovely area to play in during the day that is secure! It looks tasteful and blends with our building in a non-garish way. We also have a smaller steel structure that is attached to our cats’ “bedroom” where they can go out at night and lounge in the hammock, and use the litter box.

You can add outdoor cat trees, branches, scratchers, toys, shelving for climbing, hidey holes, beds and cat grass to your outdoor enclosure to ensure they have an enriched environment.

Window boxes are an awesome way to provide elevated outdoor time without the risk of taking up floor space. There are so many possibilities on the internet. Just find something that works for you and your home.

Mosquito mesh screens attached to your windows with velcro or clips are a tastefully-looking way to prevent them from escaping through windows that you need to open for fresh air flow. They also work very well on security gates and keep monkeys out!

CONCLUSION

When making the decision to purchase a registered breed, you are usually aware of all that comes with owning a cat and the responsibilities of cat ownership should be explained to you by the breeder. What you think is the norm is probably not what is expected of you. You have spent a lot of money to purchase your new baby and prepare your home and your family for her. The breeder has spent months growing this perfect little life. Be vigilant and ensure your kitten is safe!