Now that fall is here, it’s the perfect time to teach your cat to appreciate the great indoors. Many people believe that cats must go outdoors to be happy; however, cats can be perfectly content living indoors. Those cats who do live indoors have a life expectancy three times longer than a cat allowed to roam freely outside.
Here are more compelling reasons to keep your cat safely inside:
• Millions of cats are hit and killed by cars each year.
• Encounters with dogs, other cats, wild animals — especially coyotes — and even cruel humans can result in serious injuries or death.
• Free-roaming cats that aren’t spayed or neutered are the single greatest cause of cat overpopulation which results in the euthanasia of untold millions of cats in shelters. Many owners of unaltered cats who let their cats roam don’t realize how quickly cats can breed. Just two unaltered cats and their offspring can multiply into over 400,000 cats in just seven years. Many of these cats die horrible deaths if left to fend for themselves.
• Outdoor cats kill hundreds of millions of birds and small mammals each year. In addition to the birds and mammals that die needlessly at the hands of cats, felines that roam into neighbors’ yards cause animosity between households that have wild bird feeders and those that let their cats roam, giving cats a bad rap.
• Outdoor cats are at risk of debilitating parasites such as worms and fleas, as well as many dangerous and even deadly diseases.
In California especially, pet owners need to worry about the threat of coyotes. Coyotes have a natural source of prey with rabbits, birds, and rodents, but they also have another source — your pets. Small dogs and cats can become victims even in broad daylight. According to Kevin Brennan, a wildlife biologist with the California state Fish and Game Department, “Coyote sightings in Southern California’s hillside neighborhoods have become commonplace, as the animals are drawn by the promise of an easy meal.”
According to volunteers at Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP), even if you don’t hear them at night or see them at dusk or dawn, coyotes are still out there stalking cats. ASAP cautions cat owners that although coyotes are most active at night, they are often seen during the day and especially in the summer when they are feeding pups. Lisa Krause from ASAP said, “Everyone who owns a pet in Santa Barbara should be aware of coyotes and their threat to our pets. Coyotes use the creeks as corridors to all neighborhoods of Santa Barbara and Montecito. If you think your pet is too smart for a coyote, you are wrong because they travel in packs. Please keep your pets safe and keep them indoors from dusk to dawn.”
Tips to Keep Your Cat House-Happy
· Window shelves and secure enclosures such as a screened porch provide endless hours of entertainment and let your cat enjoy the world outside while remaining safe.
• Spend quality time playing with your cat every day with a stimulating activity such as a feather toy on a string. Activities such as catnip toys, ping-pong balls, and even cardboard boxes will help keep your cat active when you’re not available for hands-on play.
• Cats love to graze on kitty grass planted in indoor pots, and it gives them a sense of the outdoors without the dangers.
• Cats need buddies, too. Two or more cats living in a home can be playmates and provide comfort for each other.
• Any cat, even one who “never goes outside,” can easily slip out an open door or window. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep proper identification on your cat at all times.
• Cats who initially resist a collar can become used to it eventually — especially if you use a soft collar such as “Beastie Bandies.” A collar with proper identification may be your only hope of finding your pet if he or she should become lost.
• The best collars to use are those that are “breakaway,” so if you cat becomes entangled in her collar, she will easily slip out of the collar without choking herself. Make sure the collar is secured on your cat but not placed too snugly. You should be able to slip two fingers between the cat’s neck and her collar.
• If you are worried about your cat becoming lost, you can have your cat microchipped. A microchip, the size of grain of rice, is inserted under the skin between an animal’s shoulderblades. The chip is assigned a code that coincides with the pet owner’s name and address. Most shelters and vet clinics have microchip scanners, so your cat can be quickly returned to you if picked up.
• If you insist on letting your cat outside, do so only when you can watch over her. Be safe and keep her in a harness on a leash so she doesn’t dart off. At the very least, bring your cat in at night!
With these tips, your cat can live a happy and healthy life indoors!
Adoptable Pet of the Week
Flower is a one-year-old, petite, short-haired gray-and-white cat with soft green eyes and a pink nose. This ball of energy is curious, playful, and loves attention, purring her thanks. Gets along with other cats and probably also with children and dogs. Flower is super affectionate and promises to be a great lap cat! Indoor only.
The following is included in the adoption fee at ASAP: spay or neuter surgery, flea treatment, vaccinations, microchipping, health evaluation, including testing for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) (cats thought to be 10 years or older receive a full blood panel evaluation, thus assuring that the cat is indeed healthy and adoptable), medical and drug coverage through ASAP’s vet for two weeks beyond adoption, temperament evaluation, and cat carrier (you can save the county money by bringing your own).
Visit ASAP at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road. Adoption hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, visit www.asapcats.org or call (805) 683-3368
Lisa Acho Remorenko is executive director of Animal Adoption Solutions, www.animaladoptionsolutions.com