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Keeping Your Cat Indoors
09-18-2013 By Staff

Keeping Your Cat Indoors

Most U.S. cat experts – the Cat Fanciers Association, humane organizations and others – are continually trying to reach the public with the message that keeping cats indoors protects them from disease and all manner of dangers. The average life span of indoor cats is about 14 years – though this is reduced to 4 years in cats that are allowed to roam free, exposing themselves to the hazards of outdoor life. Risks of outdoor life include exposure to infectious diseases, such as feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, feline infectious peritonitis, and rabies; injury or death occurring on busy roads; and attacks by predators. Not only does keeping cats indoors protect their health, it also protects the lives of countless birds that they would otherwise kill. In some areas, cats have severely reduced the populations of certain songbirds - almost to the point of extinction.

If lifespan were the only factor due for consideration, no one in his right mind would let a cat outside – ever. It just doesn't make sense to risk your cat's health, even life, in a world fraught with ever increasing danger. If you live on busy streets, which most of us do, letting your cat out subjects him to the risk of being injured or killed by passing traffic.

Besides traffic, there are risks posed by exposure to other cats. The #1 disease of outdoor cats is an abscess resulting from a bite wound. Bite wounds usually become infected, causing large volumes of pus to accumulate beneath the cat's skin, sending the cat's temperature soaring and making it feel out of sorts. Antibiotics and sometimes surgery are often necessary to help resolve the problem.

Highly infectious viral diseases, like feline AIDS and distemper, are transmitted between unvaccinated cats. And there's the risk of rabies (again more so in unvaccinated cats) and predation posed by wildlife. The most recent wildlife threat comes from coyotes – that can tear a cat to pieces in very short order. Coyotes have migrated into highly urbanized areas, such as Manhattan, and should be considered a hazard for outdoor cats almost everywhere in the United States.

Some people are a threat to cats, too. Irresponsible, cruel children have been known to do heinous things to cats - in the name of having fun. Cat-hating adults may also harm cats and many outdoor cats harbor the telltale signs, air gun slugs or BB pellets seen on X-ray. Finally, inclement weather in northern climes can be a death sentence for cats.

Viewing things from another perspective, when cats are allowed outside it is bad news for the small wild animals on which they prey. While no one really seems to mind when cats catch mice and other small rodents, when cats' predatory instincts are directed toward beautiful songbirds, bird lovers naturally become enraged. Keeping cats inside can avoid all of the above risks and disasters.

The answer to the question about whether to keep cats inside or allow them outside on occasion is not black or white but rather a shade of gray. If forced to vote one way or the other (which we are, on an individual basis), the answer would have to be to keep cats indoors. This is a far more healthful situation for the cat. But with great care, certain cats under certain circumstances might be permitted brief, well-supervised excursions outside, perhaps on a harness and long lead. Dr. Nicholas Dodman

Under West Fargo Ordinance 11-0102. all cats over twelve (12) weeks of age kept or maintained in the City shall be licensed and registered. The owner or possessor of each cat shall cause a collar to be placed on the neck of the cat, so licensed, with a shield furnished by the City indicating the number of the license and the year of the license. This shield shall be attached at all times while the cat is outdoors within the City limits.

Cats which are allowed to be outdoors must be maintained within an enclosure or on a lead.  West Fargo Ordinance 11-0201 prohibits a person who is the owner or keeper of a cat from allowing the cat to run at large in the City. Ordinance 11-0202 directs the police to impound any cat found running at large or abandoned and shall keep it until redeemed or otherwise disposed of. The police department responses to complaints about cats allowed to roam by using live traps to catch cats deemed to be a nuisance. The department also loans live traps to home owners wishing to capture cats which have been damaging their property.

The following conditions are hereby declared to be nuisances within the meaning of Ordinance 11-0304, and no person having ownership or custody of a cat described herein shall:

1. Fail to prohibit any cat from interfering with people, automobiles or bicycles on streets or sidewalks.

2. Fail to prohibit any cat from destroying, defacing or damaging shrubbery, lawns, flowers, gardens or other property.

3. Keep any cat which kills or injures any person or domestic animal.

4. Fail to confine any female cat in heat in a closed building so that such animal cannot come into contact with another cat except for planned and supervised breeding.

5. Allow the accumulation of excrement or other waste materials from a cat which results in foul or noxious odors that are offensive to surrounding residents.

Cats can be a welcome companion for many cat owners. The same cat can be a destructive nuisance to a neighbor if allowed to roam from the owner’s property. Be courteous to your neighbors and protect your cat from the risks of the outdoors by keeping the cat indoors or by keeping it on a leash.