Article Featured on Everyday Health
Although that sweet little kitten at the pet shop seems so adorable, if someone were to be cruel and leave it for lost, it would still be fairly likely to survive. Because this is not a terribly uncommon thing to happen to felines, most cats have an incredibly strong survival instinct still intact and can become wild, or feral, very easily. In fact, many kittens not handled when they are very small avoid contact with humans.
While most indoor cats are completely tame, they still retain many of their wild cat behaviors and instincts. In order to provide a good life for an indoor cat, you have to acknowledge that they still act on instinct in many cases and do things that they would do in the wild if you do not intervene.
For instance, have you ever noticed how cat eyes appear to glow in the dark? Part of their eye acts as a mirror, which is one of a few adaptations that allow cats to see in about 1/6 the amount of light that people need to see in the dark.
It is also not uncommon for indoor cats to fluff up and try to appear mean if a strange animal enters the home. This isn’t so much because he’s a guard cat as the fact that cats are naturally very territorial. In fact, cats don’t just claw things to sharpen their nails; they also do it to mark their territory. Not only do claw marks on a tree or sofa indicate the presence of another cat, they also deposit scent from a gland in their paws on whatever they scratch so other cats will know who the boss is. This is a very strong instinct in cats, even if they live indoors. Scratching issues can be taken care of by training indoor cats to use a scratching post or by having them declawed, although veterinarians prefer you simply train them to use a scratching post.
Shedding is a mystery to many owners of indoor cats. It would seem that cats, like other animals, should put on a heavy winter coat and shed in the spring. Instead, most indoor cats shed continually.
Indoor cats also live much longer than outdoor cats. In fact, the record for the oldest house cat is over thirty years, while outdoor cats are sometimes lucky to see five years old. Although there are many reasons for this, indoor cats are shielded from many risk factors that outdoor cats may be exposed to on a regular basis. In addition to dealing with the weather, outdoor cats may be attacked by other cats, predators, dogs, and may also be injured or killed by cars. They are also at greater risk because of diseases since many cats that live outside have not had the multitude of shots and immunizations that indoor cats receive.
Another big difference between indoor cats and outdoor cats is that the vast majority of indoor cats have been spayed or neutered. However, getting a cat spayed or neutered makes more of a difference than whether or not they are able to mate.
Not getting a cat spayed or neutered has other behavioral repercussions as well. In addition to marking territory with the glands in their claws, cats that aren’t fixed usually will spread their scent, sometimes in the form of urine, all over their territory, even if their territory is the inside of someone’s house. However, perhaps the biggest difference between cats that are fixed and those that aren’t is how they relate to people. Usually cats that have been spayed or neutered don’t have a desire to mate or do any of the related activities. Because of this, they are more interested in people rather than darting out the door to find other cats that are in the mood. In many cases, getting a cat fixed makes it a more affectionate and loving pet, provided it is cared for properly.
Indoor cats are also larger than outdoor cats. This is primarily because indoor cats are better fed and cannot roam very far like outdoor cats.
Perhaps the biggest difference between indoor cats and outdoor cats are the experiences they will have throughout their lifetimes. Indoor cats are likely to be pampered and well cared for, as well as develop a strong bond with people, especially their owners. However, indoor cats will never be able to roam free like their untamed ancestors. Instead of being faced with the problem of finding food and eluding predators, indoor cats should have very little to worry about, provided their owners are responsible and kind to them. Outdoor cats, even ones that are still pets and are fed by humans, are still much less sheltered than indoor cats and will have to face a dog, car, or predator sooner or later, which is why they have much shorter life spans.
Are You Spoiling Your Pet?