My Cat Is Not a Killer (Except When He Is)… But That’s Not the Point

Smirnoff at Window

A few days ago, Smirnoff killed a mouse. I woke up and walked to the bathroom to find him crouched, with a limp gray body clamped in his mouth, growling at Bacardi to back away from his prize. I traded the mouse for some treats, praised Smirnoff for his superb hunting skills and Bacardi for giving it a good ol’ try, and gently picked up the mouse with a plastic bag, checked it for any signs of disease (it was healthily dead), and disposed of it outside. It was Smirnoff’s first ever kill, and his third ever attempt, not counting house flies.

Smirnoff and Bacardi are indoor-only cats. For several reasons. 1.) I live in a city. 2.) I volunteer at an animal shelter and see how rough outdoor cats have it in a city. 3.) I have minor control issues and half panic just at the thought of letting my cats outside. Smirnoff was plucked off the streets as a young cat and still sometimes takes late night snacks out of the garbage. The first two days after I brought him home, he didn’t touch the cat food I placed out for him. On the third day he wolfed down my roommate’s bowl of pasta before she knew what was happening. Smirnoff would happily spend half the day outside, even in the city, if I let him. But I don’t. He and Bacardi remain indoors (although I sometimes treat Smirnoff to a jaunt on the porch wearing a harness and leash) and they both remain perfectly content, with only occasional half-hearted scratches at the windowsill.

Yet, many people do let their cats outside, even in a city. I get adopters all the time who ask during the interview, “Oh, but isn’t it cruel to keep them indoors?” I’ve counted at least seven indoor-outdoor cats on my street alone, several indoor-outdoor cats where my parents live in the suburbs, and saw plenty of stray and semi-feral cats last year when my boyfriend lived in a low-income neighborhood. (I tried trapping a couple of them but they were too smart.)

The statistics that get bandied about often (and are repeated by myself and other volunteers at the shelter) are that indoor cats live about 16 years, while outdoor cats live 3–5. I’m not entirely certain where I first heard that statistic but on its surface it at least makes sense. Outdoor cats are subject to being run over by cars, disease, starvation, getting lost, getting stolen, etc. Even though I know several indoor-outdoor cats who have lived to ripe old ages, on average it’s a grim outlook.

But the focus right now isn’t on how outdoor living can be damaging for your cat. It’s on how damaging cats are for the outdoors. Because let’s face it: cats are killers. They are predatory animals, obligate carnivores, and if Smirnoff were let outside, his kill would be much higher than one out of three. Continue reading “My Cat Is Not a Killer (Except When He Is)… But That’s Not the Point”