Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Environmental impact of outdoor cats

Here, kitty, kitty!Since we were discussing pet poop yesterday, I thought I'd follow it up with another pet oriented post today.

Because there is quite a distinct impact of free-roaming cats by way of them urinating and defecating in neighbor's yards, vegetable gardens, and planter boxes, this begs the question: what is the solution to kitty poop terrorism?

This is a different issue than with dogs, for the most part, because in most urban and suburban areas, off leash dogs aren't running through your backyard, pooping in your vegetable gardens. And, in most heavily populated areas, there are poop scooping laws to protect you from having to contend with big steamy piles. This is not the case with cats.

On one hand, the cat litter from America's 90 million pet cats results in around 2 million tons of cat litter being sent to landfills each year. So, is it better to let them poop outside? No, not really. Cat poop can be a danger to other animals in that they carry diseases that impact other wildlife, other cats and can spread disease to native cat populations.

Cats can carry all sorts of human transmittable diseases too such as rabies, round worm, hook worm, and ring worm. As was discussed in the comments of yesterday's post, cat poop can cause additional issues since they can carry toxoplasma gondii (about 50% of them do), which can cause illness in immune compromised humans and pregnant women. The end result of roaming cats is that their feces and urine can contaminate soil and water, endangering fish, wildlife and people.

Cats also have a big impact on wildlife as a predator (although I'm certainly not complaining about their effectiveness against our local mouse population). Outdoor cats kill a staggering number of lizards, songbirds and small mammals every year.

In urban areas, dogs aren't allowed to roam free, why should cats? Twenty years ago, dogs were allowed to wander off leash throughout most urban and suburban neighborhoods. That has certainly changed and now there are laws enforcing responsible dog ownership.

What are your thoughts? Should there be a ban on outdoor cats?

Related posts:
Pet poop disposal
Down the rabbit hole
Save a horse, eat a cowboy


Marino said...

one person gets bit by a dog with a careless owner and suddenly all dogs are bad and need to be leashed in public.
but the main difference between cats and dogs: Dogs are docile, it's in their nature to look up to the Alpha, whereas cats are free ranging solo hunters.

We have a bell on our cat to stop her killing native birds but as for cat poop, cats have been pooping for millions of years (well at least thousands), it's a part of nature and a normal bodily function for them. deal with it. anyway, atleast they bury it when they finish.

anyway, that's my 2 cents. :D

ruchi said...

I am less worried about people's pet cats (who at least are being fed) than I worry about stray cats who really do decimate bird populations. We shy away from killing stray cats because we love cats, but because of that we really risk bird pops. I think I'd start with trying to control the numbers of stray cats first.

Sandy said...

I am perhaps a little embarassed to say ... "you took the words right out of my mouth". I admit, I'm not a cat person. And we have a free ranging cat in our neighborhood who loves to catch me when I forget to cover the kids' sandbox. Ugh. So, perhaps I'm not the most unbiased person to ask. We don't have a pooper-scooper law where I live, but when I walk my dog I curb him away from peoples lawns. We live in a rural area, so this is not hard to do. I am dumb founded to see folks walking their dogs allowing them to pee / poo on my lawn and then they wave and smile "hey, great to see you!" I adore my neighbors,but this just blows my mind. I suffer in silence ... until now. :) Fun post. Thanks. -Sandy

Anonymous said...

NO, there should not be a ban on outdoor cats, nor CAN there be, in my opinion. Our cat chose to be an outdoor cat -- she just can not be kept inside, though at first, we tried. And she is so much happier for it -- she was driving us crazy indoors, she just has too much energy!

Some cats just cannot be indoor cats. It's against their nature, and it's cruel to shut them in. Having some cat poop in the garden is not a big deal. If they're fed healthy food then it can't be that bad.

This post is akin to saying we should make it illegal for children to play outside. Are you trying to stir up controversy here, Crunchy??

Jena said...

I'm going to have to look this up before I say for sure, but I think the ring worm might be an error there. Ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin, not an actual worm, and I've never heard of it being transmitted through the stool. It is highly contagious to people who contact the animal itself. I'll check on that tho, it's possible.

As I said in yesterday's comments, roundworms and hookworms are definitely serious human health risks.

The solution is the same as for dogs: responsible pet care. If the pet (cat or dog) has regular fecal exams to screen for parasites, and/or is part of a routine deworming and vaccination program, the risks of disease transmission are greatly reduced.

The threat of toxoplasmosis may still be a concern depending on where you live. I didn't know it was a threat to the otters - how sad! In my area it is not a big concern and doesn't have serious consequences to humans other than when pregnant.

While I don't blame people for disliking nuisance pets, it is frustrating for me to hear when it involves the things I deal with everyday. At our clinic, we spend so much time trying to educate people on BASIC pet care only to have things that should be routine, denied.

This would be a good opportunity for people to check with their own veterinarians and see if they are doing all they can to keep them, and thus the community, healthy.

Hunting is not a concern for us as the birds are smart enough to stay away. All our cat catches is mice or bats which is fine by me! A bell is a good idea to prevent most of that. :)

A note about vaxx: I know some people may be opposed to vaccinating pets. I personally love my cat too much to allow him to contract Leukemia, Distemper, or Rabies. These are diseases that we KNOW outdoor cats are exposed to. It is not an if, but a when. Great advancements have been made in feline vaccines to make them safer than ever. If you have concerns, ask your vet what they are doing to eliminate risks.

Anonymous said...

I am so ick of free ranging cats crappying all over in my veggie gardens. Granted I love the reduced number of rodents but also live on a migratory path for prey birds who do the same job a few times a year in mass.

If your cat is so active indoors driving you nuts then why the heck would the rest of your nieghbors want to deal with it? And have to pick up s#$@ to boot.

And theres no comparison between kids and pets.

Anonymous said...

Anon: Well, we don't have kids, and we love our cats, so they're part of our family. For me, there is definitely a comparison. Also we live in a very cat-friendly neighborhood, and our cat mostly hangs out in our backyard, so this is not an issue for our neighbors.

Jen ( said...

I love my indoor cat.

I absolutely despise my neighbor's outside cats. They crap in my garden, they scale my house and rip up our screens, they run into my garage when I'm trying to leave in the morning (which takes up my time trying to get the cats back out again), and they yowl at night.

I'm seriously considering grabbing them and taking them to the animal shelter. He doesn't want them, anyway. He's flat out told us that he's already tried to drop them off outside of the town limits, but they keep coming back.

It's a major pain in the butt.

Greenpa said...

Should we ban outdoor cats? Well, sure, and marijuana should be illegal.

Oh, it is already? I'll be darned. And look what a difference it's made! :-)

Mammalian populations biology, and predator prey relations, is one of my old specialities.

We know lots about feral cats- but virtually NONE of what wildlife biologists know ever gets mentioned in this discussion- it's dominated by folks who are mortified at the numbers of critters cats eat.

Cats do eat critters. But- if there were no cats- there would be more weasels (which cats and dogs kill whenever possible) - and the weasels would be eating exactly the same number of birds and lizards. Really.

The other thing is- cats have been truly feral in North America for at least 400 years- and the thing is, you NEVER see a truly feral cat. They're there- but- they're really wild. They will not let you see them.

What you DO see is the neighbor's outdoor cat, doing what cats do. When the neighbor's cat is present, some truly feral cat gets pushed a little further back into the woods. If the neighbor's cat is kept in- the feral cats will move right into the territory- and you will never know it.

The birds and lizards have been surviving both weasels, and cats- really forever. The reality for a nestful of baby birds is- under the best of circumstances, only one baby in 20 or so is likely to live long enough to breed. It's a very tough world.

Lisa Zahn said...

My cat would be extremely miserable if we confined her to the indoors, and it seems so very unnatural to me that we just can't do it. She goes in and out during daytime hours as she pleases, but we always get her in at night so she doesn't tussle with the other wandering cats. There are a lot of them in my city neighborhood, but because we have our own cat guarding her territory, they don't seem to poop in our yard.

Tara said...

Cats hate being indoors all the time! Banning outdoor cats is truly a bizarre idea in my mind. They're a part of nature. Deer ruin people's gardens. Racoons carry disease. To me it's just as reasonable to ban them from being outdoors. But I like to see animals acting like they were made to act, in their natural environment. Animals certainly are a hassle, whether pets or wild, but they're a part of our world and I'm glad they are.

Jenn said...

People cannot contract rabies from cat poop. It is contracted by an animal bite, through saliva.

Two of my cats are indoor/outdoor cats. They are neutered, up to date on their vaccs and worming and well-fed. They just prefer to be outside, hunting. But, I live in the middle of the boonies more than a mile away from anyone else, so I know they aren't bothering neighbors, they have NEVER pooped in any of my gardens and prefer moles, voles and mice to the birds, which I highly appreciate.

Anonymous said...

I haven't commented before, but there's always a first time. I have to agree that I don't like to see cats going off free to do whatever it is they want. And what they want to do is poop in my garden. I don't have a cat, BUT I do like cats, and yet, I have no desire to clean up cat crap!!! I cleaned up after my dog, so I really don't see why cat owners get off scott free. Cat poop is NOT fertilizer. My 1 neighbor was really a responsible cat owner, they let their cat out, but it was on a lesh. Where I live there are by-laws from allowing your cat to roam free. But the laws are only as good as the enforcement, and I still always have surprises in my garden.

Sarah said...

If the neighbor's cat is kept in- the feral cats will move right into the territory- and you will never know it.

If that's true, I don't have a problem with it, because the invisible feral cats are apparently discreet enough not toilet in our garden and sandbox! We never had an issue until the neighbors with six cats moved in. And I don't see any solution.

Anonymous said...

I would never have an outdoor cat unless we lived in an incredibly rural area. I truly don't want to be driving home and discover that the cat on the side of the road is actually my cat! I also don't want to have to live with vet bills created by them tussling with the other cats, dogs, groundhogs, possums or whatever else they ran into while they were outside.

My cats are indoor cats and have never seen the outdoors except via our balcony or window. We have never had any issues with that. We also get the added bonus that they don't need the expense of shots. They are no longer recommending any shots if your cats are not exposed to other animals. We still get the cheap rabies shots given out by SPCA because we do get the odd squirrel on our balcony AND we have kids.

I believe in indoor all the way.

stephanie said...

It always surprises me to see environmentalists make anthropocentric comments like these. Animals are *not* here to service humans, and it's unreasonable to expect them to steer clear of our veggie gardens just because we want them to be nice and tidy. (Of course, disease is another issue, but is still not a reason to imprison ALL cats with stupid bylaws!) Sure cats are pets, and are therefore somewhat removed from "nature," but please. They have more right to poop in "our" gardens than we have to flush our poop into the oceans.

Jennifer said...

I HATE it when cats poo in my yard, or stand on my front porch and taunt my dogs, or kill birds and leave them for my dogs to find.

There is a LEASH law for a reason. Cats need to follow the same rules as dogs. ON YOUR OWN PROPERTY, or ONLEASH. I do'nt let my dogs run free. Don't let your CATS run all over my yard!

And to those that say your cats want to be roaming... my dogs would LOVE to wander the neighborhood getting pets from everyone and rooting in trash cans and compost piles for food. Doesn't mean I get to let them!

Oh, and please think about their welfare. I have almost hit and killed 4 cats in the last year alone... all collared/ well fed. My quick reaction time and unwillingness to hit/kill animals prevented their death. If they had not been allowed to wander unsupervisd, they would not have been in danger.

Green Bean said...

I love cats and I very much miss my cat (an indoor/outdoor cat that passed away a month ago). He was very docile and not capable of hunting anything but did love to sleep in the vegetable garden and poop under the kids' swing set.

The one upside to him being gone, I thought, was that I wouldn't be cleaning up poop. Not so. My neighbor's two cats have moved in to fill the void. I had to take down my bird feeders, too, because the cats are always waiting near it trying to catch a bird.

I'm not sure that outdoor cats should be banned but we do probably need fewer domestic cats. There may have been "cats pooping for millions of years" on the planet but not at the population levels we have now. Cats used to have more predators and their population has soared along with human populations. Certainly, we need to improve spay and neutering and improve our response to feral cat colonies. Beyond that, I'm not sure what can be done but outdoor cats definitely do have a negative environmental impact.

Kelsie said...

I worked at an animal shelter for 10 summers. I saw cats who had open wounds full of maggots and cats with their tails blow-torched off by neighborhood kids. I put to sleep approximately 15 cats per summer who had contracted either FIV or FIP from living outdoors. I adopted a cat whose right front leg had to be amputated after a coyote chewed it off. I have peeled the collars off of cats smashed on the road and called their owners to deliver the bad news. I have incinerated the bodies of cats who had no owner. Cats will always be allowed to roam outdoors--I don't think that right should be taken away. I do, however, advocate strongly for ANYONE who will listen about why cats should be kept indoors. A PET cat is something we have agreed to have stewardship over--not a wild animal who comes to feed on your back porch occasionally. If you're going to have a pet, commit to taking care of it fully. Get it spayed or neutered. Get it vaccinated. And don't show up at the shelter hoping for another cat after you tell us that yours was smashed in the street/eaten by a dog/lost forever.

Just my (jaded) $.02.

Sonja said...

Hi Crunchy,
Great post. I love indoor cats but I do have a problem with outdoor cats because they catch my koi and goldfish and prey on the birds at my feeder. This does not foster friendly neighbor relations!

Here are a couple facts that I picked up from the American Bird Conservancy web site:

Bells on cats are not effective in preventing cats from killing wildlife (birds don't register the bell as an alarm sound)

Well-fed cats do eat birds and other animals, despite an abundance of kitty chow

Cats live a heck of a lot longer when kept indoors. A coyote in our neighborhood did a clean sweep of all the outdoor cats. Bad for cat owners but great for the birds (and my fish pond).

Here is the source of the above-cited information:


And some information on health concerns/diseases:


Anderson Family said...

We have "presents" left by our neighbor's cats of dead lizards everywhere in our yard. They kill everything that moves around here.

nemo said...

I can't believe you are going to start worrying about cat or dog poop. This is as natural as it gets. Of course there are diseases and other issues, but once again, that's nature for you

Anonymous said...

I'm an allergic/non-owning cat lover. I think that it is irresponsible to let your cat roam free outdoors. Both because I hate seeing people's pet dead on the road and because I don't want them pooping in my kids sandbox (the neighbor's cat did before it was hit by a car) and I don't like them pooping in my veggie patch.

Anonymous said...

We have a bad neighbor with a NUMBER of outdoor cats. I'm done with it. The last one tried to scratch my 3 yr old in our own fenced in backyard beside my child's sandbox. They are killing the birds coming to my child's birdfeeder on our frontporch in view of my child. Pooping in my veggie garden and one of my dogs has lost the top half of his teeth trying to get out of the fenced in doglot to get the cat which sits 5 feet in front of him and just stares. There is a cattrap on the side of the house and when I start catching any of the 20 cats from across the street I'm taking them to the shelter where hopefully someone who actually is responsible will adopt them. I addressed the issue calmly with the owner and received verbal abuse and harrassment from her to the point of frightening my child. The cat neuter place just down the street details this as an ongoing problem with a difficult person who refuses to do whats best for the cats. Before anyone jumps to any conclusions I am an animal lover and do like cats but enough is enough, esp. since at least one of the cats is actually aggressive. I've tried two years of behavior modification to take care of the problem. I keep my dogs up, I compost my bunny poo, why the double standard in care and responsibility?

LadyCiani said...

Somebody mentioned leash laws for dogs - surprise: they apply to cats also. All pet animals are supposed to be kept on leash when outside, for their safety and the safety of other animals. Cats are no exception

If you lose your "outdoor cat" and the animal shelter picks him up, you can and should be fined the same way a dog owner is fined for a loose dog. Then each time you have to bail out your cat it is more expensive, just like it is with nuisance dogs. In theory it creates a financial incentive to keep your animals under control. In practice, it is usually your neighbor turning in your cat, not animal control going out and picking them up.

What makes a loose cat less of an irritation than a loose dog? A dog is only going to poop in my front yard, where I do not grow food. A cat will climb fences and invade my private space (aka my back yard) and poop there.

What makes you think I want to pick up your cat's poop from my food garden? The smell alone is disgusting, and it is neither 'natural' nor appetizing to have cat poop mixed in with the radishes.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather see a spay/neuter law (enforced by spaying/neutering any stray animal that gets caught) than an indoor-only law. There are so many feral cats, the population of pet cats is almost insignificant.

But we kept our cats indoors until they were so old they don't run away or kill things when they go out (not quite true; they spent all yesterday afternoon killing falling leaves on the back deck, and the really old one sometimes catches field mice and brings them into the house still alive. But they're not a threat to birds anymore.) If my son were out killing songbirds for fun and getting into fights with other kids, I'd keep him in, too.

Cats and dogs aren't a part of nature; they're as domesticated as we are. Their population would be way, way smaller if we didn't feed them and give them medical care (trust me, I see this in action; our neighbor's indoor-outdoor cat has about 9 feral kittens every year and only one or two live through the first winter.)

Personally, I've paid to have something like 30 cats and kittens fixed over the years. But it takes fixing entire colonies of ferals to even make a real dent in the population.

maryann said...

My first cat was allowed outdoors but I kept her on a leash when I was out in the yard, which wasn't the greatest, she'd get tangled up a lot and she did almost choke once from it which was terrible. When she passed away last October we got a cat from the shelter, she's not exactly docile and the leash thing wasn't happening, she does range free outside along with my neighbors 4 cats. Yes they crap in my flower beds and to keep them out of my vegetable beds, I have 6 raised beds,they are all fenced in. I have much less of a problem with the cats pooping in my flower beds then I have stepping in big piles of dog shit in my yard. One neighbor used to literally walk their dog to my yard to take a shit and leave it there, I am not kidding. I have also witnessed plenty of other neighbors who walk their dog and just leave the shit behind and yes we have laws against here. I have to say I prefer the cats, they at least bury it so I'm not stepping in it and help control the out of control mice, mole and chipmunk populations. I've been bitten by a dog before and threatened by strays in my own yard, give me a docile cat who runs away and that isn't growling, snapping and sinking teeth into my skin and leaving heaping piles of shit behind them for me to step in.

Anonymous said...

We rescued a cat from the vineyard adjacent to our Northern California house last year. She had been abandoned 4 years earlier, according to neighbors. It took a long time for her to trust us - I worked really hard at it. I fed her, I hung out near her for a little while every day, literally getting a foot closer every day.

One day, on her own accord, she decided to enter the house. She only got about two feet inside before she ran back outside. The next day she ventured further, until a few weeks later she was sleeping in our bed at night!

It was a perfect situation, we had a cat but didn't need a litter box because we left the window open and she went outside. But, one day she came into my office convulsing. More about that incredibly scary story here. She'd been exposed to pesticides in the vineyard. By pure luck, I was home. After several weeks of recovery, she was fine.

But she became an indoor cat. We thought it would kill her soul. We thought it was the worst idea ever. But we couldn't risk that happening again. So we kept her inside. We tried all sorts of environmentally friendly litter. She hated the litter box, but... she used it. She hated that she could see lizards and mice on the deck but couldn't chase them. She meowed. We bought her toys and played with her for at least 30 minutes before bedtime, to help with her killing instincts.

Two months later, we moved to an apartment in the city. She is an extremely happy cat. She no longer has the stress of an outdoor cat, who always walked the perimeter of the house at night, who ran inside scared to death of a hawk or a coyote, who was terrified of rattlesnakes. I had no idea how much stress that caused her. But now I see the difference, and it's very clear.

She is a very, very happy indoor cat. She enjoys looking out the window, but she doesn't pine for the outdoors. She sleeps with our dog, she cleans him, she runs around the house like a crazy cat, after her toy mice that make sounds like real mice. She throws them in the air and then chases them. She hides behind corners and stalks them. She chases invisible bed mice. She and I play a different game with her toys every night - she has an incredible imagination. She is totally happy.

If someone had told me a year ago (when we rescued her) that this little cat would live happily in an apartment as an indoor cat, I would have screamed at them and told them how abusive it was. Actually, I did do that once and I still feel bad about it. I was wrong.

And this comment is the length of a book - sorry about that. But I thought someone here might benefit from my experience. Our cat was wild for years, and now she is indoors and very happy. And safe.

In a rural area, there are just as many hazards for outdoor cats as there are in urban areas. They just come in different forms. But I would suggest that if you really feel the need to let your cats outdoors, confine them to your yard and bring them inside every night when they are most vulnerable. Also, if you are in a rural area, find out when the local fields are spraying and bring in your cats during those times. Don't go through what I went through.

Lily said...

I am for responsible ownership. All pets should be kept safely in our own yards & homes. They should be kept healthy with vet check ups and vaxx as needed.

We have several outdoor cats in the neighborhood. My only concern is hitting one accidently driving home. Otherwise, they don't bother us. No major cat poop issues here.

We also have an exploding bunny population which I am hoping they are tending to or I may stake my cat outside near my garden next year.

My cat is indoor only. I may on a rare sunny day walk her on a lesh in my own yard.

I keep her indoors for her protection from dogs, cars, cats, other animals, diseases, etc.

Anonymous said...

i don't think you can really ban outdoor cats. they're not exactly the same as dogs... but i think that for one, people need to be more stringent with spaying/neutering their pets. we obviously don't need more strays. but i think it would be unfair to say that a person wouldn't be allowed to let their cats outside, even if they are terrorizing your garden. 'cause then where do you draw the line? do you kill all the wild rabbits that are eating your veggies? what about the squirrels digging holes all over your yard? or the raccoons that sift through your garbage? they're all a nuisance, but we have to live with them.

Anonymous said...

When you live in town, you have a social contract, whether written into the laws or not, that governs how one lives and behaves. Pets ought to be kept indoors, on the owner's property, or on leashes.

Cats can be put in harness & leash, and if you do so from kitten-hood, they don't mind it at all.

And you can get that mildly-shocking electric fencing wire to keep your cat inside your yard (or to keep other cats outside your yard). My friend did that when her cat kept scaling the fence and eating songbirds from the neighbor's feeder. You just have to install it in such a way that the cat can't jump over it/avoid it.

All that said, sometimes people end up with an outdoor cat that roams around. I have one such cat. I like the cat, but hate having her. Rest of the family loves the cat. I do not know which will come first- the cat dying, or my finding a way to surreptitiously "disappear" the cat. Our yard isn't conducive to the electric fencing, I can't get her in a collar much less harness and leash, she is NOT an indoor cat (unless you like cat-urine soaked walls) and well, it's a bit of a marital strife issue. bleah.

Cave-Woman said...

Cats were one of the last animals domesticated( around, approximately, 8,000 years ago), and as such retain much of their wild ancestor's qualities.
Hunting is part of their nature. And they are exceptional at it.

Keep in mind, too, that this is a non-native species(i.e. not North American). To allow it to run feral is to cause an imbalance in your local native songbird population.

By all means---adopt a cat, but keep it indoors. No one wants a non-native species altering the local food chain.

Provide your feline with many enrichment activities---hide treats around the house---play games with him for up to an hour a day so he can get proper exercise---let him have a companion ( another cat, for example), an even provide a cat-ery if you want them to enjoy the smells and sights of the outdoors, but still want to protect your local songbirds.

The idea of a bell on the collar seems like a good one. The only problem is that cats learn to stalk their prey more stealthily, and thus will silence their bell.
Keep your kitty indoors, and you won't have to worry about noisy bells. (:

I don't know if any sort of legislation would encourage people to keep their cats indoors. Perhaps simply better educating cat owners on how to care for their pets is the answer.

cheflovesbeer said...

Mariella- Some dogs are docile. The one that attacked me was not.Everyone thinks their dog is friendly. Dogs as are usually friendly to their owners. I have had to fend off more than one dog in my travels. I have found ways to make my self less of a target for dogs. Please be responsible for your dog in a public place. Put it on a leash.

Greenpa- as for feral cats, I have seen two bob cats and one mountain lion in my travels.( It was totally awesome to see a wild mountain Lion!) Never say never.

As for pets in general if you are going to have them you are responsible for them and their impact. People will react to your lack of control over your animals. They will make laws because someone's pet did something.

I am not accusing any body here's pet of anything because as you know your pet is perfect!

Rev. Peter Doodes said...

I have no objection to our neighbours having cats, but we don't want one. I wonder what would happen if we put our dog over their fence and left them to clear up the mess???

Erika said...

If only "outdoor cats" could stay on their owners' property... "Invisible Fencing" for cats???

As for folks thinking that outdoor cats don't really bother others - our neighbor (across our back fence) has a cat that gets let in and out several times per day... when that cat is out, it poos in our side yard and my garden, and harasses our dog (she's becoming more and more visibly stressed when she sees that cat...) when we brought her in last night (because of the cat), she was whimpering, shaking, and couldn't settle down. Just because you don't see or hear about a problem, doesn't mean there isn't one. (FYI - my dog is 'normal' other than the stress reaction she has from said cat.)

That said, put an annoying little bell (or tags!) on your friendly feline and boot 'em outside. If the day comes when animals are confined to the indoors alone, it will be a very, very sad day indeed.


Robj98168 said...

Well you have opened a pandora's box again my Crunchster- at lkeast around here- My sammy cat is an indoor cat, although he would love to be an outdoor kitty. But what gets me is I still have to fork over a pet license fee for him. Then the neighbors cat goes prancing along the fence no license, no collar, bird feathers in his mouth. No wonder Sammy hates him
I do put sammy on a leash with a harnes and take him for walks.
But am not sure how one would solve the problem of cats getting out of the yard- cats are cats and thats the nature of the beast!

Crunchy Chicken said...

First of all, regarding kids, well I sure as hell don't let my kids run around willy-nilly, digging up my neighbor's yards and shitting in their vegetable gardens every chance they can get. So I really don't believe the comparison works.

The argument that cats have been pooping for millions of years and it hasn't been a problem? What about pigs? Cattle? Not so big a deal when the numbers are low, but a big problem with large numbers.

Furthermore, most cat adoption agencies (at least around here) absolutely will not let you adopt a cat unless you sign that you will be keeping the cat as an indoor cat. So, the argument regarding cat imprisonment is a bit baffling to me. I'm hoping and assuming that the cat adoption representatives know more about cat behavior than I.

Melinda - Thank you for sharing your story.

Greenpa - Never seen a feral cat? Then you need to come visit West Seattle. There's not a whole lot of land for them to be pushed onto so they make their presence well known. As for the issue on bird population - well, you must not live near very many endangered birds. We've got a ton of bird sanctuaries right next to neighborhoods around here.

As for stirring up controversy? Who me?

Anonymous said...

Check out this cat enclosure system....very cool!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Crunchy,

What I was saying was that some cats don't take well to being indoor cats. So a bylaw forcing every cat to remain indoors is inhumane, in my opinion. It's fine for some cats, but trust me, not all cats welcome the indoor life. They all have their own personalities -- some are meant to roam outside, even if it means a statistically shorter life.

Kimberly said...

I had to smile when I read this. We've been having a problem with three cats roaming--and pooping in our yard and gardens this year. It really stinks-- in many ways ---as I am left to clean it up, and replant my bulbs they keep digging up and wondering when I'm pregnant if I'm going to get toximia. Could this be why I miscarried this summer? Maybe.
We decided we've had enough. My husband bought a live trap on Craig's List and set it last night.
Meow!! We got the first cat this morning. Animal control came by and picked it up. One down, two to go. Now, before anyone gets upset with me-at least we're turning them over to AC and not killing them. We obviously care more about them than their owners.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Stephanie - I'm sure that is the case (some cats preferring to be outside), but by the same token there are some dogs who don't cotton to not being able to run and roam free and, given the opportunity, would much prefer it. For a lot of dogs, that's just not an option.

So are the bylaws forcing dogs to remain on-leash inhumane as well?

Is keeping a cat (who prefers to roam outside) as a pet, by definition then, inhumane?

I'm not making a value judgement on this, I'm just asking the question...

Anonymous said...

"This post is akin to saying we should make it illegal for children to play outside. Are you trying to stir up controversy here, Crunchy??"
Ok--are you serious? There is so NOT a comparison. I am not letting my kids POOP in someone else's yard!!!! My kids are out all day and night unsupervised, left to fend for themselves, destroy other peoples' property, or howl all night long as free-roaming cats are.

Maggie said...

There are several herbs and plants that deter cats from your yard. Rue is one, I keep some in a pot near the compost and it works.
Don't plant catnip or cat mint, cats love it.

Anonymous said...

Great question cruchy. Here in Oz stray cats are a big issue. They grow to be enormous predators that eat our local wildlife (we have few natural predators here). We now have some new suburbs which ban cats altogether. Which is tough if you like cats - but at least you know before you buy. I think the solution is twofold. A cat curfew - meaning no cats outside at night when they do the most damage. And if cats are allowed outside it should be in a cat run - or fence your garden such that they can't get out. (There is a great book called EcoCat? which demonstrates this). Cat bells don't work - however an Australian researcher has found that using a cat bib (a piece of neopren) will limit the cats ability to pounce and therefore get wildlife. I actually love cats - and have one (a rescue cat) - but I keep him inside.

Greenpa said...

ok Picky Chicken: "Never seen a feral cat? Then you need to come visit West Seattle. There's not a whole lot of land for them to be pushed onto so they make their presence well known."

Well, sure, there will be instances. Even so- I'd contend that much of what you see are not what I'd call truly feral- will you grant me the possibility that sometimes, some cats, in some situations, in some places- can be HALF wild? :-) Part of my point was- probably even in West Seattle, there is a population of cats you will never see- but they're there. They're the really wild ones, and as hard to see as a lynx. Now. YES- sometimes- one CAN see a lynx, in the wild! Astonishing. But that would be about 1 time in 1,000; when the lynx saw you; but you never knew it was there.

"As for the issue on bird population - well, you must not live near very many endangered birds. "

Very true, I don't; just tons of regular wild birds. Zillions.

"We've got a ton of bird sanctuaries right next to neighborhoods around here. "

Well for heavens sakes! Of course cats need to be controlled in situations like that. :-)

Maybe it should just be easier to get neighbors to really control their problem cats?

picky picky. What, do I have to write a monograph covering all circumstances the universe? :-P

Crunchy Chicken said...

Greenpaw - Yes, you do :)

Well, I'm off to enjoy my spotted owl soup with blue heron sausage.

Spot-On said...

I think cats should be indoor, or on a leash. Sorry to all those that think that cats are tame and don't attack its BUNK! One of my dogs was attacked by a cat, the dog stood there looking at me as if to say "get this thing offa me!", we had a $150 vet bill because of someones outdoor cat!
Poop in veggie gardens - urgh yep victim of that too
dead animals left on patio - yep thanks to next doors cats.
If you have a pet you are responsible for it. If I see your pet shitting on my garden I will bag it and dump it on YOUR yard! If you are a dog owner walking the dog and you try and walk off leaving the dog shit on my garden bet your ass I'll be out there in a shot with a baggie for you to scoop it!
Not to mention the traffic hazards already mentioned. We see squished cats regularly on the main street near us, sad but true and preventable!
I have to walk my dogs on a leash when out in public, same rule should apply to cats IMO. And the whole "it's not in their nature" argument. Well then don't have a pet cat to begin with then! That really isn't in their true nature either.
Meh cats aren't real pets anyway, DOGS RULE! ;P

Deb G said...

Okay, just have to add my vote too.

Both of my cats have been indoor cats. I wouldn't do it any other way. Every vet I've ever been to has told me they will live longer and be healthier that way. Growing up my brothers and I were the ones to find the family cat in a ditch on the side of the road. I don't ever want to have that experience again.

Also, I do believe that part of being a responsible pet owner is to be able to clean up after them (dogs or cats or any other pet or, for that matter, a child), to keep them from being a nuisance to others. That just seems respectful.

I didn't have to go to the vet, but this summer one of my dogs (they are in a fenced yard) was swiped at by a neighbor's cat. If I had needed to take her to the vet (say if the cat had caught her eye?) would that neighbor have done the responsible thing and contributed to the vet bill? Shouldn't my dogs be safe in their own yard?

That might be more than 2 cents worth. :)

Allie said...

Our cat doesn't go outside anymore, but he does have a cat genie, so we don't actually ever use disposable litter. It was expensive, but so worth it in terms of not having to toss all that litter as well as the time saver it is.

Anonymous said...

Something keeps pooping in our yard and then my dog rolls in it. It's so gross. If it's a cat, GO IN YOUR OWN YARD!!!!

Barry said...

Interesting post and responses. I'm with deb g. My cats are both indoor cats and they don't have any issues with it. We do have some "stray" cats that come around, but we also have a healthy coyote population (another reason I keep mine inside) which has helped to reduce the cat population. Once a cat is let outside it becomes part of the food web and is fair game for coyotes or owls or whatever else would eat them. Sad. Worse yet they become roadkill.

Anonymous said...

For the record, cats don't spread rabies or ringworm through their poop. Rabies is spread through saliva, through a bite (from any mammal) and ringworm is a fungal skin infection spread through contact with spores shed from the skin and hair. I'm a vet and, for the record, I'm not a fan of outdoor cats, either, but your mis-statement of the facts makes me wonder what else you don't bother to fact check, Crunchy! I'm very disappointed in this post. Things cats CAN spread in their poop: toxoplasmosis, roundworm, hookworms, and coccidia.

mitzi said...

My city has problems with rats and pigeons. I started feeding a small group of 3 semi-outdoor (I have a kitty door into my detached garage for them) cats last November. NO RATS! And the pigeons no longer mob my bird feeder, so smaller, faster birds stand a chance. The female is fixed and has her rabies shot. She let me close enough to catch her one day. One of the males lives in a neighbor's carport, and the squirrels are no longer chewing their way into her attic. The cats leave her gifts, but she'd rather see the rat laid out on her door mat than live in her kitchen. They don't poop in my garden beds- I mulched with pine bark, and they seem to like sleeping on it. I treat them like barn cats, and they seem to like it. I had an indoor cat previously, and she literally came alive in her old age when I started letting her go outside. Cats have a useful function, especially in a pest-ridden city. I think they should be allowed to carry it out, with spaying, neutering, and basic care. And maybe a dedicated poop area.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Doc Dav - Sorry about the typo. I meant to say "cats", not "cat poop" in that sentence (I rewrote that paragraph a few times and the poop spread out). I was very tired when I wrote that post and I wasn't exactly catching every thing. Mea culpa.

Anonymous said...

Okay wild cats don't like to be seen? Tell that to the cougar that regularly is seen on my rural acerage.

As for domesticated veggie garden shitting cats...if you love them like they are kids keep them under control...if you wouldn't let your 2 legged ones tear around crapping all over tearing up gardens why let your 4 legged kids do so...

Anonymous said...

Anon, the point is that I *want* my cat to play outside, and do her thing there. All of my neighbors have cats who visit our yard as well; it's a cat poop free-for-all out there. And I don't mind one bit -- I enjoy having cats visit, because I LOVE CATS! You get it?

Would you train your kids to be absolutely silent when they play outside, because their noise annoys the neighbors? I think not! Why? Because it's in their nature to make noise, they enjoy playing and laughing, and you love your kids and want them to be happy! Do you get the comparison now?

Anonymous said...

I can't go either way. Everyone has a choice, I personally will never let my cats out. As said before by a poster I don't want to drive along and see one of them dead. All of oours a rescues either from shelters, of from a farm by my parents.
If you're going to let your cats out get them fixed. Give them the vet care they deserve even if they are indoor. Would you not get vaccinations even if you never left the house?

FYI you can put cat poop down mole/vole holes and that will help shoo them away.

Anonymous said...

stephanie-still no comaprison-NOT EVERYONE loves cats get it yet?

Composed said...

How about this for an opinion: I don't think cats should be allowed at all. They are a terror on the environment. They are non-native killers that have taken over the United States, breed like crazy and taint the world with their crap.

Don't get me wrong- my favorite animal is the tiger and I think cats are beautiful- but I think that pets are an all around bad idea. Animals are meant to be wild in the area they are indigenous. Animals are not meant to be locked up and fed fake foods, undergo surgical procedures, be made to live long lives on medications to prevent various human-induced illnesses (probably as a result of being locked up and fed fake foods) and treated like humans.

I'm all for spaying- kind of like condoms, they are great if you won't abstain- but too many people don't spay. And yes, I realize that we've domestication animals so that they don't stand a chance outdoors- but in my opinion that would just provide food for other animals (you know, the wild animals we've exterminated for being a nuisance or danger).

Food for thought: why are there so many vegetarians that feel eating meat is wrong (or enslaving animals for dairy and animal products) but they keep their pets in cages or locked inside a home? Hmm...

I think animal well being needs to go beyond just not eating them and into doing what's best for an animal.

I'm not anti-animal, just anti-humans personifying animals. Leave nature alone.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous -- Where did I say that everyone loves cats? I'm simply offering my opinion as a cat person. This bylaw idea would never in a million years fly in my neighborhood -- there would be riots on the street!

Seriously though, I still find a lot of the attitudes here very anthropocentric. Hopefully you all give the same concern to the species whom your own poop is affecting or inconveniencing... But, given this blog, you probably do! ;)

Anonymous said...

How about 3 bites and 12 scratches later being an environmental impact?

Tetanus shot anyone? Hopefully I won't need rabies shots. Waiting to hear back from the doctor.

Our office decided to try to capture 4 feral kittens. 3 down... 1 to go and two people bit *sigh*

Now they are talking about letting the kittens go somewhere safer (an office park is not particularly safe) rather than quarantining them for rabies.

Anonymous said...

On this one I'm more concerned about the wild cats who are not fixed and are multiplying like crazy. A little cat poop in my yard from the neighbor's fixed indoor/outdoor cat is OK with me.

Anonymous said...

Three years ago, we "adopted" a set of triplet male cats that had been born and raised on our property by a cat that was only very minimally fed by our neighbors. I was eventually able to tame them enough to handle them, have them neutered, and get their full battery of vaccinations. I also got them microchipped, and they all wear collars with bells and their rabies tags.

They are all welcome indoors, but none of them are interested in being indoors more than a short time. They were born outdoors, the outdoors is the only home they have ever known.

Do I worry about them? Yes, but I feel that the best I can do for them is to try to help them to have as happy a life as possible, for as long as that might be. I do recognize that they face risks, and that each of them will one day die one way or another. We might think that by imprisoning them where they don't want to be, we are extending their lifespan and thus doing them a favor; I'm not so sure they would see it that way, if they could think and speak for themselves.

One thing I keep firmly in mind is that they are CATS, not little people, and that the most loving thing I can do is to accept that they are what they are, and to let them be what they are rather than try to fit them into some pre-conceived patter that might make me feel better.

It is in the nature of cats to roam and prowl. Even with the bells on their collars, they are going to occasionally manage to catch small rodents. (While they might dream of catching birds, none of mine have managed to catch one yet.) They are animals and are going to poop; I provide them with outdoor litter boxes, which they have used occasionally, but not exclusively. They are cats, this is their nature, they are going to do these things and act this way. If I were to find this behavior unacceptable, then the question would have to be raised as to why their presence should be tolerated at all?

WNC Observer

Anonymous said...

I am trying to achieve self suffiency in vegetables for our household. The biggest obstacle to that is not any vegetable eating insect or rodent, it is cats. If I don't keep new sown areas completely covered in chicken wire and a forest of pointy sticks, I'll lose the entire crop before it is even started. Even then this doesn't always work as they will burrow under the chicken wire or walk on top and poke their paws through the holes. And in winter they don't even bother to dig holes but will defaecate directly on top of my salad plants. Now if any caterpillar or beetle was causing me such losses, no-one would bat an eye if I did my best to exterminate the pests....
At the moment, if every sowing of carrots gets wiped out by digging, I can always go to the store for more, but one day that may not be an that point kitty pie might be added to the menu.

Anonymous said...

It was us (humans) that turned cats into domesticated pets (estimations go as far back as 7500BC). Cats are predators, they are supposed to eat birds, mice, etc. Now, there's a difference here - yes, I cannot stand stepping outside my door to see it has been sprayed by one of the three (domesticated) cats that roam free. I used to feed the feral cats when I lived in Arizona and only one out of the 8 or so would approach me - and this was after several months of feeding. I don't have a problem with the feral cats - they're in their "natural" territory (as much as I can say this with all the human interaction such as buildings, cars, homes, etc.). It's the cats that run loose that I have concern over. I own two cats and wouldn't dream of letting them outside. Are they living the best life possible, maybe. I do the best I can to make sure they have their play toys and proper nutrition. But they are still not in an environment they are supposed to be in. It's like people who feel they need (or want) to own a tiger -- for what purpose? Most of us think this is crazy. I feel that cats evolved much the same way. Before you know it (hopefully not) tigers will become domesticated! I'm not saying this will happen exactly, but I feel it's the same evolution of cats.

Dean said...

A couple of years ago I lived on Wake Island, a 6 x 2 mile coral atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There is a program where a group comes in and kills all the feral cats on an island to help reduce the loss of wild bird breeding areas. At the time I had only noticed one or two feral cats on the island and was not too concerned about them. They trapped and destroyed over 300 cats!!! Of course, the rats took over after the cats were gone....

Anonymous said...

I actually live in a town that has a "leash law" for all pets, ie even cats. So, we have no cats running in the neighbor hood but we have a crazy amount of rabbits and squirrels!

Sharlene said...

I have two kids, two cats and two dogs. I have every intention of keeping my cats indoors and one of them is exclusively indoors but the other has no interest in being indoors exclusively. And its impossible to keep her in. I have tried. She gets out as soon as the door is open for more than 2 seconds (which is often with little ones). Not to mention she will meow for hours on end until we let her out. So I gave up with her. I think it is easy to say cats should stay indoors and in their yards because dogs do but cats can climb fences very easily so it isn't quite as realistic. I am sorry if my cat has pooped in your garden. She almost always comes in to use the litter box. I guess its all just part of what we have to deal with. There are much more useful things to complain about if you ask me.

ChefSara said...

we have a cat and a dog. i clean up both of their poop. i resent having to clean up my neighbor's cats' poop when they poop in my yard. i also resent the vet bills we have to pay when my dog gets sick from eating the neighbor's cats' poop. and i hated not knowing if i was exposing myself to toxo when i was pregnant because the cats pooped in our yard. we got so tired of the cats using our yard as their litter box that we started letting our dog out in the back yard whenever we saw the cat. needless to say, we haven't seen the cat since ;-)

Amy said...

We took in a stray cat around Christmas. I have been deathly allergic to cats my entire life. In fact, when I had allergy tests done, I nearly ended up in the hospital due to the reaction. So, when this dear fella decided he really wanted me to be his mom, it was a sore subject. Long story's really miracle-like. His name is Smokey and I have not had the first reaction from allergies NOR asthma from him!!! He even sleeps with me at night.

Back on the subject of cat poop. Smokey cracks me up. He can have been our for hours playing around with his buddies (they are all neutered males, Smokey included) and comes inside to use his litter box! The first time I realized this I couldn't believe my eyes!

Unfortunately he's a bird killer. I love Mariella's idea of having a bell on his collar to prevent killing of birds. That is something I think I will do!

We do make sure our 3 dogs and now 1 cat are in the best health and vaccinated. I wish everyone took the same care of their animals, unfortunately they don't. I just keep an eye on mine and empty Smokey's litterbox since he prefers pottying indoors than out ROFLOL!

Kathryn said...

I know this is an old post, but I just found this blog today, and I've gotta have my 2c worth. I live on acreage in a semi-rural area in Australia. I have 2 dogs, which live outside full-time. Our property is fully fenced, and on the few occasions our dogs have 'escaped' - through gates left open by visitors- neighbours have rightly been upset that my pets were on their property, threatening their pets (chickens) and pooping. What makes me angry is that the same neighbours don't give a fig about their cats coming into my yard at night, when my dogs are confined, pooping in my kids' sandpit and terrorising my chickens!! The double standard is infuriating - maybe if there were enforced cat-control laws more people would realise that cats as well as dogs need responsible ownership, and would be less likely to believe their animals are above reproach! I am about to start an extensive vege patch, and I hadn't even considered that that would be another place to find cat-crap! NOT happy - especially as I am pregnant and it's yet another risk I will have to face! C'mon people - cats are gorgeous, but so is a kid who can play in his sandpit without having to wait until Mummy can clean it first!