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Judi's avatar

How independent are cats?

Asked by Judi (40025points) October 5th, 2013

Last year we bought a house on acreage. I’ve never really been a country girl before.
We have two dogs that are mostly indoor dogs but play outside a lot. We are getting ready to fence an area for them so they can stay in the mud room if we are gone a few hours and can go out their electric doggy door to potty.
We have a bit of a mouse and squirrel problem and I was thinking about adopting a grown cat or two to hang around the house and take care of them.
I don’t want to be cruel but I DO NOT want indoor cats. I am willing to feed them and provide shelter outside for them but I don’t want them in my house.
Am I being cruel to even consider this? Is it better to save a cat from the pound but make it be semi wild or should I just skip the idea?
It does snow up here but I was thinking of providing a shelter similar to a chicken coop with a lightbulb for warmth and blankets.

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32 Answers

snowberry's avatar

If you provide shelter from the heat or cold for them they should be fine. If you live in an area that gets cold in winter, You can use a small dog house that would reflect their body heat and keep the elements away. Be sure to keep them up on their shots and worm them regularly. They can get a lot of parasites from eating mice.

Be sure also that your cats come from a mother that hunted. Otherwise they won’t know how.

glacial's avatar

Cats are quite independent, and will happily live an outdoor life if you let them. But they will face dangers, from other predators and cars, and they will have a serious impact on the environment around you, while you remain blissfully unaware of the damage they are causing.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I believe cats are pretty independent. They always seem to find shelter. Some years back there were three feral cats that banded together into a lose family. I would put food out for them and for a long time they would never let me near them. Over weeks of feeding and backing away less and less until I was able to “lay hands” on them, to let them know I was friendly to them. Eventually they were domesticated to the point they would hop in your lap. Near the Amtrak station here there has to be about 20+ feral cats (with numbers growing as we speak~), people drop food off sometimes, but most of the time I have no ideal how they eat; I suppose they catch small game. But they survive, even through winter when the temps drop, and when it is wet. Even if you do not want them in the house (even a few times on occasion will not hurt unless you believe the dogs will attack them), the garage would be better than nothing. Chicken coop-like shelters might work, but like getting one of those cat palaces/scratch pole, it may look good to us humans but the cats may ignore it and find a hollow tree, etc.

Neodarwinian's avatar

” I don’t want to be cruel but I DO NOT want indoor cats. I am willing to feed them and provide shelter outside for them but I don’t want them in my house. ”

Cats do belong in the barn, but make sure it is a comfortable ” barn. ”

Headhurts's avatar

I used to have 3 cats. One of them never wanted to leave the house. She was more than happy to stay indoors. As long as she was on someones knee, then she was happy.

bolwerk's avatar

Cats are independent, like anarchists. Dogs are hierarchical pack animals, like fascists.

Judi's avatar

So I wouldn’t be an evil human being if I kept them outside?
Now to convince hubby.

glacial's avatar

@Judi In all honesty, it is not how I would treat my cats. They will live a much longer life inside. Most animal lovers will tell you exactly the same thing, and they would hope that someone rescues your cats from you.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Most of our local rescues know of “barn cats” or “hunters” that need homes. I would not recommend getting a cat from the shelter who is accustomed to being loved on and pampered. Maybe you can check with your local rescues and inquire about adopting a hunter.

Judi's avatar

@glacial , that’s what I wanted to know. I don’t want to be a bad guy. :-(

glacial's avatar

@Judi That’s what I figured. :)

deni's avatar

Outdoor or indoor/outdoor cats I’ve known have always been happy creatures. Cats love to run around, have their freedom, catch mice and birds and bring them to you as a prize and sometimes eat them. I think it’s a good idea on your part, there is nothing wrong with it.

However as a general answer to your question, many cats, indoor especially, are not as independent as people think!

livelaughlove21's avatar

I dislike the idea of adopting a cat and sticking it outside, exposed to many harmful things, when someone else could adopt them and keep them safe inside, or mostly inside. I’ve had one outdoor cat and two indoor cats in my life so far. The outdoor kitty was constantly coming home with battle wounds that would sometimes become infected and require expensive vet visits and treatment. He was eventually hit by a car and he died. The indoor cats I’ve had only went to the vet for shots. I have to disagree with those people that say cats are happier outside. My cat freaks the hell out if we shut the back door when she’s made her way out into the screened-in porch – and she’s been that way since we got her as a kitten. She’s perfectly happy in her safe, climate-controlled house.

I’m not sure why people are so against indoor cats. Is it the smell? Because my dog is wayyyy smellier than my cat and my house never smells like a litter box, even when I slack off on poop scooping. Is it the fur? Again, my pup sheds more than the cat. Is it a general dislike of cats? If so, you shouldn’t have outdoor cats either.

It’s up to you, but there are ways to get rid of mice that don’t involve cats.

jerv's avatar

It’s highly variable. Cats have personalities, and not all of them are suited for life outside to any degree. I had one that would freak out at the door and refuse to go out (I have scars from the last time I tried carrying her out) while her sister was all about the outdoors and was hard to keep inside.

Where you live also has a lot to do with it. Growing up in a small city, most cats were indoor/outdoor and did just fine, but when I lived in rural NH, there was no practical way to keep a “barn cat” for more than a few months, and even indoor/outdoor was risky due to raptors, coydogs, and other predators. On the other hand, some cats are naturally a bit ornery; I know of one that lived in Texas for ~3 years that could and did take out anything less than three times his size. As he was ~25 pounds himself, that meant damn near anything… including armadillos!

In general, outdoor-only cats are a bad idea though. And you won’t find a cat suited for that at the shelter; if they weren’t trained as a hunter as a kitten, it’s unlikely that they have the skills to do what you want, and may not learn the skills required to survive in time to actually survive.

But from what I’ve gathered, you shouldn’t own a cat anyways. You don’t want a cat, you just want a mouse trap. There are certain breeds of Terrier that make great rodent-hunters though; try one of them. You seem to be a dog person.

Judi's avatar

I am a dog person. I don’t hate cats, we had several growing up. We had 3 mama cats with litters all at the same time once. (It was a different era. People weren’t preaching spay and neuter back then.)
My daughter just has 2 cats that spray and her house stinks. The only reason I would want one would be to be a mouser.
If it makes any difference, you have to drive nearly a mile up a private dirt road to get to my house. I’d be more worried about the golden eagles than the cars.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Judi Cars aren’t the only thing they’re exposed to. And all cats owned by people should be spayed/neutered. They stink because they spray, they spray when in heat, and this would not happen if they were spayed. There are already too many stray cats awaiting adoption in shelters, so there’s no reason not to get them fixed. Our local shelter does it before the cat is allowed to be adopted and it’s included in the fee.

Judi's avatar

@livelaughlove21, my daughters cats ARE spayed. I think one of them got a bladder infection once and decided she didn’t like the litter box. My daughter had to replace the carpet and the baseboards before she put her house on the market.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Judi They shouldn’t spray if they’re spayed. If it’s a medical problem, it should be addressed. My point is that spayed, healthy, indoor cats with a decently maintained litter box typically do not stink.

Judi's avatar

That has not been my experience, but I really don’t want an indoor cat anyway.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Then don’t get a cat.

Paradox25's avatar

I believe that cats are much more capable of surviving on their own than dogs, and if the human race came to an end cats would likely fare much better than dogs. I’ve owned quite a few indoor cats, and have also taken care of strays too, and what I’ve gotten from all of this is cats really vary from one another.

Some cats hardly need any affection at all, while others need attention more than many dogs. Nevertheless cats are fairly resilient and hardy, and since you don’t appear to be a cat person I don’t feel you’re arrangement is a bad deal for you or your potential cat/s. However, most cats are much better off indoors in my opinion, but with some cats they really do need to be outside to be happy.

I’ll point out one more thing for you consider too, not all cats make great hunters, though they say that generally the females are the better hunters. There are exceptions, but the latter seems to be the general rule.

Coloma's avatar

I’m a major cat lover and prefer to have indoor/outdoor cats that are well loved and pamp-purred. However…plenty of rescues in my rural area adopt out barn cats.
First, cats will not kill and eat squirrels. The squirrels will give the cats a wide berth but rarely do cats attack and eat squirrels.

Around here the squirrels just taunt the cats and chatter at them, tease them, knowing full well their agility far surpasses even that of a cat. Every morning the resident squirrels harass the cats from the pine trees on the back of my hill. The cats are intrigued but do not put forth any exercises in futility. haha
You must accept that the squirrels were there first and it is unrealistic to expect to exterminate them, nor should you want to.

If you do, you need to go back to the city where the wildlife is minimal.
Otherwise the cats may or may not keep the mice population in check, but…this does not mean you do not feed them. It has been proven that well fed cats will hunt rodents every bit as well as cats that are not fed. To not feed a domestic cat is cruel and a diet of mice is an inadequate diet anyway.

If you can provide good shelter, a warm place to sleep, good food and water and the cats are tame enough to be held and caught should they need medical attention then keeping outdoor cats is fine. If the winters in your area get very cold you absolutely need to have a very warm and comfortable shelter for them and plenty of high quality food available at all times.

Judi's avatar

Of course I would feed and water it!
I have heard of ferrel spay and release programs. I was thinking if I paid to spay one or two I could release them on my property.

jerv's avatar

A mile out a dirt road… sounds familiar. Did you get my old place after my wife and I moved to Seattle?

Seriously though, stick with dogs. You really are looking for a terrier; you just don’t know it yet.

Coloma's avatar

@Judi Yes, you could, but if they are really feral then you could end up with sick or injured cats you ca’;t catch easily. I think it’s best to find tame cats and turn them into barn cats.

jerv's avatar

Also, if the cats never come in, mice are smart enough to figure that out. You will have mice in your house; whatever mice are not in your house will be driven there by your outdoor-only cat.

@Coloma That rarely works well. You have to start with a cat that is a bit outdoorsy anyways… and not all are.

rojo's avatar

@Judi FWIW For years we have had cats show up on the farm from who knows where. The latest, Yeller Cat, has been here for 5 years now. We do nothing special, We put food out for him but sometimes the coons get it before he does yet he still manages to survive. He sleeps in the barn, the hay loft, the tractor shed, under the house, wherever he damn well pleases and whenever he pleases. Occasionally we will have another cat for a while, female, but she soon leaves. Males, evidently, are not welcome and he runs them off before they get settled. I do not bother him, he does not bother me. He keeps the snakes and mice down and I let him so it works out well for both of us. We also have another cat, TomTom, who lives indoors but spends most of the day outside. He will disappear for a couple of days but always comes back and wants in.
Not only are cats independent but they are pretty self reliant. Get yourself a couple and don’t be overly concerned.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@livelaughlove21 Is it a general dislike of cats?
That is pretty much it for those who do not like cats. From those I have met that didn’t like cats the main reason to me seem to be the fact they could not “control” the animal; could not make it come when they called it, make it sit, heel, or fetch; plus they could not take it to the park with them, etc.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Those are the things I love about cats. They’re so low maintenance – you don’t have to walk them or take them to obedience training, and yet they can’t do nearly the amount of damage an untrained dog will do to your house. You don’t have to bathe them and they are independent enough that you don’t need to constantly stimulate or exercise them as you do with dogs.

My dog is wayyyy more trouble than my cat. The kitty has never caused any damage to our house since we got her 2 years ago, but the dog we’ve had for 8 months (that has been to obedience training and is always within reach of doggy toys) has chewed two holes in our walls because we were stupid enough to think we could give her a little more freedom while we were gone. How wrong we were. That mutt is lucky she’s so damn cute.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@livelaughlove21 You don’t have to bathe them and they are independent enough that you don’t need to constantly stimulate or exercise them as you do with dogs.
I am with you there. Fill the bowl, have plenty of water out and cats are on autopilot. Once they got broke in going outdoors they preferred to go outside to poop; they would only use the box in extreme circumstances such a storm rolling through, etc. There were only a few downsides to owning a cat, such as walking across my keyboard while online, the live trophy they brought back, (especially that lizard I had to hunt for and the blue jay I had to chase out—how she caught that sucker I don’t know), and the dead incomplete trophies, if you are going to eat it, eat it, don’t bring back a “kitty bag”, so to speak.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Well mine is indoor only, so the only thing she brings to us is any hair tie she can find. She fetches better than the dog.

Coloma's avatar

@jerv Well of course, outdoorsy yes, totally psycho feral, no.
Obviously you wouldn’t toss a purebred Persian kitten out of it’s velvet basket and into a barn.
Well, maybe somebody would. lol

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