Completely crackers to suggest cats should be kept indoors - Sarah Todd

Anybody waking from a coma over the past week could be forgiven for thinking the world has gone completely crackers.

A newspaper article about former Conservative minister, Lord Blencathra, calling for a ban on cat flaps made this reader wonder if she had got her dates wrong and it was actually April Fool’s Day.

He stated that there is “no justification whatsoever” for cat owners to adopt a "laissez-faire attitude" by allowing their pet cat to "go in and out when it pleases". In addition, he supported calls made by Natural England chairman Tony Juniper a few days earlier for outdoor cats to be required to wear collars and bells, suggesting this could reduce the number of birds killed by people’s pets.

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As an aside, neither have obviously ever seen a cat hanging dead after being strangled by its collar having got caught on the branch of a tree or something similar.

A cat on a sofa in sunlight. PIC: Alamy/PAA cat on a sofa in sunlight. PIC: Alamy/PA
A cat on a sofa in sunlight. PIC: Alamy/PA

So sad to learn of the enormous numbers of cats that already never so much as get to put a paw outside.

A little bit of research has shown that there is a whole community of cats confined, like prisoners, spending day after day staring out of windows at a world they will never know. Perhaps a movement could be founded to free them?

Figures from a worldwide study of more than 5,000 cat owners three years ago showed almost half never let their feline friends outside. So, with the way the world is going, there is no doubting that figure will be much higher now.

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Nottingham Trent University researchers found 41 per cent of owners opted for keeping cats completely indoors only, with others living a mix of the two. As well as traffic, protecting their pets from attack by other animals and criminals who might steal them were other main reasons.

Now this will be controversial, but should people who live in flats in cities and therefore have more obvious traffic worries, be allowed to keep cats?

Back in the olden days it would have been possible to say it was wrong. Selfish in fact. That keeping any animal is a privilege not a right. But not now, with cat owners aged 26 to 35 and living in city centres the most likely to be keeping cats indoors. Generations past would have been told to worry about having pets when they were older and living in more suitable, less urban, accommodation.

Experts admit that a life lived indoors can have important implications for the confined cat’s general wellbeing - stress-linked sickness and undesirable behaviours are an increasingly common trend - and quality of life.

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Australia seems to be at the forefront of confining cats, with planned changes to laws in some areas that would see them effectively banned from being outdoors unless they are on a lead. Cats on a lead?

In the United States, the debate about free-roaming cats has been raging for years, with around 70 per cent kept indoors. European cities are, apparently, full of cats kept indoors their entire lives.

Our cats live outside and the feed barn where they sleep (doing a brilliant job keeping rodents at bay) is, at certain times of the year, littered with fur and feathers. The other day there was a baby rabbit. Is this not just nature? It is interesting to read that studies have shown that many of the birds cats end up catching are weaker and would have died anyway.

A piece of research in Denmark found that cat-killed birds had smaller spleens, indicative of a poor immune system. Our cats get fat over summer, loving lounging around like lions, then come winter they slim off and hang around the back door wanting more in the way of man-made cat food.

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When one of my late grandmothers was in a home for the elderly the feeding of birds outside the dining room window was an absolute joy to many of the residents. But is the mass feeding of garden birds - during all months, even when nature provides plenty - doing more harm than good and mixing up Mother Nature’s delicate balance?

When we were young it was winter when Blue Peter told us to remember the birds and leave food for them. Are we not killing them with kindness, boosting dominant species but making life harder for others?

Talking of being mixed up, the Eurovision Song Contest was something families used to watch together. Learning a little about each country and contestant as the late broadcaster Terry Wogan did his annual witty round-up.

Now we have a winner who identifies as a ‘their’ and as for our entry and its disgusting dance routine. Never mind ‘nil point’ it’s time to introduce minus marks.

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