Life Isn’t Fair For Cats

When outdoor cat pictures are posted on social media, people occasionally comment that the cat should be kept inside.

Ideally, all friendly cats would have a cozy indoor home with access to a safe, outdoor screened catio. They would be safe from all the risks that outdoor cats encounter.

But, life isn’t fair for cats. More cats need homes than homes available. Many cats are euthanized in shelters yearly due to a lack of adopters.

Yelling at people to “Keep your cat inside” isn’t a solution for all cats.

First, I will go over some issues and then discuss solutions.

1. Some cats are feral and would not do well indoors.

Feral cats are not friendly to humans. If someone is feeding them, they may become friendly with the feeder, but they still are not likely to do well inside.

The best option for feral cats is to do Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and let the cats live in their colonies.

Feral cats should NOT be taken to a shelter. They are not adoptable and will most likely be euthanized.

If life were fair for cats, there would no longer be cats that are born feral.

Outdoor cat vs Indoor cat sleeping

2. But that outdoor cat is friendly to you, can’t you take it inside?

Let’s use Winter as an example of how life isn’t fair for all cats.

Winter was a feral older kitten when he showed up in my yard. The initial plan was to trap him and see if he was a scared, lost cat.

But Winter eluded being trapped. And then it was too cold for a few months. If he was feral, it was too cold to get him fixed. What would the plan be for him if he was friendly once contained?

So, he grew up outside in the cold with access to the cat shed, water, and food. And didn’t want to be petted.

After he was TNR’d in the spring, he suddenly became friendly with me! How exciting. I thought we would be able to find a home for him quickly. I even wrote up a blog post about why we would not be keeping him.

But alas, he turned out to be only feeder friendly for now. So he runs at the sight of anyone else. And he would not be able to pass the social intake test at our local Humane Society.

He could still have an indoor home if someone were willing to be patient with him and socialize him, but none of my friends or family wanted him. And the older he gets, the harder it is to socialize him to others.

So, life wasn’t fair for Winter. If he were born in different circumstances or found in a different cat lady’s yard, he might be enjoying an indoor life.

Gray and White Tabby Cat

2. Feeders can’t take them all into their homes!

What’s one more? How many times can home take in “just one more” before they have too many cats inside?

Also, there can be issues that cat owners want to avoid and will decide another indoor cat isn’t for them.

  • Drama with other cats during the introduction process.
  • Increased chance of Litter Box Issues (more cats, more problems).
  • Monthly Cat Costs may go up more than the person can afford.
  • Or, they might not want another indoor cat.

3. There isn’t enough shelter space for all cats that could have an indoor home.

Shelters can be “kill or no-kill.”

Kill Shelters

Kill shelters will euthanize cats when space is limited, and the cat has been at the shelter past the time limit set for a cat to be adopted. So the cat is killed to make more room for another cat that needs a home.

Or cats that are feral (not friendly) are sometimes quickly killed since they are not adoptable. This may be less likely to happen at shelters with a barn placement program.

There are probably other reasons that cats are euthanized at shelters. However, I don’t want to think about that.

The point is taking a cat to a shelter doesn’t always end up well for the cat. Life certainly wasn’t fair for the cat killed at the shelters.

No-Kill Shelters

No-kill shelters usually only kill cats due to illnesses that are beyond treatment. However, some shelters may still be euthanizing FeLV-positive cats if they do not have a placement program or an alliance with a FeLV rescue.

However, the shelter can only take in as many cats as they have space. So, there can be a long wait to get a cat in that needs rehoming, especially during kitten season when shelters tend to fill up with kittens.

I learned how to do Trap-Neuter-Return for the cats in my yard and later for my neighborhood. Since 2017, we’ve fixed about 25 cats in my little one-half square mile block. The majority were fixed in 2017-2019, and only a few new cats needed to be fixed in the following years.

A few of the cats, like stray cat Chester, were rehomed through the Humane Society. But unfortunately, he showed up in the winter, didn’t have the skills to live outdoors, and was probably abandoned or lost. And since it was in the winter (so fewer or no kittens), there was only a week’s wait to get him into the no-kill Humane Society.

But there were likely a few cats that would have been friendly enough for indoor homes. It wasn’t fair to these cats that the no-kill shelters were full. Feeders don’t always have space, time, or energy to rehome friendly cats that are doing okay outside.

So, what’s the solution?

Accept that some cats are going to live outside. Unfortunately, finding an indoor home isn’t always possible, and there isn’t enough shelter space for all friendly outdoor cats.

Help with education about feeder-friendly cats. These cats may have once been feral but have become friendly with their feeder.

They may not do well with another human or be euthanized due to poor socialization at a kill shelter (or a no-kill shelter will refuse to take them in).

Telling a person to “take that cat inside” doesn’t help (see reasons in second 2 above). There are probably reasons why the cat isn’t in an indoor home.

Spay and Neuter all cats – indoor, outdoor, feral, barn, etc. Feral and most outdoor cats will likely need to be fixed by Trap-Neuter-Return. You can search online for low-cost clinics for TNR or pet cats nearby.

Getting cats fixed is the best way to help with cat overpopulation.

Life isn’t fair for all cats. Sometimes, giving an outdoor cat the possible, despite the risks of being outside, is the best that can be done for the cat.

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Heidi Bender is the writer and founder of the Joy of Cats. She enjoys sharing cat information and providing helpful cat tips. She considers herself a cat lady and currently cares for eight cats.

1 thought on “Life Isn’t Fair For Cats”

  1. This is the harsh reality we have brought into being. We can also ameliorate it by, as you say, SPAY, NEUTER, and TNR. Saving lives should be top priority in every community, and funds need to be appropriated to spay/neuter EVERY cat before that cat is adopted or fostered. And there needs to be humane education in every educational venue, from earliest to highest level, to teach people the value of cats and that they need to be family, not “pets.” They need to be valued, loved, and respected, and adopted for LIFE. The continuing hard work of all of us around the world was having real results prior to the pandemic. It must continue. Nothing is more important than saving lives and quality of life.


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