SHOULD DOGS LIVE INSIDE OR OUTSIDE | Fan Friday 234
Does Your Pet Belong Indoors or Outdoors?
Most experts agree: Cats and dogs are better off as indoor pets. Here's why.
By Chris Iliades, MD
Medically Reviewed byJennifer Garcia, DVM
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Domestic cats and dogs are the most popular pets in the United States, numbering more than 130 million.
Some people believe that cats are natural outdoor pets and will be happier outside, but according to the Humane Society of the United States, cats will stay healthier as indoor pets. Since the 1940s, when kitty litter first became available, cats have gradually moved indoors. Cats left outside adapt quickly and will naturally start hunting smaller mammals. Because they are not as dependent on people as dogs are, they have a greater tendency to stray from their homes. In fact, 20 percent of cats that are adopted were strays.
Here are some things to keep in mind about outdoor cats:
- Pet health.The average lifespan of an outdoor cat is about two years compared to more than 10 years for an indoor cat. Ticks, fleas, disease, traffic, and predators all pose danger to outdoor cats. Studies have found that about 13 percent of a coyote's diet consists of cats.
- Environmental concerns.Domestic cats are not part of the natural environment. Even when well fed, their instincts are to hunt. In addition to killing mice and chipmunks, outdoor cats kill millions of birds each year.
- Outdoor options.If you want to let your cat enjoy the outdoors, consider an outdoor pet enclosure or a harness. Cats can be trained to go for walks outside on a leash and harness. An outdoor enclosure should be one that keeps cats in and predators out, which means it must have a closed roof.
Why Dogs Do Better Indoors
Some pet owners believe that outdoor dogs get more exercise, are happier, and are good guard dogs. According to pet health experts, however, these arguments are simply not true. Dogs are social animals that crave attention; they are not happy alone outside. If a dog lives outside, the only territory he will guard is his pen. And instead of exercising, dogs that are left outside spend most of their time waiting for you.
"In some parts of the country where the climate is milder, it is more common to have outdoor dogs, but dogs are social creatures and are never happy in isolation," says Bill Gorton, a professional dog trainer in Lehigh Valley, Pa. Here are some of the other hazards of keeping a dog as an outdoor pet:
- Pet health.Outdoor dogs can escape from the yard, facing danger in the form of traffic, poisoning, or fights with other animals. Chronic health problems can develop from cold or heat exposure. Because outdoor dogs are less socialized, they are more likely to be given to shelters. In addition, outdoor dogs are more likely to be put down.
- Behavior problems.Dogs that are outside pets are more stressed and develop behavior problems such as barking, digging, escaping, and being overly aggressive. This makes them harder to train and easier to give up.
- Outdoor options.Dogs need exercise. The best way to get them outside is to be outside with them, walking or playing. If you leave your dog outside for short periods, make sure to provide a safe, escape-proof shelter, shade, and fresh water. Never chain your dog. Remember that dogs with heavy coats don't do well in the heat, and short-coated dogs do not do well in the cold.
Should You Change Your Pet’s Environment?
It is possible to bring your outdoor pet indoors, but it may take some time to get him used to being in the house; making an indoor pet into an outdoor pet is almost always a bad idea. Cats will easily learn to use a litter box, and you can keep them happy by providing them with play toys and a scratching post, but letting an indoor cat outside exposes them to dangers, and cats may stray.
Bad habits developed as an outdoor dog may be managed or modified with training. You may need the help of a professional dog trainer. "The worst thing you can do to a dog that is an indoor pet is turn him outside," warns Gorton. "Imagine how you feel when you have been locked out of your house for just a short time.
Video: How To Change An Outdoor Cat Into An Indoor Cat
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