Do We Want Independent Cats?

One of the most obvious benefits of owning a cat as a pet rather than a dog is that it is a much less onerous task in terms of being responsible for its behaviour and its activities, both within the home and out with the public at large. Cats’ popularity as pets has grown for both of these reasons. On the whole, cats are very happy to live with us but retain their independence as well.

Most cats that go outdoors happily live a Jekyll-and-Hyde type of existence, becoming kitten-like indoors and enjoying us feeding them and touching them; they relax and lap up the attention. Outdoors, they patrol like tigers, hunt a little if they feel like it and have the odd set-to with next-door’s cat if it happens to be around. Their adrenaline-rush requirement satisfied for the day, they then return inside to become couch potatoes again. For most owners, this is absolutely fine – the cat comes and goes as it wishes. Some people close the cat-flap at night to try to protect the cat from cars and creatures of the night and to protect small mammals from the cat at dawn and dusk. Most cats are still free to do as they wish in the day, indoors or out.

Other people neither expect nor want independence from their cat. As usual, we need some science to try to find out what different people want from their cats – one such survey found that owners of cats that had a very free type of lifestyle and came and went as they wished rated their cat’s independence highly and felt that this is how cats should be. Conversely, owners of cats that did not go outdoors at all didn’t value independence highly in their pets but wanted them to stay in and be close to them. Presumably, those who rated independence highly would rather not have a cat than keep one indoors all the time because of the risk posed by a busy road near by or a dangerous neighbourhood.

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