Cats Can be Good Roommates
Having a cat living inside the home is known to produce a number of positive health benefits for people. Pets – especially cats – are increasingly being allowed in many rental units. Even dogs – especially small ones – are finding their way into apartments in both urban and suburban settings. Indoor living also has quite a few advantages for the cats: they are at much less risk of being hit by cars, getting into fights, getting lost, becoming pregnant or impregnating other cats, catching contagious diseases and becoming infested with external and internal parasites. Cats are among the best-suited of all companion animals to living their lives entirely inside of an apartment or other small dwelling. However, before bringing a cat into a home, rented or otherwise, prospective owners should consider whether or not this arrangement is going to be right for them, and for their cats, over the long haul.
Health Benefits of Living Indoors
Most cats are extremely well-suited to living indoors for their entire lives. In fact, many veterinarians and breeders recommend that cats be kept inside at all times, for their own health and welfare. Unless they escape, cats that live exclusively indoors don’t get run over by cars, bitten by dogs or other cats or infested with nasty parasites. They also have a greatly reduced risk of contracting infectious diseases from other domestic or wild animals. Because of the widely available variety of high-quality commercial feline foods, today’s cats don’t need to supplement their diets by hunting mice, birds, rats or other small critters. They also don’t need to be outdoors to exercise. There are hundreds of different cat toys available at pet supply stores and websites that will keep indoor cats occupied and active for hours on end. Creative owners can use their imaginations to come up with other was to get their cats to stretch their legs inside the home: empty paper bags, peacock feathers and socks stuffed with catnip (tied off at the top) are always good options. Cats enjoy the opportunity to engage in their instinctive behaviors, such as stalking, pouncing, playing, rolling around, scratching, stretching and sprinting with great bursts of speed and sudden stops. They need the opportunity to engage in these activities daily, whether they live inside or out. No owner wants to come home to find her beautiful armchair or sofa shredded by her bored cat, who apparently thought it was a good substitute for a tree on which to sharpen its claws.
Consider Getting Two Cats
Despite their seeming aloofness at times, most cats are extremely social and do well living together, as long as they are properly introduced to their housemates. It is especially nice to have at least two cats in an apartment or other household where the owner is gone many hours at a stretch, such as working a 9-to-5 job. This will give both animals companionship, social interaction and a playmate, even though they probably will sleep most of the time. Many indoor cats thoroughly enjoy having a windowsill ledge to perch on, which allows them to lounge in their leisurely feline way, bask in the warm sunshine and watch the world going by. Cats are nocturnal by nature; they are naturally more active at night than during the daytime. Most cat fights, unintended breedings and automobile-related injuries happen at night. Even if a mostly indoor cat is permitted to go outside from time to time, it should be brought inside at night, for its own safety. Of course, indoor cats need to have free access to a clean litterbox at all times. It is best to have several litterboxes in appropriate locations throughout the home, especially if more than one cat lives there.
Keeping Your Cat Safe
One of the biggest dangers for cats living in high-rise homes is that they can fall from a balcony or open window. Owners living in high places must be sure that they have some sort of netting, fencing or other barrier around balconies and windows that open, even if they don’t normally permit their cat to have access to those areas. These precautionary barriers can be camouflaged by plants or other tasteful decorations. It is essential that all doors and windows are secured against escape. If a cat is allowed onto an uncovered deck for a breath of fresh air, it should be on a harness and leash. Escaped cats, and those left unrestrained on balconies, account for many fatalities every year.
Cats seem to have an uncanny ability to survive falls from high places. For example, cats have been known to survive falls of up to 32 stories. By contrast, dogs rarely survive falls of more than six stories. Humans usually die when they fall from such heights. The good news however, is cats have an excellent sense of balance, and most are unlikely to fall off a balcony. Unfortunately, falls from high-rise apartments do occur with some frequency. The term “High-rise Syndrome” (HRS) is used to describe traumatic injuries resulting from falls of more than two stories in cats and more than one story in dogs. According to veterinarians, the most common injury in cats with HRS is chest trauma, which is also the leading cause of death in falls.
In a study of cats that had fallen from up to 32 stories, an interesting finding emerged: while the rate of injury in cats seemed to increase linearly depending on the length of the fall, after seven stories, the rate of injury seemed to level off. In other words, the survival rate and severity of injuries were no more severe in a cat that fell seven stories than in one that fell 32 and in some cases, injuries were even less. After further study, the reasons for this discrepancy became clear. When a person falls from a building, maximum speed or “terminal velocity” is reached after approximately 32 stories. Cats, on the other hand, appeared to have the unique ability to achieve terminal velocity at 60 mph and after falling only five stories. Until a cat reaches terminal velocity, it will experience acceleration and tend to reflexively extend its limbs, making it more susceptible to injuries. However, when a cat reaches terminal velocity, its vestibular system (i.e. the organs of balance) become less stimulated, causing the cat to relax. It will then orient its limbs more horizontally (splay-legged), thereby increasing air drag in much the same way a parachute does. In this posture, the force of impact also appears to become more evenly distributed.
Because of the frequency with which High-Rise Syndrome occurs, apartment dwellers should take care to keep their pets properly restrained if they are permitted access to a balcony. For example, using a harness on a cat or small dog and supervising their stays on the porch can prevent this problem from occurring.