The benefits of pets are well researched, but little is done to teach us about how to have a happy healthy pet. One thing I discovered the hard way, is just how many problems there are for cats if allowed out of doors to roam freely.
I mistakenly believed that cats needed free roaming time to be healthy and happy when we had a cat many years ago. And that ended up with one cat hit by a car, another poisoned, and one costing a fortune in vet bills due to a disease caught from another cat. Let alone the cost to the local environment of having a roaming cat, this even though cats were kept in at night.
Indoor cats get fewer diseases and on average live substantially longer lives than their free to roam counterparts. Contained cats have no worries about injuries due to fights with other animals, being hit by a car, getting their collar hung on a fence, being stolen, being used for dog fighting bait, diseases caught from other cats or animals (e.g. tb from possums, feline leukaemia or herpes or other diseases ), or your cat being stolen or poisoned (accidentally or purposefully), or the fear from being chased or a fight with another animal among many other things that happen to cats that are allowed to roam.
From a wildlife viewpoint, cats kept indoors save the local wildlife from both predation from our furry friends and from diseases spread by cats (e.g. toxoplasmosis).
There are many creative options available now to help keep both your cat safe and wildlife safer:
If going out is a must: led lit collars add a bright light, making it easier for drivers to see your pet as well as the wildlife being alerted to it's presence,
If you have a privacy fence enclosed yard, you can keep your cat on your property using devices like this: https://catfence.nz
Or you can create an outdoor play area enclosure for cats: https://www.xcluder.co.nz/products/catnet/ or https://catiospaces.com/catios-cat-enclosures/diy-plans/
and I'm confident there are more and other ideas forthcoming.
Feral cats and, to a lesser degree, domestic cats are responsible for the extinction of six bird species in Aotearoa and have caused the decline of several native species of birds and lizards (Rouco et al, 2018). In 2020, one domestic cat was observed killing five banded dotterels in Kaikoura, while both feral and domestic cats were responsible for the failure of 15 out of 22 nests. A similar nest failure rate has also been seen for dotterel nests in Eastbourne, Wellington (Donnell, 2021). Here in Snells Beach a domestic cat was seen to attack and cause nest failure 5 times in thus far in the spring of 2022, and a cat (unknown which cat) caused the loss of 2 dotterel fledglings and 1 adult in 2020.
If you see a cat near the beach watching the birds, please shoo it away. Meanwhile if you own a cat please consider one of the many options available to reduce it's impact on our local wildlife.
For people who would like to know more about having a happy, healthy cat:
A New Zealand SPCA article on keeping your cat at home: https://www.spca.nz/images/assets/349895/1/stay%20at%20home%20cat%20pdf.pdf
Another source of information on why keeping your cats indoors helps prolong your pet's life, and also helps the wildlife survive: http://www.globalstewards.org/cats-indoors.htm
More ideas and information from across the pond: https://www.rspca.org.au/adopt-pet/adopting-catkitten/safe-and-happy-cats
Information from Dr. Ruth MacPete, DVM, can be found here. While this is an article from the United States, much of it is equally applicable here: https://www.pethealthnetwork.com/cat-health/cat-checkups-preventive-care/why-your-cat-should-stay-indoors-part-i
Looking for more information? See below for more sources:
Safe cat, safe wildlife: safecat.org.au
Indoor Pet Initiative: indoorpet.osu.edu
International Cat Care: icatcare.org
Cat Friendly Homes: catfriendly.com
Food puzzles for cats: foodpuzzlesforcats.com
Creative Ideas and more: https://www.catssafeathome.org