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Hoping I don't really open a can of worms here...

I really think it depends. You can let your cat "roam" and still be a responsible owner, depending on how you do it. If your pet has been fixed, had its shots, and if you live in the country (away from busy roads and lots of neighbors) then I don't see a problem.

However, urban dwellers should never let their cats out. Too often I see dead cats on the road (dogs as well) and it makes me cry.

I don't think a cat should ever, ever, ever, be declawed, though. Cats can be trained not to scratch up the furniture. Declawing is, IMO, one of the most inhumane things to do to a cat. Aside from letting it roam in suburban/urban neighborhoods, that is.
 

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Marlamady, what you said about the predator urine- amazing! But it is true. The prey won't want to wander anywhere where they smell those "markings". :D Actually, I imagine the same would probably be true with human urine (most critters tend to keep away from us) but then for most people there's the "gross" factor. (As in "yeah, I'll use cougar pee, but heck no, I ain't peein' in my own garden!!") LOL.

I understand your point about cats outdoors even in the country, but for me, I will need mousers and hunters. They will need to have access to the yard, the barn, and etc. in order to catch their next meal (and so earn their keep!) There are definite indoor cats who wouldn't do well outside, but I have found (from personal experience only) that those cats tend to not want to be outside anyways. The "outdoor" cats do well if they've been raised that way, as opposed to simply letting your house-cat run around outside whenever.

Perhaps it sounds uncaring, but for me it's like the difference between a lap-dog and a work dog. You wouldn't let your lap-dog run around in the country unfettered (not if you're responsible!), and in fact would probably keep it inside most of the time, because it's a pet, meant only for companionship. But if you have sheep or cattle, and have a herding dog, well, that dog, while it may be a companion, is also a working partner, and needs some leeway in where he can and can't go, or else he can't get his job done. Same with the cats. Mousers, and housecats. It doesn't mean that I don't take good care of all the animals- they simply serve different purposes.

Am I making any sense? :(
 
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