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At my current house, there is an active community of wild creatures in the backyard, including a variety of birds, chipmunks and squirrels, rabbits, a groundhog, and butterflies by day and lightning bugs by night.

My little 2yo tortie female DSH has two towers near windows, and two glass sliding doors to look out of and observe this community going about its business in all weather, all seasons, and all times of day.

A clear benefit of this is entertainment, something to see and do that isn't lying on the floor being bored. There's also an exercise element as she runs from one vantage point to the next to follow a rabbit across the yard, for example.

But a potential down side is the frustration of the solid glass barrier. I have seen her clearly attempting to get to a bird or a chipmunk by pawing at the edges, trying to climb onto the window border, and things like that. Her hunting instinct has kicked in, but is being thwarted.

So in the balance, is this situation good or bad for the cat's overall mental and emotional well-being? In other words, do the benefits outweigh the risks?

As a follow-up, if the conclusion is negative, what can I do about it? Note that closing curtains is not viable, as that would first of all be bad for my emotional well-being (making my house feel like a dark dungeon) but also, the cat can simply slide behind the curtain. This cat does have a handful of toys, and does play with them both independently and interactively with me.

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    Why can she not go outside to hunt? – user16113 Jun 28 at 12:11
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    @user16113 Because it's detrimental to local wildlife. Cats are essentially an invasive species. – Carl Kevinson Jun 28 at 18:14
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    Also outdoor cats have drastically lower life expectancy due to cars, run ins with wildlife, greater exposure to disease, etc. – Kevin Wells Jun 28 at 18:42
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    @CarlKevinson And that's why you don't get one, as opposed to getting one and then being surprised it wants to what's natural to it. There certainly are cats of different temperaments, but if you have a hunter it really seems cruel to keep it in a glass cage. – DRF Jun 28 at 19:39
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    @Nit The difference is drastic: pets.webmd.com/cats/features/… In short, if you had outdoor cats that lived even close to the 15 years that an indoor cat lives (and don't live in a supremely traffic-devoid area), you got very lucky. – xLeitix Jun 29 at 22:23
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I've heard pet owners express concern before that cats get frustrated at being unable to catch prey, but the thing is, they should be able to deal with the frustration because it's natural to be unable to catch prey a large percentage of the time. In the wild, all predators often fail to catch prey, sometimes more often than they succeed. There are also any number of natural situations in which the cat will be aware of the prey, but the prey will be out of reach. For instance, the prey animal has dived into a hole. Therefore, I do not think your cat getting frustrated should be a concern. Meanwhile, as you said, being able to watch provides great benefit in keeping the cat entertained.

However, make sure to still play with your cat on a regular basis, and use a physical toy that it can grab onto, so that it can also exercise and take out its hunting instinct. Your cat will be less interested in actually attempting to chase the animals it sees outside if it's being tired out in other ways.

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If you're concerned about the cat becoming frustrated by the invisible glass barrier, why not take her outside once in awhile? You can put the cat in a carrier and sit out with her, or get a harness and leash so she can explore on her own. I once met a cat/owner in a park where the cat was on a long leash and the cat was having a great time climbing trees and "birdwatching"

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    This is a good idea, and my prior cat loved the lead and harness. This one hasn't taken to it, though, and I have to respect her wishes. – cobaltduck Jun 28 at 14:03
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    @cobaltduck Definitely respect her wishes and don't force it on her if she doesn't like it, but keep it mind it may just take time to acclimate to wearing a harness. My cat hated the harness and leash the first time we put it on her, but after some practice she really likes it and loves going outside. I don't know how much you tried with your current cat so disregard this if you've already given her a chance to get used to it – Kevin Wells Jun 28 at 18:45

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