The Dangers of Indoor/Outdoor Living for Your Cat
Cats that live indoors and outdoors have inherent dangers that can be life-threatening or even life ending. In fact, many major pet interest organizations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Human Society of the United States encourage indoor-only living for cats.
However, many cat owners can’t shake the guilty feeling they get from not allowing their cats the ability to exercise and enjoy all that the outdoors offers…and so the door opens. But don’t fool yourself: allowing your cat access to the outdoors is ignoring a number of hazards.
COMMON OUTDOOR CAT DANGERS
Here are some of the most common dangers for outdoor cats:
Poisons: Chemically treated lawns, rodenticide for pesky vermin, antifreeze, a jungle of toxic plants… there are countless poisons lurking outdoors. Should your cat become poisoned and make it home, you won’t know the cause of the illness and neither will your vet, narrowing the chances for survival.
Cars: Vehicular trauma is one of the most commons sources of injury in cats. Don’t assume that your cat will be afraid of cars and run away from the road. Animals who are scared, threatened, or ill may behave unpredictably.
Disease transmission: While keeping cats indoors provides great protection against diseases such as FIV (feline AIDS), feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and parasites, letting a cat have access to the outdoors greatly increases the chances that your cat will be exposed to these very diseases. (Some health problems, especially certain parasites, can in turn be passed onto you.)
Injury from fighting: Cats are territorial and will defend their home, often to the death. Even if the fight doesn’t escalate to that point, limbs get broken, eyes are lost, abscesses can develop, and all usually require costly surgery and weeks of treatment.
Permanent separation: A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association looked at 53 animal shelters across the U.S. and found that less than 2% of lost cats who entered the shelters were reunited with their families. Think your cat is exempt from this statistic because they are microchipped? Wrong. The return-to-owner rate for microchipped cats is higher, but not by much: a sad 38%.
Wildlife dangers: Outdoor cats rank below many predators in the food chain and become easy targets for dogs, coyotes, possums, birds of prey, and native big cats. Still predators themselves, cats can also get diseases from the animals they hunt while outside. Ever hear of toxoplasmosis? How about rabies?
People: Sad as it is, humans pose a significant threat to your cat’s safety while outdoors. Not all people are animal lovers. All it takes is one person who wants to get rid of them such as an irate neighbor with a BB gun or an overzealous pest control company.
Despite knowing these perils, many cat parents recklessly continue to open the door, convinced that their cat is bored without the stimulation of the outdoors. What these owners are missing is that there is so much you can do to make the indoors more interesting!
HOW TO MAKE YOUR HOME MORE INTERESTING TO YOUR CAT
- While we humans can live on one level–the ground–cats need to climb, perch, leap and play on multiple levels. Make sure you offer this multi-level environment to them. Bonus point: encouraging exercise helps battle the rise of obesity and obesity-related diseases that we see in cats at increased rates.
- Does your cat try to drink from the faucet? Many cats love running water. If yours is one, why not try one of the many fountain systems designed for cats?
- Bring the outdoors to them! The feline equivalent of an aviary is probably the ultimate in safe exploration. This doesn’t have to be a kitty dream castle; a wood and wire box attached to a window or even a simple mesh cat tent put up while you are doing yard work will improve the quality of their life while keeping her safe.
- While many people choose to share their homes with cats because of their low-care lifestyle, you should still take the time to play with your cat. Plant some catnip and swap their old toys for new ones. You can even imitate the hunting activities your cat might otherwise engage in outside by playing together with a fishing pole-type hunting game.
- If you do want to allow your cat some outdoor time, consider teaching her to walk on a leash. While this isn’t appropriate for every cat, those that do take to it will frequently catch on quicker than you may expect. Keep in mind that most cats startle easily so it’s best to avoid areas with roaming dogs and lots of loud noises. Play it safe and stick to your own property.
- If you choose to allow your cat limited outdoor time via leash walking or outdoor enclosures make sure she is on heartworm prevention meds, and always has access to water as well as shade. Also remember that too much sunshine can put our kitties (especially white ones or those with thin coats) at risk for sunburn or skin cancer.
I hope these tips help you understand some of the outdoor dangers for cats. You now know the dangers of letting your cat roam outdoors and even some fun ways to bring the outdoors in. Please consider keeping your kitties inside!