Curiosity Can Kill the Outdoor Cat

On the fence about whether or not to allow your cat outside? Here are some things your indoor cat is missing out on:

 

  • Cars. Unfortunately cats don’t know to stay away from roads. Even with cats who seem to stay away, there’s always the possibility that something will scare them or  they will see something they want on the other side of the road that will entice them into going in the road. Bear in mind not everyone will swerve for a cat either, and some cruel people will actually try to hit them. We are always sad to report cats who have been hit by cars, and it happens more often than you would think. If it’s cold or rainy they could also find a seemingly safe spot in someone’s engine or above their tire. Not everyone thinks to check before starting their car, and this is another possible hazard your cat could face.
  • You angry neighbor’s wrath. Who can blame your neighbor for being annoyed with your cat using their garden or their kid’s sandbox as a litter box? If your cat isn’t fixed, they also might be agitating their indoor cat and/or spraying all over. The frustration doesn’t merit some of the terrible things we have heard people threaten to do to cats on their property. We have heard people say they will shoot or poison them or drive them way out in the middle of nowhere and dump them off. It’s horrible, but unfortunately it isn’t easy to keep track of a loose cat, and these things happen far more often than they should.
  • Dogs and other wildlife going after them. We’ve definitely met some scrappy cats, but not many stand a chance against a larger animal going after them. If your cat wanders into the yard of a cat aggressive dog, comes across a loose dog, or some other sort of wildlife, your cat could easily be severely injured or killed.

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  • Parasites. Fleas can easily spread to any other pets you have and can infest your house. Ticks can also latch onto your cat and if you’re really unlucky you can end up with tick eggs in your home. Intestinal parasites are not only a bad time for your cat, but you can also get them from your cat. Ringworm, a fungal infection, can also be spread to humans and other animals. Ear mites are common in outdoor cats as well, and can spread from cat to cat.
  • Risk of poisoning. Exposure to insecticides, rodent poison, and other hazardous chemicals are yet another danger outdoor cats can face. The sweet taste of antifreeze can attract animals, and it could be intentionally used to poison a cat.(1) Its sad to think about, but there are too many cruel people in the world.
  • Disease. Unvaccinated cats are especially at risk of contracting one of the many contagious diseases out there including FeLV, FIV, feline distemper, and many others.
  • Getting lost. Even cats who know the area where they live can become lost especially if something scares them and they run off. There is also the possibility of them being stolen or even just brought in by someone with good intentions assuming they are a stray.
  • Shorter life expectancy. Due to these and other risks outdoor cats tend to have a substantially shorter life expectancy. Outdoor cats have a life expectancy of only about 5.5 years, while indoor cats can live closer to 17 years if not more. (2)
  • Killing wildlife. Cats love to hunt, but this takes its toll on wildlife when they kill so many other animals. Sure your cat killing 1 bird might not be the end of the world, but when you think about how many people allow their cats outside, then add in all the strays and feral cats, we are talking about a very large number of animals being killed by cats.

We haven’t convinced you? Here are a few things you should do if you are still going to allow your cat to roam outside:

  • Regular vet visits. Vets can identify if there is something wrong with your cat be it sickness or injury.
  • SPAY OR NEUTER!!!! If there is one thing off this list you really should do, it is get your cat fixed. According to the ASPCA 860,000 cats are euthanized in shelters each year.(3) By not spaying or neutering your pet you are contributing to the number of unwanted cats. Even if you find homes for the kittens, if the kittens do not get fixed, the cycle will continue. Animals that are not fixed are also much more of a nuisance. Males and sometimes females spray, they tend to be more aggressive, and they can really upset your neighbor’s indoor cats with their yowling, spraying, etc.

 

  • Vaccinations. Keep your cat up to date on their vaccinations to protect them from disease.
  • Flea/tick prevention. This can also help keep fleas and ticks out of your home.
  • Heartworm preventative.
  • Microchip. If your cat is picked up and brought to a shelter or vet, this can help them easily get your cat back to you. (CCHS offers microchipping on Monday evenings. Calling ahead is very much appreciated.)
  • Consider only allowing them out during the day. Many predators are out more at night, like foxes, raccoons, coyotes, opossums, etc. They are also much less likely to be seen if they decide to cross a road when a car is coming.
  • Have them wear a big, bright, flashy collar, like a Birdsbesafe collar. The bright colors make your cat much more visible to birds and gives the birds a better chance at getting away. You won’t have to clean up as many dead birds, and you will be helping wildlife.

Ways for your cat to spend time outside more safely 

  • Use a leash and harness. Take your cat for a nice walk or let them wander around your yard in a safe way. Your cat can still get outside and soak up the sun, but they are not in danger of many of the things listed above. You still will want to keep an eye out for birds of prey. They have been known to grab even small dogs on leashes and take off with them. 
  • Build a cattery. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. As long as it keeps your cat contained and safe that is all you need. Do not trust a fence to keep your cat confined. Cats can be very good climbers, and unless the fence is specially designed to keep cats in.

Keeping your cat happy inside

  • Do not let your cat outside! If you let them out even once, they may start throwing a fit to go outside again. If you do not want to allow them to roam outside, only bring them out on a harness or in a cattery.
  • Toys and playtime are key.
    • Rotating toys can help them from getting bored with them. Have some out and some put away, then swap them out.
    • Spending time playing with your cat is also great. String toys and laser pointers are great for wearing your cat out.
    • You can even get cat feeders that they have to work at to get their food or do this with treats. There are even DIY options for this.

Source: http://andreasnotebook.com/diy-cat-puzzle-tutorials/

  • Provide plenty of scratching posts. Vertical scratchers, horizontal scratches, cardboard, rope, there are all sorts of different kinds of scratching posts. Clawing is important for a cat’s physical and mental health. Scratching is a way for them to relieve stress as well as keep their nails from getting too sharp, though regular nail trims are also beneficial.
  • Cat towers, shelves or other things to climb. You don’t even have to go for the expensive cat towers. Some cats are happy with a nice box fort or you could always put up some shelves for them to climb out of scrap wood. Many cats enjoy being in higher places
  • Put a bird feeder outside the window. Many cats love to watch birds, and will spend hours staring out at them.

 

 

 

Sources:

https://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/indoor-cats-vs-outdoor-cats/

https://pets.webmd.com/cats/features/should-you-have-an-indoor-cat-or-an-outdoor-cat#1

http://www.thehumanesociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/indoors_outdoors.pdf 

(1) https://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/pets-poisons/

(2) https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/how-long-do-cats-live-cat-health-facts

(3) https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics