Like many cat lovers, you may have thought about letting your cat go outside. A lot of cat owners feel guilty about keeping their cat inside, and worry that they are depriving their cat of natural instincts or fresh air and sunshine. If you have experienced some of these feelings, American Humane Association appreciates your concern for your feline friend and would like to help you make an educated decision. Let’s look at the issues surrounding indoor vs. outdoor cats:
The American Feral Cat Coalition estimates that there are approximately 60 million feral and homeless stray cats living in the U.S. Many of these cats may carry diseases that can be passed on to your cat if he or she comes into contact with them. A number of these diseases can be serious or potentially fatal. Common examples include:
While usually not life-threatening for cats, several common parasites can be picked up by your kitty when venturing outdoors, including:
These parasites can cause a variety of moderate to severe symptoms, such as scratching, skin infections, vomiting and diarrhea. In addition, these creepy crawlies can hitch a ride into your home and infect your family. Parasites can be very difficult to eradicate from your pet, from humans and from your home.
A major consideration for cat lovers thinking about letting their cat venture outdoors is safety. In addition to the risks posed by fellow cats, other potential hazards that can seriously threaten your cat’s well-being -- and even her life – include:
Contrary to popular belief, cats do not have the innate instinct to avoid busy streets, and they frequently get hit by cars.
Roaming cats may be at risk for animal cruelty. Sadly, some people have been known to shoot cats with BB guns or arrows, while some cats end up being trapped, abused and killed in the name of “sport” or “for fun.”
Loose dogs and wild animals:
We may think of our feisty felines as good hunters who are capable of taking care of themselves with sharp teeth and claws. Unfortunately, cats may be good hunters, but they also often wind up being hunted. Cats are commonly attacked by loose dogs and wild animals, such as coyotes, raccoons, foxes and even alligators (depending on where they live). Injuries from wild animal and stray dog attacks are very serious and often fatal.
Toxins and poisons: Outside cats also face danger from coming into contact with toxins, such as antifreeze, that are often ingested because they have a pleasant taste. Cats may also end up accidently exposed to rodent poisons when they hunt and eat rodents that have recently ingested poison bait.
Trees: Trees can be a source of some danger for cats who climb to a place where they are afraid or unable to climb down. In some cases, they may be up in a tree for days until they become so severely dehydrated and weak that they fall and suffer severe, serious or fatal injuries.
Killing birds and small animals:
A cat’s prey drive is so strong that even well-fed cats may naturally enjoy hunting birds or other small animals. Although the impact made by one cat might not seem like a big deal, it is important to think about the total impact of all the cats who are allowed outside. Loose cats are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of birds each year, yet birds are believed to be only 20 percent of the wildlife stray cats kill.1 Birds are especially at risk around homes with feeders and birdbaths.1
Here are some great ways to ensure that your cat enjoys a happy, healthy life inside your home:
A Companion for Your Cat
Many cats enjoy the company of other cats or in some cases, dogs! Playing, chasing and mutual grooming and snuggling can fulfill your indoor cat’s need for exercise, companionship and affection while you are at work or away from home.
Provide your indoor cat with a variety of different interactive toys to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.
Indoor cats should be provided with appropriate surfaces on which to exercise their natural instinct to scratch. Cats have individual preferences, and many prefer to have a variety of scratching posts and surfaces, so be sure to offer your cat several types in multiple locations around your house.
Creating a Purr-fect Indoor Environment
1 Kress, Steve (2008). Audubon Living: Cats. Audubon Magazine, November-December.