Many of the top charities and animal shelters in the US now recommend that cat are kept inside and even make it a condition of an adoption. While there are arguments in favor of letting your cat experience the outside world, there are also a lot of risks that should have considered before allowing them to have free run outside. In fact, some studies show that a cat living outdoors has a life expectancy as much as 10 years less than an indoor cat. Here are some reasons why.
A study conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked into the territories that cats claimed when allowed outside. Feral cats have a larger territory than pet cats because they need to find food, where as a pet can return home to be fed. However, the average range for a pet cat in the area was 4.9 acres. They covered with area to stalk prey, rest and even encounter other cats, sometimes feral ones seeking to take over the territory.
While this may sound perfectly natural, there are many inherent risks with this territory. Around one quarter of accidental cat deaths come from cars within the first year of life. Once they learn to adapt and avoid cars, then cats generally manage well but there are still experienced, wily ones that get eaten by traffic.
The other major threat when a cat sees a lot of time outdoors is the risk of eating something poisonous, either by accident or on purpose. Various pesticides can be used by non-pet owning families that the cat can come into contact with and can prove fatal.
There is also the risk of the cat becoming trapped somewhere, grabbed by thieves in the case of pedigree breeds and even taken away by people who mistake it for a feral cat.
Danger of encounters
The other big risk is disease and these most commonly come from encounterers with others of their kind, most particularly with feral cats. Feral cats do not receive vaccinations and regular check ups so can be a melting pot for diseases and infections, which they can pass to a pet cat through fighting.
One example of the toxoplasma gondii parasite that can cause respiratory, reproductive and neurological problems in cats and even be spread to humans and other species. It can pass from cat to cat as can series conditions such as rabies, cat scratch fever, feline leukaemia and feline immunodeficiency disorder. While vaccinations can help reduce a pet cat's risk of contracting these conditions, no vaccine is 100% guaranteed coverage.
So what can you do to allow your cat some outdoor time but minimize the risks? There are various ideas depending on the personality of the cat and the location that you live in. One of the best is to train the cat from a young age to walk on a leash. While walking the cat may seem a strange idea it allows them to go outside, investigate the garden or other area while you still control their range and can remove them from dangers. It is important that they have their vaccinations before doing this.
Setting up a screened area where the cat can be outdoors but not lose is another idea. If you do this, ensure there is a shade area and that their food and water is accessible. Making provisions inside the house is one of the easiest ways to allow them to use their instincts such as buying plenty of toys and cat furniture for them to climb and scratch.
Finally, spend time with your cat, playing with them and giving them your love and attention. While cats may seem like loners, they need this love or will be unhappy in the home and and more likely to try to escape for a better life elsewhere.