A subject of much controversy is whether to let cats roam free outside. For now, let’s focus on the welfare of the cats themselves. Of course cats are safer inside a home but I believe they live healthier lives having the benefit of fresh air and exercise. Because of this I have built an enclosure for my cats to safely enjoy the outdoors but I have one cat, Chuck, who cannot, for many reasons, be kept inside at all times. I know that I am taking a risk letting him outside, although he is not allowed out after dark. If you are thinking of letting your cat go outside or feel guilty when your cat wants to go outside, please know the risks.
- Lifespan: Free roaming cats generally live 2-3 years; cats kept inside can live up to 16 years or longer.
- Cars: Cars are the number 1 killer of cats. Approximately 50% of all free roaming cats are killed in car accidents. 80% of all major traumas seen at emergency clinics are the result of being hit by cars. In addition, in cold weather cats will crawl under the hood of cars to stay warm. Severe injury results when someone not knowing the cat is in there turns on the car.
- Disease: Cats outside are exposed to many diseases, many of which may be fatal; among them; FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus), FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis. All of these diseases are transmitted from cat to cat.
- Poisons: Cats can get into poisonous chemicals. Bait used to kill rodents; treated lawns and anti-freeze are commonly used in all neighborhoods. Cats are especially attracted to the taste of anti-freeze and only a few licks are enough to kill a cat.
- Other animals: Raccoons, other cats, dogs, skunks and coyotes, etc. are all animals that will attack cats. This may even happen on your own property!
- Parasites: Some of the parasites that cats can contract from being outdoors are: Fleas, tapeworms, ear mites, roundworms as well as other internal parasites. Many cats suffer from allergies and skin irritations due to these parasites. While treatments are available for these, they can be costly, involve chemicals and be unpleasant to your cat.
- Injury: Free roaming cats can suffer from ear and eye injuries, abscesses, broken bones and many other injuries. Many cats are not able to make it back home and may die on their own. Cats can caught in deadly steel leg hold traps and perish from this.
- Human abuse: Sadly cats may suffer abuse, may be used in dogfights or hurt by other methods. Neighbors who are not cat lovers may be annoyed by them and take matters into their own hands. People have been known to trap cats and take them to another location.
It’s not a perfect world and we need to do the best we can to keep our cats safe. Feel free to contact me for suggestions on keeping your cat happy inside or building a safe, open air cattery. Your cat will thank you!