6 Biggest Risks for Outdoor Cats
It may seem natural to let cats play about outdoors, and denying them of this appealing pastime can cause guilty feelings. But the Humane Society of the United States doesn’t support free-roaming cats—for either domesticated kitties or feral felines. Studies show that cats that spend time outside are subject to a number of serious risks to their health and well-being, as well as posing threats to other pets—and humans.
To keep cats from harm’s way, it’s best to keep them indoors. Several risks can endanger their precious longevity, and cats don’t really have nine lives! So before you open the door and let them slip outside, consider the following hazards.
1. Diseases: Once contracted, rabies, feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) compromise the immune system, causing serious illness. Infected cats may not show symptoms immediately but are contagious, and these conditions are difficult to treat.
2. Parasites: Fleas and ticks can lead to health problems, as well as pose a risk to humans. Eliminating these pests can be challenging. Ear mites, lice, maggots and worms (tapeworm, ringworm, heartworm) are also transmitted outdoors.
3. Poisons: Pesticide-treated lawns, rodent poisons, fertilizers, slug bait chemicals and antifreeze leaked from vehicles are just a few of the toxic substances outdoor cats are exposed to.
4. Predators: Neighborhood alpha cats, territorial feral cats, dogs and wildlife can critically injure cats, requiring expensive veterinary treatment. Animals like raccoons, coyotes and hawks prey on cats. And, unfortunately, so do cruel people.
5. Streets: It’s a misconception to believe cats know how to avoid traffic—they can't obey stoplights and have no chance against a fast-moving vehicle, or the trauma of an accident.
6. Traps: Feral cat traps can ensnare curious house cats, jeopardizing their limbs.
Other reasons for concern for cats include extreme weather (frostbite, heatstroke or repeated sunburn), getting lost or taken by a well-meaning person, and becoming lost if frightened or disoriented.
When cats are the danger
Cats, who are instinctual birders and mousers, contribute to the loss of other species (young creatures are especially vulnerable), such as songbirds and lizards. The BBC reports that cats were the direct cause of the extinction of 33 bird species. This instinct is another good reason to keep them inside.
Bring the outdoors in
If you believe cats are bored inside and need the great outdoors, try some simple solutions—though it will require your participation! Make your home fun for play and exercise with feathery toys, obstacle courses, leaping and climbing, perches for surveying and cubbies to explore. These activities will answer their natural needs to prowl and play.
If fresh air is an issue, keep windows open to let them catch scents, check out noises and gaze on what’s happening. Kitty videos are a source of stimulation too. Try an indoor-outdoor enclosed “catio” or harness-train her to for taking walks together on a leash. Cats enjoy your companionship too, so always remember to cuddle up and pet her.