The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that cats who are allowed outdoors live about ¼ as long as cats that live indoors exclusively.
There are an estimated 1-3 million stray and feral cats in LA County alone. Many of these cats may carry diseases that can be passed on to your pet if they come into contact with them. A number of these diseases can be serious or potentially fatal. Some common diseases your cat could contract are:
- Feline Leukemia (FeLV)
- Feline AIDS (FIV)
- Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia)
- Upper Respiratory Infections
- Tritrichomonas foetus
Cats can contract parasites outside such as:
- Ear Mites
- Intestinal parasites (Tapeworms, Giardia, Coccidia, Tritrichomonas foetus)
These parasites can cause a variety of 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.
In addition to the risks posed by fellow cats, other potential hazards can seriously threaten your cat’s well-being and even their life.
Cats don’t always have the innate instinct to avoid busy streets and they frequently get hit by cars. Cats also like to hide under and in cars, causing them to become injured.
Bruno was found on a street with an open wound and broken leg. It was obvious he had been hit by a car. Even though he had to have his leg removed - he was lucky to make it out with his life. His owners gave up ownership after finding out what had happened to him out in the world.
Roaming cats may also be at risk for animal cruelty. Sadly, some people have been known to shoot cats with BB guns or arrows. Some cats end up being trapped, abused and killed.
Joan of Arc was found with ocular distress from a foreign substance being poured into her eyes. Someone had tortured this kitten while she was out on her own. Luckily, she was rescued, fostered, medically treated, and was able to keep her eyes and sight.
Cats outside are commonly attacked by dogs, coyotes, racoons and foxes. Injuries from wild animals and stray dog attacks are very serious and often fatal.
Harper was turned into the shelter as a kitten after suffering an attack from some sort of creature out in the "wild." She had a large bite wound and a broken arm that had to be repaired with an external fixator. She was able to keep the leg and all her wounds luckily healed well.
Trees can be a source of some danger for cats who climb to a place to avoid a predator and are afraid or unable to climb down. In some cases, they could be up a tree for days without food or water or fall and suffer serious or fatal injuries.
Henry was found out in the antelope valley with a badly scrapped up arm. He had been traveling around in the big open world and managed to injure his arm by getting it caught in between something that messed up his arm. He needed in cleaned and wrapped periodically for over a month. Henry was able to recover fully.
An outdoor cat may be mistaken for a stray and end up in an animal shelter or take in by someone else. Cats do not always end up back with their owners even with a microchip.
Carly was part of a home for many years, but was found outside wandering around a parking garage. She had a microchip, but the information was not up-to-date and therefore the owner could not be properly contacted and she became available for re-homing.
Outside cats also face the danger of coming into contact with toxins and poisons. Antifreeze is often ingested by animals as it has a pleasant taste but is highly toxic. Cats may also end up accidentally exposed to rodent poison as they like to hunt and eat rodents. Some common garden plants and flowers such as lilies and poinsettias are toxic to your cat.
Riley was brought to the shelter after being found on the streets. She was not eating and slowly losing weight. After a visit to our internal medicine doctor, an ultrasound revealed she had a seed pod blocking her intestines. A surgery was performed to remove it, but because she was unable to eat properly for a long period of time developed hepatic lipidosis. Riley needed a feeding tube placed to help reverse the disease.
If you’re concerned that the cat will miss the sunshine and fresh air, train him to wear a leash and harness (not a collar) and walk him outdoors. Or build a catio (a 360° screened, secured outside space) that allows the cat to experience the outdoors while safely confined. Just be aware that once a cat goes outside, they often want to keep going outside and will have a tendency to bolt.
Myth 1: Indoor cats get bored. They need to outside to have more to do.
Fact: The truth is, indoor cats can and do get bored, but letting them outside is not a good solution.
Instead, make your home more interesting: Set up perches where he can watch birds from the safety of inside, build a DIY cat playhouse, hide his food or modify his feeder so he has to “hunt” for it. Finally, if your cat is up to it, you might consider adopting a second cat as a playmate.
Myth 2: Indoor cats are overweight. They need to go outside to get more exercise.
Fact: If your cat is overweight, the safest way to help her trim down is by combining portion control and a daily exercise and play routine. Stop free feeding your cat, or at least be mindful only to feed a healthy amount per day. Cats love a schedule. Try feeding him at the same times each day and he’ll get used to the routine quickly.
**Have a cat who won’t stand for an empty food dish? Keep him distracted with the activities mentioned above — a feeder toy/puzzle feeder would be perfect for him. If you feed wet food, try stuffing a smaller dog’s toy with the food so your cat will have to work to get the food out. You could also choose to use an automatic feeder that works for wet or dry food, so you have options.
Myth 3: Indoor cats are destructive. They have to go outside to scratch on trees and use the restroom because they won’t go in their litter box.
Fact: Destructive behavior or not using the litter box is often a sign that something else is going on. Is your cat sick? Bored? A talk with your vet or a behaviorist may be in order.
Solving the problem might be simpler than you think. If your cat won’t scratch a vertical scratching post, try a horizontal one. If they don’t like scratching sisal, try a carpeted post.
Myth 4: My cat’s always been allowed outside, so he can’t be indoor-only.
Fact: Many cats have successfully gone from outdoor-only or indoor/outdoor to indoor-only. The key, again, is making sure the indoor environment is just as interesting as outside — and being vigilant about preventing escape attempts.
Myth 5: My cat is safe when he goes outside because he stays close to my home/yard.
Fact: A lot can happen even within a small radius of your home. Other animals could come in and your cat may decide to explore a little further out. So, if you really want to let your cat outside, consider harness training him or creating a screened-in enclosure for him.
Myth 6: I need to let my cat out of the house because I’m allergic to her.
Fact: You may very well be allergic to your cat, but it’s possible you’re actually allergic to something she’s bringing in: indoor/outdoor cats pick up fleas, ticks, pollen and other allergens from the environment. If you really are allergic to your cat there are several easy ways you can reduce the allergens in your home, even when your cat is indoor-only.