Are Outdoor Cats Okay?
Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, The Cat Coach: I do not recommend letting cats outside in any season unless they have access either to an enclosure, a catio or a back yard with a cat fence (non-shocking!). Cat fences are either free-standing structures or they are installed on existing fences. They keep cats safe inside their yards and other animals out.
Statistics show that cats who are indoors 24/7 live longer and healthier lives than those who are allowed to roam outside. Outdoor cats who go outside are exposed to many dangers that can shorten their lives and increase the vet bills. These dangers include: cats, dogs, other predators, cars, parasites, poisons and diseases. Outside cats also run the risk of being stolen.
Additionally, consider the neighbors. Not everyone loves and appreciates cats like we do. Some people don’t take favorably to cats in their gardens. Another down-side is that neighborhood cats often trigger behavior problems in cats who live indoors. Their presence can cause indoor cats to spray, develop litter box challenges or exhibit redirected aggressions towards other resident household animals.
Cats can enjoy the indoors as much and even more then the outdoors when provided with mental stimulation and environmental enrichment. A combination of interactive toys, high places to climb, scratching posts, daily play sessions and other enriching activities helps keep indoor living cats active, safe and happy.
Nancy Taylor, President and CEO, Bideawee: What side of the fence you reside on is going to be influenced by where you live, what your personal attitudes are toward your cat developing its natural instincts, and your tolerance for risk. Of course, your cat may think he/she has a say in this matter!
On average, an indoor cat has a life expectancy of about 14 years. Outdoor cats? About 5 years! (Having said that, my cat is 18 years old, and he spent half his life living an indoor/outdoor life. Now he is a happy couch potato. )
When making a decision on whether or not to let Fluffy out, it is important that you become aware of the increasing risk factors for outdoor cats.
Outdoor cats can use up their nine lives fairly quickly. Outdoor cats get hit by cars, can be victims of cruelty, and can be exposed to poison, toxins, and deadly infectious diseases like Feline Leukemia and Rabies. Outdoor kitties also get into altercations with other cats or animals and can sustain life-threatening injuries and infections. They can suffer from trauma, get caught in leg hold traps and become stuck in trees. Cats can wander and lose their way. I have several friends whose cats went out and just never came home. Who knows what had befallen them?
If you and your cat decide that the outdoor life is calling, please ensure that you do your best to mitigate risk. Make sure that kitty is spayed/neutered. Vaccines for life-threatening transmissible diseases like Feline Leukemia, Panleukopenia and Rabies should be given in accordance with your veterinarian’s recommendations.
Flea, tick intestinal parasite and heartworm protection need to be part of your monthly maintenance. Proper identification with a microchip and a collar is very important to ensure your kitty can get home if he gets lost or injured.
While outdoor cats may live life in the fast lane, indoor kitties also need some environmental enrichment which allows them to express their natural instincts. This can help indoor cats from experiencing boredom and possibly exhibiting undesired behaviors. Interactive toys and challenging food puzzles are a good way to stimulate your cat’s senses and keep the weight off. My cat likes to watch TV and there are several good videos that keep your cat’s attention piqued. In fact, there are now a few iPhone apps for cats!
Part of being a good pet owner is making responsible, informed choices for your animals. Their health and safety are our responsibility.
Mike Arms, President Helen Woodward Animal Center: Of course not. You would absolutely be putting your pet in danger of being hit by a car, or hurt by another animal, or being lost forever.