While cats who are allowed outside generally have more stimulating lives, there are many important factors to consider concerning your cat’s health, the environment, and your relationship with your neighbors before you let your feline friend wander the neighborhood.
Cats who are free to roam are exposed to various poisons, parasites, and physical dangers. Being born hunters it’s no surprise they will be eating other small animals. This poses a danger when their prey may have eaten plants sprayed with pesticides, may have eaten rat poison, or are hosting parasites. There is also the risk that your neighbors might enjoy your cat’s company and decide to feed them. This can be a health issue not only if your cat has special dietary needs or allergies, but because it contributes to obesity and straying.
Outdoor cats are at a greater risk of getting themselves into trouble. Cats, being curious creatures, often get trapped in garages or sheds, fall into pools, or decide to see if the neighbor’s dogs are friendly. If you live near a busy road, it’s important to know that cats are not good navigators of traffic. Outdoor cats are also more likely to bring home fleas, ticks, and worms than cats who live strictly indoors. They can get in fights with raccoons and other cats leading to injuries and abscesses, as well as potentially exposing them to feline leukemia, feline aids, and upper respiratory infections.
Since abscesses can be deadly if left untreated, make sure to check their body every day for anything that looks like an open sore, scratches, or painful swelling.
There are also the environmental impacts of free ranging cats. Experts estimate that domestic cats are responsible for killing 1.3 to 4 billion birds as well as 6.3 to 22.3 billion mammals annually in the contiguous United States. This wouldn’t have such a negative impact on mother nature if cats selectively hunted pest rodents and invasive species, but unfortunately, they cannot tell the difference between a native endangered bird and your phone charger. Another environmental consideration is that cats are likely to use your neighbor’s yard, garden, and sandbox as their litter box, creating an unhealthy environment; We wouldn’t let a dog use someone’s garden as a bathroom, so if you don’t have a litter box available make sure there are appropriate places on your property for them to relieve themselves. Cats tend to have preferences so experiment and find out if your cat likes freshly tilled soil, sand, or last year’s pile of dried leaves.
In no way are we saying you shouldn’t let your cat outside, but to give you as much information about how to keep them as safe and as healthy as possible if you do. Check back next month to see how you can set your outdoor cat up for success and how to be a good neighbor to the cats that live in your neighborhood!