the pros, cons and potential risks to consider when thinking about letting your cat outside this spring.
ah, the hot topic of keeping cats indoors versus letting them outside. there are proponents on both sides of this long-standing debate. if it makes you feel better, know that veterinarians lie on both sides, too — some let their own cats outdoors, and some are staunchly against it.
many advocates of letting cats outside believe that fresh air, sunshine and allowing them to access their hunting instincts are important benefits that shouldn’t be ignored.
personally, I believe in keeping cats inside as a safety best practice — unless you can keep them in a protected, supervised region (e.g., on a leash, in a fenced-in yard where they can’t escape, etc.), or if your home sits on a large plot of land where your cat is less likely to be exposed to cars and traffic. after all, I always prioritize cats’ overall health.
following are some potential risks to keep in mind if you’re considering letting your cat out this spring:
there is an estimated 60 million feral cats in the United States. if you have feral or stray cats in your neighborhood, letting your cat outside can expose them to a number of diseases. these include potentially life-threatening, highly infectious diseases like:
· feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
· feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
· feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
· upper respiratory infections (URI)
· feline panleukopenia
· gastrointestinal parasites
· ringworm (a fungal infection causing hair loss that is also transmissible to humans)
· ear mites
· Yersinia pestis (plague, which is found more commonly in the Southwest region of the United States)
whether it’s due to animal cruelty, dogs, coyotes or cars, outdoor cats are more likely to be shot at by BB guns, arrows or guns; attacked by predators; or accidentally hit by vehicles. likewise, they can accidentally undergo severe injury from fan belts (cats often like to sleep near the car engine to stay warm in the winter) or fall out of trees, resulting in fractures or more severe injuries.
outdoor cats are more likely to be exposed to certain poisons such as mouse and rat poison, antifreeze (which is typically fatal in cats, as the antidote must be given within three hours) or other poisons.
as cats are such amazing, natural predators, they often kill migrating songbirds. outdoor cats are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of birds each year. if you do allow your cats outside, please do not put bird feeders or birdbaths in the backyard.
if you do decide to keep your cat outdoors, make sure to talk to your veterinarian about certain flea medications that are a must (to keep the fleas out of your bed and to prevent spreading infectious diseases to you) as well as certain vaccines (like FeLV).
what if you decide to keep your cat indoors?
you can still provide a wonderful, safe and stimulating environment inside! catnip, laser pointers, window-mounted cat beds, puzzle toys and feather-on-a-string sticks are a great way of exercising your cat and keeping him or her entertained for hours at a time.
when in doubt, talk to your veterinarian about whether or not to let your cat outdoors. if you do want to, consider training your cat to walk on a harness and leash combination while you supervise your cat outdoors!