Does Your Cat REALLY Need to Go Outdoors?
Not if you want him to live a long life…
Letting your cat go outside may sound like a good idea since cats love to explore. But it’s a dangerous, and potentially deadly, practice. Here’s why…
by Linda Hall and Rita Reimers, Cat Behavior Experts
We cat lovers will do just about anything to make our cats happy! It’s no surprise that many people want to let their cats outside. Cats love to explore and climb and chase squirrels! I totally understand, but let’s talk about the realities of “outside” cats.
How Neighbors Feel About Your Outside Cat
When I was young, we had a neighbor who put dry cat food out every morning on her lawn for her own cats, and maybe a few strays. Of course the cats didn’t just stick to that yard! They visited everyone’s yards. One day my Dad went outside and found kitty prints on his brand new car! Oooh! He was hot! Those tiny nail scratches were not what he wanted on his sparkly new vehicle.
A few years ago, there was a beautiful orange male kitty visiting my house. I LOVE cats, and I have a special fondness those orange kitties! He was gorgeous. However, his presence outside upset all of my own cats inside. It was frustrating. He also had fleas and liked to lay on my step, right outside my back door. This increases the risk of me bringing fleas in to my cats. Do you know how expensive it is to flea treat 11 cats? Yikes!
Then he really got me! He dug up my freshly planted flowers to use my soil as a litter box. I had smoke coming from my ears. My beautiful flower beds were ruined. Money was wasted on half a flat of now-dead flowers. I couldn’t deal with this anymore and took him to a rescue. I found out later that he lived a block away from me and had his own kitty door so he could leave when he wanted to. They had to pay a fine to get him back which
I hoped would deter them from letting him out. Sadly, it did not.
No one wants a neighbor feud and even worse, there are neighbors who don’t love cats. I hate saying this but there are people out there who think of cats the way I think of mice. They are pests and will be exterminated if they come on their property. I’ve heard of people who have shot cats on their land. They’ve poisoned them. They’ve done things I can’t bring myself to discuss. It’s bad!
Dangers Your Outside Cat Faces
There are many other dangers for those cats who are let outside, like other animals such as dogs and coyotes, and car traffic. Kids may shoot at cats with BB guns in “fun,” or subject them to other types of physical abuse.
Even if none of these things are a problem, there are other dangers out there. People spray chemicals on their lawns which your kitty will get on his fur. When he grooms himself, he will ingest those chemicals and make him very sick. People leave antifreeze in their open garages, which is again poisonous to cats. Poison that has been set out for rats and mice could be eaten by your cat. Even worse, there are people who will purposely poison our friendly felines as they roam around the neighborhood.
As if all that isn’t enough reason to keep your cat indoors, bear in mind that there are a host of diseases that outdoor cats are at risk for getting. Your cat could be exposed to and develop FIV, FIP, Feline Distemper, and even Upper Respiratory Infections. Outdoor cats may also bring home ear mites, ringworm, mosquitos, and ticks, potentially also exposing their humans to ring worm or even Lime Disease from the ticks.
Cats who go outside have much shorter life expectancies. Outdoor cats have a life expectancy of only 2 to 5 years. Those cats who get to live life completely indoors have an average life expectancy of 13 to 17 years, and many live well into their 20’s. It’s for those reasons that Linda and Rita’s kitties aren’t allowed outside, and they are PURRfectly fine with it.
Bring the Outdoor Fun Inside
Indoor environment enrichment is simple, and will keep your cat from missing the great outdoors so he can remain healthy and safe. Offer your cat high places, such as cat shelving or cat trees, so he can climb up high. Most cats enjoy looking down at their surroundings, and it makes them feel safe. Cat-safe plants, such as cat nip or valerian, add some outdoor appeal as well. (read our article: 8 Cat-Safe Plants)
Be sure to provide plenty of self-play toys, as well as interactive toys he can enjoy with you, and spend some one-on-one time with your cat everyday. Scratching poles and pads will keep those nails groomed.
And of course, don’t forget boxes! Cats love to hide and nap inside those delivery boxes, and they don’t cost a dime.
Cats Don’t Need to be Outside
While we love our cats and want them to have the world to explore, it simply isn’t safe out there. Your kitty can be very happy indoors as long as you provide good food and some fun toys.
Make sure he has a cat tree or some other place where he can climb up high. Give him some soft blankets to lay on and some some cubbies or even boxes to play and hide in.
Put up a shelf by your window so he can watch the birds outside.
He won’t be missing a thing!
Vicki Hart says
I have a cat that goes in and out through a doggie door. My problem is I’m afraid that he will become unhappy if I lock him in?
He doesn’t use litter box. The problem is he brings mice in the house and now I have a mouse/rat? Problem.
HELP What to do?
I think every cat is different. For example barn/farm cats live almost exclusively outside and only go indoors to eat and take shelter from bad weather.
1 of my cats was a farm cat and he has lived outside in our neighbourhood for 19 years. He comes inside much more often now that he’s older but for the first 16 years he would be outside for days at a time. And I live in a neighbourhood that sees raccoons, coyotes & even the occasional bear!!