The Risks for Outdoor Cats

We as cat owners want to provide the best possible stimulating environment for our cat. They are curious creatures by nature and love to explore, and the outdoors seem to provide a stimulating environment. The question is, do the benefits outweigh the countless risks? Things like accidents, disease, and just some of the potential threats that could fatally harm your pet.

In the vet clinic we see many visits due to the over exuberant life of an outdoor cat. Over 70% of the injuries we see in cats are in direct relation to their outdoor lifestyle. Things like abscesses, broken limbs, hit by cars, and dog/wildlife attacks are the just some of the unfortunate things we see. Due to the nature of these accidents, they often result in the cat requiring a surgical procedure or delicate medical care for days and sometimes weeks. These procedures can be costly endeavors and not always do they end favorably.

Outdoor cats are prone to becoming lost and a lot of the time unable to be reclaimed by the owners. These outdoor cats are often presented to vet clinics as “stray” cats because they owners have neglected to provide the cat with adequate identification and strangers find these cats in emergent condition. These situations become very tricky and it is not an always a smooth process to locate the cat’s owner.

In Canada, we currently still have a fairly large population of feral cats. Some of these cats sadly once were owned and never re-united with their owners due to being “outdoor” cats. These cats are often intact and unvaccinated, not to mention thriving with disease. When you let your cat outdoors they can be potentially exposed to this population and contract a number of diseases and illnesses, some of which can be fatal. Feline leukemia (FeLV) , feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), rabies, feline panleukopenia,  and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are just some of the viruses that could be transferred to your cat if not  up to date  on vaccines.

Parasites are yet another health issue that can plague outdoor cats. Ear mites, fleas and lice can easily be transferred from one infectious cat to another. Ringworm is among the prevalent diseases and not only does it affect cats but it can also be transferred to their owner. All these parasites do require medical attention and prescriptions to eliminate parasitic infection.

Cats are predatory species and known for their impressive hunting abilities. When these cats are left to thrive in the outdoors they tend to follow their instincts and hunt the local wildlife. This is a problem because they are eliminating birds and small rodents unnecessarily.  Outdoor cats are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of birds a year.

Unfortunately not everyone shares the same like of our feline friends and may not take kindly to their presence on their property. Owners may leave out poison for mice and potentially could also harm the cats in the process. Not only do neighbours leave out rat bait, they may also have things like antifreeze on their property, which can be deadly to any curious consumer. Others have been known to kick at or even shoot at if they find an unwanted visitor of the cat variety on their property.  It is impossible to be sure that neighbors will treat your pet with the same respect as you.

Cats can still reap the benefits of the outdoors with the constraints of a harness and a leash on your own property. This ensures that they are safe and not being exposed to possible threats.  By providing a stimulating indoor environment with interactive toys and scratching posts you can also enrich your pet and eliminate the need for them to venture outdoors.  It’s been proven fact that indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats.  Not to mention in the City of Calgary, “cats at large” is illegal and will obtain you a ticket if your cat is apprehended.