Outdoor Cats – What’s to Worry About?

For many people the concept of “indoor/outdoor cats” is a strange one. In more rural communities cats are almost exclusively ‘outdoor’ as they run free across a farm. But outdoor cats come with plenty of concerns, for both the cat’s health and for their environment! This time on the Acoma Animal Clinic we are talking about the risks that come with cats and outdoor living.

Believe it or not, ‘indoor’ cat living is relatively recent, only since the invention of kitty litter in the 1940s. But even if it’s a recent change, it’s also the safer one. Cats going outside put them at unnecessary risk for a number of things (and a number of things at risk of the cat!)

Outdoor Cats Encounter Other Animals

We all know cats, they’re lovable, sweet little friends – but they’re also predators, territorial, and maybe a bit too confident in themselves. This leads to interactions with other animals that can lead to injuries, infections, diseases, or pregnancy! Whether violent or peaceful, encounters with other animals can lead to situations you’re not ready for or wanting!

Letting your cat roam free outdoors puts it at risk of being attacked by other cats, dogs, even coyotes and hawks or other birds of prey. Especially here in Tucson where our backyards are the gorgeous Southwest. 

If your cat comes home wounded from an attack, immediately call your vet and seek treatment! Antibiotics will be necessary to prevent and fight any infection that might be taking hold.  Fights with other cats have the risk of spreading Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV).

Your cat may also be the aggressor. Sometimes that can be hard to believe, but our cat friends are predators and they may be on the offensive. If your cat attacks and injures another, you are responsible for what your cat has done when they are out and about. Cats are responsible for a serious amount of damage to local bird and wildlife populations. Like we said, they are incredible predators when they want to be.

And of course, if your cat isn’t spayed or neutered there is the potential that they come home pregnant or otherwise contribute to animal overpopulation.  If you have an unfixed cat and you let them outside – it will happen.

Outdoor Cats Have a Higher Risk for Diseases and Health Complications

Outdoor animals are at an increased risk for a number of different health problems and diseases. In addition to the ones we’ve already mentioned, cats have an increased risk of rabies, ticks, fleas, tapeworms, other parasites, and more. We don’t need to go into every single one of them at this time but the truth is there are dozens  of potential illnesses, infections, parasites, and complications your cat can develop by being outdoors.

Accidents May Occur

Unfortunately, accidents happen. Pets get injured by cars, or go missing. There’s not much that can be done to prevent accidents, and should your cat be hit by a vehicle you need to take them to the vet right away. Their injury may be as minor as a broken bone or a bruise but you cannot diagnose that yourself. There may be internal injuries you can hope to spot, you’re not a professional.

Keeping your cat indoors keeps them safe, eliminates the risk of harm from accidents and getting lost. If you want to give your cat outdoor time, harness train them so you can accompany them outside and keep an eye on their safety, or invest in an enclosed catio. But the number one thing you can do to keep them safe – bring them inside.

If you have adopted an outdoor cat and brought them into your home, make absolutely sure they are healthy and visit a vet right away! They may seem fine but it is better to be safe than sorry!

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