Many people allow pet cats to roam loose outdoors, but this is a dangerous practice for cats, wildlife and pet owners. Understanding why it is harmful to let cats outdoors is important for becoming a more responsible pet owner and taking better care of your cats.
Why So Many Cats Are Allowed to Roam
Cat owners have different justifications for letting their pets loose outside. While cats do have a natural instinct to roam and explore, they can easily satisfy that urge in an indoor environment, so relying on that instinct with the excuse "you can't keep a cat indoors" is just lazy reasoning. Some cat owners may prefer to allow their cats outdoors to minimize hairballs or scratching in the house, but cats will do what they need to do wherever they are, and they are not easily housetrained or taught to "do their business" only when outside. Cat owners also need to remember that cats are adept climbers and jumpers, and it is rare that a pet cat will remain only in its own yard if it is allowed outdoors. When a cat escapes, it can cause a great number of problems and faces a wide variety of threats.
Hazards Outdoor Cats Face – And Problems They Cause
There are many threats facing cats when they are allowed to roam unsupervised outdoors, including…
- Accidents: Outdoor cats are much more likely to be hit by vehicles, caught in rodent traps or trapped in tight spaces where they cannot escape, leading to panic, starvation and death.
- Poisoning: A roaming cat may nibble at a piece of poisoned bait intended for rodents or other pests, or may lick at a tasty (and deadly) puddle of antifreeze or other chemicals.
- Capture: People may feel sorry for loose cats, catching them and turning them in to shelters or adopting them. An outdoor cat may also be stolen or subject to cruelty from pranksters.
- Disease: Cats can come into contact with other cats, raccoons, rats and other wildlife outdoors and may contract painful or deadly diseases, leady to hefty vet bills or lingering deaths.
- Parasites: Fleas, ticks, mites and other parasites flourish outdoors, and cats that roam are more likely to be infested with these uncomfortable pests. Some pests also transmit diseases.
- Fights: Aggressive or territorial cats are likely to fight with other cats, raccoons, skunks or other animals, and even a minor injury can become infected and painful.
- Predators: Outdoor cats are seen as prey by hunting predators, including foxes, coyotes, raccoons and other wildlife. Large owls may also hunt outdoor cats.
- Disorientation: Not all cats are equally savvy about directions and landmarks, and it is easy for a pampered pet to become lost and never return to its home.
Cats that are routinely allowed outdoors without care or supervision have a significantly shorter lifespan than indoor pets. But even if a cat thrives outdoors, it can be doing terrible things to the local environment and can cause many problems for its owner, such as…
- Killing Wildlife: Outdoor cats, including pets, kill billions of birds, reptiles, small mammals and amphibians each year, and can contribute to species becoming endangered or even extinct. Even pampered cats are adept instinctive hunters, and are often more effective because they are well-fed and healthy, allowing them to capture more prey.
- Unwanted Kittens: If a pet cat is not spayed or neutered, it may have a much larger family in its outdoor life than a pet owner suspects. Animal rescues and shelters are overwhelmed with unwanted cats, and adding to that population with an unexpected litter of kittens is irresponsible and inhumane.
- Annoyed Neighbors: An outdoor cat rarely confines its activities just to its own yard, and neighbors don't always appreciate a cat digging, spraying or defecating in their gardens or flowerbeds. Cats may scratch on outdoor furniture, annoy other pets, disrupt backyard bird feeders or otherwise be a nuisance that can lead to tense neighborhood relations.
- Broken Laws: Many cities and towns have laws against free-roaming, unsupervised pets, and irresponsible cat owners could be subject to fines or charges of animal cruelty or neglect. Homeowners associations, apartment complexes and other organizations may have similar restrictions about letting cats run loose.
With so many threats and problems facing outdoor cats, it is better to always keep pets safe, loved and well cared for indoors.