Outdoor cats are a bit of a pet peeve of mine. Cats can happily live out their entire lives indoors. Indoor cats can interact with their owners more, and they live longer and healthier lives. Outdoor cats are not only in danger themselves, but are also endanger local wildlife. Allowing cats to wander outdoors is common in the city we live in, and I've personally had quite a few bad experiences with outdoor cats.
I was bitten by a feral cat, most likely the product of someone's unfixed pet, and had to receive (VERY!) expensive rabies shots. One of my dogs, Kitsune, was scratched in the face once by an outdoor cat. The scratch was deep, and very close to his eye. His vet said he was very lucky that the cat missed his eye, or he could have potentially, worst case scenario, lost it. Most recently, I sat with a sick cat outside until Animal Control came to get him. He was suffering from heat stroke from being out in the elements, and ultimately didn't survive.
The Animal Welfare Association lists some of the dangers cats are susceptible too when kept outdoors:
- Becoming hit by a car
- Ingesting a deadly poison like antifreeze or a pesticide
- Becoming trapped by an unhappy neighbor
- Being attacked by a roaming dog, cat, or wild animal
- Contracting a disease from another animal
- Becoming lost and unable to find her way home
- Being stolen
- Encountering an adult or child with cruel intentions
As well as putting your pet in danger, by allowing your cat to wonder outdoors you are also endangering the local wildlife. The American Bird Conservancy website points out that "scientists estimate that every year in the United States alone, cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion small mammals, including rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks." Predation on wildlife by introduced species such as cats (both owned and feral) is considered to be the second most dangerous threat to wild bird populations, second only to habitat destruction.
Outdoor cats also pose a health risk to other domestic pets and humans. Unvaccinated cats can carry rabies, and all cats can carry the parasite toxoplasmosis. Cat scratch fever is a infectious disease caused by a bacteria that is carried in the mouths of cats. It can be transferred to humans, other domestic animals, and wildlife through cat bites and scratches. In domestic pets and humans, it can cause a nasty infection that often requires antibiotics to cure. For wildlife, who don't have access to medical care, even the tiniest of cat scratches can prove deadly.
Indoor cats on average live long lives, a majority of them reaching 10 years of age or older. However, due to the dangers present outdoors, outdoor cats live an average of only 2 years. It is possible to provide everything your cat needs in an indoor environment, and doing so will not only help your cat to live a longer healthier life, but it will also protect your local wildlife.