Indoor vs Outdoor Cats
by Mira Alicki
Immediately one pictures packs of lions in Africa or a lone cheetah chasing down its prey. Cats are natural born explorers and hunters and domesticated cats retain that instinct whether they are raised outdoors or not. Many cat owners come to crossroads of having to choose what environment they want to raise their feline in: outdoors or indoors. If you are unsure of which option to choose, we’ve compiled a list to help with your decision.
DISEASE. The biggest concerns for outdoor cats are feral and homeless cats that may come in contact your own. The American Feral Cat Coalition estimates that there are about 60 million feral and homeless cats living in the United States alone. Many of these cats carry a number of potentially fatal or dangerous diseases such as:
• Feline leukemia (FeLV)
• Feline AIDS (FIV)
• FIP (feline infectious peritonitis)
• Feline distemper (panleukopenia)
• Upper respiratory infections (or URI).
The first two listed, FIV and FeLV, are highly contagious and fatal. If your cat is going to spending any time outside, make sure you take them to get additional health care and vaccinations to protect against these diseases.
PARASITES. In addition to diseases, many outdoors attract fleas and bring them into the home. Even with a flea collar, cats may bring in parasites from the outside depending on their environment. Some other parasites that your cat may pick up during their outdoor exploration are:
• Ringworm (a fungal infection)
• Ear mites
• Intestinal Worms
These parasites not only cause moderate to severe symptoms to your feline but may also be spread to you and your family. Once a parasite has hitched a ride into your home, it is often times difficult to fully eradicate them from your home.
EXERCISE. The outdoors is the optimal environment for your cat when it comes to exercise. They are free to run wild and explore on their own. This also means getting fewer toys to keep them entertained indoors and less time spent helping them get the exercise that they need. Cats that spend all of their time indoors can become:
• Dependent on their owners for simulation: this can cause a cat to become stressed when the owners are absent and unable to entertain themselves.
• Clingy when they owner is home: this can cause a cat to become less welcoming to strangers or others who enter their home and take time away from their owner.
• Destructive to furniture: even with stretching posts and proper care, indoor cats may find expensive furniture to satisfy their needs and destroy them.
If you do allow your feline to venture outside, remember to:
• Protect your feline from other cats and animals. Keep them on a leash or let them out in a confined area like your backyard, where they are less likely to run into them.
• Keep a careful watch on your cat when they’re outdoors
• Periodically visit the veterinarian to screen for parasites and diseases and keep their vaccines up-to-date.
CARS. In addition to feral and homeless cats that can attack your feline, cars cause many feline deaths. A popular and false belief is that cats have an innate instinct to avoid busy roads and cars, which is completely false. Cats are just as likely to run into the busiest road as a dog is.
ANIMAL CRUELTY. For whatever reason, there are people like to inflict abuse to wandering animals. Any roaming cat is a risk to be attacked or shot with a BB gun or arrows. Some felines end up being trapped and then abused and/or killed “for fun.”
OTHER ANIMALS. Thanks to the reputation of larger felines such as lions and cheetahs, cats are considered to be exceptional hunters. While domesticated cats also make exceptional hunters, they often find themselves being the hunted, not the hunter.
Depending on your location, domesticated cats are at risk of being hunted by:
• Loose or stray dogs
Many bites from these animals are serious and can often lead to death. While you can’t control wild animals, you can control where your cat explores. Keep an eye on your feline and keep them in a safe and confined area.
TOXINS AND POISONS. Felines often come in contact with dangerous and toxic substances that are being used to kill off other pests. Common toxins that cats can come in contact with are antifreeze or rodent poisons.
TREES. In popular culture, cats are found in stuck high up in a tree and are often saved by some hero walking by. When these cats find themselves stuck high in a tree, the will be unable or too scared to climb down and end up staying there. If not rescued quickly, the cat can become severely dehydrated and weak that they end up falling with severe to fatal injuries.
HUNTERS. Cats have a reputation for having such a strong prey drive that they often hunt just for sport and “for fun.” Their prey tends to be birds or other small animals. While the impact of one domesticated cat doesn’t seem that much, it is estimated that cats kill hundreds of millions of birds every year with feral cats only killing 20% of that number.
The main concern for indoor cats is their stimulation and exercise. As they spend the majority of the life inside the house, it falls upon the owner to provide both. Here are some suggestions to keep your indoor cat from becoming too fat and lazy:
• Get a companion for your cat: whether it is another feline or a dog, a companion will keep your feline company while you’re away while also providing exercise, affection and companionship.
• Interactive food toy: instead of just dumping food into their bowl, make your feline work for it. By putting the dry food inside a toy, they have to play with the toy to get the food out forcing them to exercise for their food.
• Scratching posts: avoid having your feline destroy your furniture by buying a post where they can satisfy their natural instinct to scratch at objects.
• Create the perfect environment: by buying items for your cat as cat trees, cat perches (that face the sun), and hiding places to provide simulation and comfort to your feline companion.
-Mira Alicki is a jewelry designer and goldsmith for the past 22 years. Her passion for animals led her to create her own line of jewelry and online store to benefit charities. 40% of each purchase is donated back to the animal community. You can find Mira on Twitter (@FIMHjewelry) or Forever In My Heart.