While walking outside, it is not unusual to see many cats enjoying their freedom in the neighborhood. In fact, many cat owners allow their cats outdoors because they feel that it is in their nature to roam the great outdoors at will. Some cat parents even set up housing or food dishes outside on their porches for these emancipated cats. Indeed, many felines happily reach old age savoring sunshine and fresh air firsthand.
Indoor cats face fewer imminent dangers but still come across them nonetheless. It wasn’t until the 1950s that pet owners actually had a choice whether to keep their cats indoors for safety or allow them to continue to patrol their territory. This choice was introduced with the advent of cat litter.
The truth is, a cat can quickly find themselves in trouble with the many risks they face every day, whether they are indoor or outdoor pets. There is no possible way to keep them completely safe from harm, unless perhaps you wrap them for life in bubble wrap!
Things to look for
Listed here are the main risks that outdoor/indoor cats may come across. (Please note: This list is not intended to frighten or intimidate you. It is only to help you become familiar with the risks.)
•Declawing — While this is a practice many cat parents perform, it can be especially dangerous if they continue to allow their cats to go outside. Should an attack occur, the cat will not be able to adequately defend themselves.
•Cars — Cars are the biggest enemy of an outdoor cat. No matter how fast they may run, a cat is no match for several tons of speeding metal!
While it is obvious that most collisions between a cat and a car result in death, sometimes the animal can actually walk away from the accident with their life, albeit severely injured.
We have seen numerous cats come in for shattered pelvises, broken legs, broken jaws, road rash (skin that has been rubbed off by asphalt/body contact), etc. Unfortunately, the list can continue forever with the ailments we see from these interactions.
•Canines and wild animals — Of course, these are a major threat to a cat’s safety. Coyotes, stray dogs and even pet dogs on the loose head into suburbs to look for food. They all view a cat as a tasty morsel to chase, as it is in their instincts to do so. Many missing kitties sadly never reunite with their families because they wind up as meals for these vagrants.
Wild animals may also be a threat if they are protecting their babies or territory.
•Toxins/poisons — Unrestricted mousers who hunt for snacks, come into contact with many different products used to kill vermin. Cats can develop GI (gastrointestinal) issues with eating rodents or birds regardless, but if they happen to ingest an animal that has also ingested such poisons, it can lead to deadly consequences.
Household poisons are also a lurking menace, especially rodent or insect control.
Antifreeze is also a problem, since cats favor the sweet taste.
•No identification — Microchipping is important, as many owners place quick-release collars on their outdoor pets for protection in case they get stuck on or under something.
Cats you see outside may not always have identification. Good Samaritans will sometimes “rescue” these cats and bring them to shelters or veterinary clinics. Without proper identification, their owners cannot be reached. (Make sure you keep your contact information up-to-date with the microchip company.)
Indoor cats can also dart out an open door if they feel brave enough, so it is important to microchip your indoor cats.
•Diseases — If your cat goes outside, it is best to keep them up-to-date on vaccinations to protect them from serious diseases. The most common diseases that they can come into contact with are feline AIDS, feline leukemia and upper respiratory infections.
If you suspect your cat has acquired any of these illnesses, it is best to bring them to your veterinarian for an exam, diagnostic testing and treatment.
It is equally important to keep your cats’ rabies vaccination current to protect them from this potentially fatal disease.
•Household plants — There are quite a few plant types that are poisonous to cats, should they chew or eat them. Find out which ones are dangerous and either rid your home of them or place them in a place your cat cannot possibly reach them.
You can find out which ones are hazardous by checking out this website: www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants.
•Choking threats — Look for small rubber bands, magnets, paperclips and any other household supplies that are small enough to fit in your pet’s mouth and make sure they are out of reach. These items may not seem like a big deal, but they can become obstructions in the intestines very quickly.
•Parasites — While these are not usually life-threatening, parasites can be a nuisance to your cat. Parasites cause a variety of moderate to severe symptoms, such as scratching, skin infection, vomiting or diarrhea.
They also can pass along to your human family members and infect them.
Parasites can be difficult to eradicate from your home, as well as from your family members, furry and non-furry.
Some parasites that your cat may come across are fleas, ticks, ear mites, intestinal worms and ringworm (a fungal infection).
Whether you allow your cat outside or prefer to keep them inside, there is really no right or wrong way. As long as you take some precautions to keep your cats safe, they can enjoy long, happy lives wherever they may be allowed to explore.
MEGAN L. FOUCH is the office manager at the Madison Park Veterinary Hospital (www.madisonparkvet.com). To comment on this story, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.