Friday, June 24, 2011

Dangers of the Great Outdoors to Cats

Many cat owners debate on whether they should allow their furry friends to go outside or whether they should keep their furry friends as indoor-only cats. Consider this: according to Traci M. Jones who wrote, "Perils in the Life of an Outdoor Cat," the average lifespan of a cat who spends all of his or her time outdoors is approximately a year and a half whereas the average lifespan for a cat who spends all of his or her time indoors is more than 15 years. There are several dangers to consider when deciding whether to allow your cat to spend time outdoors, and if so, when and where.

Heartworm: Cats, like dogs, can get heartworm when they spend time outdoors. This occurs when an infected insect bites a cat. If you allow your cat to spend any time outdoors, please be responsible and provide your furry friend with heartworm prevention. You can get heartworm prevention through your veterinarian.

Diseases: While there are vaccinations for some diseases, vaccinations have not been created against every disease your cat can get outdoors through other animals. Furthermore, according to Tracie M. Jones, while there are vaccinations against feline leukemia and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), they are not reliably effective.

Fleas, Tics, and Worms....Oh my! While fleas, tics, and worms do not pose life-threatening dangers to your cat, fleas, tics, and worms can make your cat - and you - very uncomfortable. When a cat gets fleas and brings them into your home, the fleas are just as likely to start biting you as they are your kitty. Additionally, getting rid of fleas is time-consuming and challenging! If you allow your cat to spend time outdoors, please be a responsible pet owner by putting regular flea and tic prevention on your kitty. You can purchase good quality flea and tic prevention, like Frontline or Advantage, from your veterinarian. Please do not utilize over-the-counter flea and tic prevention products such as Hartz as these products are often not safe for your furry friend.

In addition to fleas and tics, kitties can contract different types of parasites and worms while spending time outdoors. For instance, cats can contract ringworm by digging in dirt. Ringworm is very contagious to humans as well.

Toxic plants: There are hundreds of toxic plants to cats. If ingested, these plants can cause everything from vomiting to coma to death, depending on the plant ingested and how much was eaten. A few of the plants toxic to felines include: all types of lilies, cherries, daisies, spring parsley, tulips, irises, tomato plants, wisteria, and yews.

Cruel people: You might have a fence in your backyard, but this means nothing to your furry friend. To your furry friend, a fence is merely an obstacle to get over, not a barrier to keep him or her in your yard where he or she might be safe. If your cat jumps your fence into a neighbor's yard, your neighbor may or may not mind. If your neighbor doesn't want a furry visitor in his or her yard, though, your neighbor may not have any problem shooting, hitting, poisoning, or harming your fur baby in any other way.

Cats may not even be safe in your own backyard. I heard a very tragic story where a cat was taken from his own backyard and dunked in paint thinner! The cat ultimately lost his life due to the insanely cruel actions of another person.

Automobiles: In addition, if your cat escapes from your yard, he or she runs the risk of getting hit by an automobile. I used to live in the country where there are no speed limits on roads and it was not an uncommon occurrence to see a poor fur baby laying on the side of the road. It's horrible to think about, but the sad truth is, a lot of people never see cats (speed limit or not) until it's too late.

All of these dangers pose very real threats to our fur babies, but that doesn't mean you can't let your furry friend enjoy the great outdoors. If you choose to keep your cat strictly indoors, you can buy him or her nature DVDs that allow him or her to see the outdoors from the safety of your home. Window perches are another great way to allow your feline to enjoy the outdoors while inside. If you want to let your kitty go outside, my best advice would be to either build (or buy) him or her a secure outside enclosure or to put a harness and leash on your feline and take him outside with you so you can supervise his or her outdoor time.


  1. Thanks for visiting our Fuzzy Tales site!

    I've compromised with my cats (Nicki and Derry, as well as angels Annie and Chumley when they were with me). I have a small townhouse with a fenced back "yard," about 16 feet by 19 feet and have had it made cat safe. First my dad made a frame of sorts and we added privacy lattice around the top, angled at about 45 degrees. Nicki still found ways to get out, so I added copious quantities of plastic chicken wire...which he still managed to escape from. LOL. But finally last year I bit the bullet and hired someone to do it properly--I bought 2x4s and Palruf corrugated sheeting, the kind for greenhouse roofs (mine's transparent, no colour). The handyman joked, when he finished, that he's seen prisons with less security. So far--knock on wood--this has kept Nicki safely in, though he still tries. But he can't get his claws into the corrugated plastic, of course.

    I went into considerable debt to have this done, but of course not everyone is willing or able to do that.

    But they get to be outside in the garden and chase bugs and so are happy. :-)

  2. That was great of you to do that for your babies! :) Thanks for visiting!!

  3. I wish I could keep all our ferals safe from the dangers of outdoor life but it is simply not possible. I provide them with cosy and sheltered places to eat, drink and sleep - and my, the stress and drama to have just one feral vaccinated, treated for worms and fleas. But we do what we can and they thrive with their freedom, which on the other side is beautiful to behold.