Where's the Harm in Letting my Cat go Outside?

When people come into the clinic with their kitties, I am often asked if it is ok to let them go outside.  Well the short answer is “no.” They will live a longer and healthier life inside with you. A lot of owners will say “I had a cat growing up, and it was outside all the time and it lived to 15 years old. Where's the harm?” It's wonderful to hear about a outdoor cat living this long, but knowing what I do now about veterinary medicine, I can assure you that this is not the norm for outside cats. I also have to actually admit that the cats that I grew up with were inside/outside cats--but this was way before I knew anything about veterinary care.  I am actually embarrassed that I had cats that went outside when I was young because some of them just disappeared and I did not know what happened to them. I have since taught my family that it is better to have cats living inside. Let me share with you some of the things that I think about when cats go outside.

Cats are very curious by nature and that's one of the reasons I love them so much. But let’s just go ahead and say it: “Curiosity killed the cat”. I have seen so many young cats come to an untimely death due to such things as car accidents, diseases and attacks by wild animals. I would honestly rather my cat die an old kitty from old kitty diseases such as kidney failure or diabetes than get hit by a car or eaten by a coyote. Even if your cat is lucky and does not play in the road and you bring him in most nights, they seem to get into trouble anyway. I am constantly doctoring outside cats for wounds, abscesses, upper respiratory infections or even worse viral problems such as feline leukemia, which is deadly. Outside cats come to see the veterinarian at least 2 – 3 times more often than the inside cats. I feel bad for these cats because they are hurt and upset and sometimes must be hospitalized for days to treat their injuries or diseases.

I also have to remind owners that keep their cats outside that, of course, they must be spayed or neutered, or they will reproduce rapidly!!!! And the best thing (HAHA!!) about outside cats is that they love to hunt!!! They will kill birds, snakes and rodents and then bring their prize inside to you. Sometimes you are really lucky and they bring you a live snake or rat that you have to chase out from under your refrigerator. Some wild animals can transmit some pretty nasty infectious diseases that can be deadly for your cat.

So, again, keeping those fuzzy meowing babies inside will let them lead a much longer and healthier life and, hopefully, live past 15 years of age without having any bad problems when they are young. But please remember that even “inside only” cats need to see their doctor once a year and when they are over 7 years of age, it is better to go twice a year, so we can catch those “old cat” problems and prolong the your cat's happy, healthy life.