Katie Hazel is a cat enthusiast and environmentalist. When she isn't working, she spends her time with her two cats, ages 19 and 2.
The Dangers of Letting a Cat Outside
Did you know that the lifespan of an outdoor cat is shortened by three to five years compared to an indoor cat? It's true that many cats that live outdoors can live a lot longer than that, but every time a cat is put outside, his or her life is put at risk. Allowing a cat to go outside doesn't just put the animal at risk either, an unsupervised cat may also destroy gardens and ecosystems. A lot of people assume that it's natural for cats to be put outside, but in many areas, environmentalists are trying to make laws that forbid people from letting their cats outside. See 10 reasons why you should keep your cat indoors below.
1) They Can Get Hit by a Car
You might think that this only applies to busy roads, but you don’t need to live near a highway for your cat to run the risk of getting hit by a car. Anytime your cat crosses the street it runs the risk of being killed. Some people argue that their cat knows about street safety and is aware of the cars around them: but it only takes one mistake for a cat to get run over. Don’t assume that the car will always see your cat or that your pet is smart enough to avoid traffic.
Just yesterday evening, I was walking down the street with my dog. On my street is a house that always lets their cat outside. He’s a very sweet, good natured cat and when his owners go for walks, he always follows them on the side of the road. Yesterday, he was outside on his own, across the street at another house, when I happened to be walking by. It was at this moment that he decided that he wanted to cross the street and head home. Just as he was about to cross, a car was coming. The car slammed on its brakes and barely missed the cat. I have seen cats get run over by cars before, both in busy streets and in rural areas, and I am very happy that I didn’t see it happen to a cat that I know very well.
2) Other Animals Can Hurt Your Cat
Cats are in danger of being hurt or killed by other animals. Whenever you let your cat go outside, they are in danger because of other animals in the area. Depending on where you live, there are a variety of wild animals that will hurt or kill a cat; coyotes, wolves, foxes, hawks, owls, raccoons, and skunks, just to name a few. Your pet runs the risk of being attacked by dogs and even other cats.
3) Diseases and Health Issues
A cat can get sick from going outside. There are a lot of diseases that cats can get by going outside and coming in contact with other felines. Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is the feline equivalent of HIV in humans, it spreads through bites and scratches by infected cats. A cat with FIV has a compromised immune system and is more susceptible to other illness.
Feline Leukemia virus (FeLV) is another serious illness that infected cats can transmit to healthy cats. It can be transmitted through saliva and close contact with sick cats. Cats that frequently come into contact with other cats run a high risk of becoming infected. FeLV is very serious due to the fact that it can be fatal.
By going outside, cats also run the risk of getting rabies, as well as parasites (such as fleas, ticks, lungworm, and tapeworm) and fungus (such has ringworm). Not all vaccinations protect felines from disease and health issues and they still run the risk of infection.
4) Cats Make a Mess
There are lots of risk factors for a cat when it goes outside, but that's not the only reason why cats shouldn't be allowed to roam the neighborhood. If you have a cat, you know how awful it can be to clean a stinky litter box. Now imagine that you are a neighbor that found cat poop in your tomato garden or in your flower bed. Every time you let your cat outside, there's a good chance that they are using the outdoors as their bathroom. It could be in someone’s garden, a child’s sandbox or even in carport or a shed. If your cat is going to the bathroom on your neighbors property they have probably noticed and aren’t too happy with it, which brings me to my next point.
5) Some People Hate Cats
Protect your feline from awful people. There are many people out in the world that don't like cats, and some of these people will try to hurt animals whenever given the chance. It’s heartbreaking to lose a pet, but it’s a thousand times worse if you lost them because someone intentionally hurt your pet. I work at an animal shelter, and have seen some cats that have been poisoned, tortured or killed by vengeful neighbors. When you put your cat outside you leave it at the mercy of these sick individuals.
6) Cats Can Get Trapped or Lost
Sometimes a feline doesn’t come back home because they have lost their way or they got trapped somewhere. Have you heard the song “the cat came back?” Well not every cat has amazing directional skills, and therefore they aren’t guaranteed to return if they wander too far from home. It’s also very common for cats to get trapped somewhere: up a tree, in someone’s garage, even in the engine of a car! Once they get into a tight space, it’s hard for them to get out. If no one discovers them, they can starve to death or die from exposure to the elements.
I once had a scrawny cat come to my house. I could tell that she was hungry so I fed her and then called the owners (her collar had her phone number on it). She had been missing for a week and the owners had been worried sick! The most surprising thing for me and the owners, was that they lived only a few blocks away but the cat never found it’s way back home.
7) Cat Overpopulation: Cats Reproduce Very Quickly
Don't let them out if they haven't been fixed.
This only applies to cats that aren't fixed, so if your pet isn't spayed or neutered, don't let them go outside. Female cats can become pregnant when they are just kitten, as early as when they are four months old! A few months later, they can give birth to a litter of kittens. Even while they are nursing their babies, a female can become pregnant again. Cats reproduce at a phenomenal rate. Due to the lack in regulations, cat overpopulation is a major concern. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that over two million healthy dogs and cats are euthanized every year because of pet overpopulation (Source). Spaying and neutering a cat is the best way to control pet overpopulation, and if your pet isn't fixed it's best to keep them inside.
8) Cats are Decimating Bird Populations
They kill birds, lizards, and other small animals.
It’s no secret that cats are small predators and that they enjoy hunting and killing. Even a well fed house cat will prey on birds and other animals for sport. In Canada, it’s estimated that cats are the number one cause of bird deaths and that approximately one to four billion birds are killed every year in the United States (Source). It’s no wonder that environmentalists are concerned about the impact that domestic cats have on ecosystems. The issue of cats killing small animals indiscriminately is a cause for great concern.
Use a Collar to Warn Song Birds
9) They Could Be Poisoned
An outdoor cat is exposed to a variety of substances, and some of them are deadly. Antifreeze is a real danger: cats are attracted to the taste and smell of it. Ingesting antifreeze can cause kidney failure and death, even in a healthy cat.
There are other harmful substances that a cat can come into contact with, such as pesticides and chemicals. There are even plants that are poisonous to cats and there is no way to control their interactions with poisons and toxins.
10) It Reduces Their Lifespan
Every time a cat goes outside, they run the risk of being harmed or killed. Statistically, an outdoor cat's lifespan is shortened by three to five years. Contrast that with an indoor cat that lives significantly longer: 10 to 15 years. While not every cat that goes outside will be killed, the chance of being harmed is very high. Keeping them safe in your home adds years to their lives, and gives them more time to spend with you.
Tips for Outdoor Cats
There are exceptions to the above dangers and cats can go outside in the right types of conditions. If you are around and can make sure your cat is safe, perfect! If you aren't able to supervise your cat, it's probably not a good idea to let them go outside.
If your cat is going outside:
- Always supervise your cat to make sure they are safe.
- Make sure their vaccinations are up to date.
- Make sure they are spayed or neutered.
- Attach a bell to their collar to alert birds and other animals that a predator is nearby.
- Keep them in a fenced in yard, in an enclosure or an a leash.
How to Make a Cat Enclosure
Does Your Cat Go Outside?
Get Your Cat a Harness and Leash
A cat harness is the perfect solution if you want your cat to go outside with you, but you are worried about their safety. A well made harness ensures that they won't be able to wiggle out of it and it protects them from the dangers of being outside.
House Cat: Taking Care of Your Indoor Cat
Many people believe that cats must go outdoors to have a healthy lifestyle, but this is simply not the case. Cats can live productive lives while living indoors. Learn how to keep your cat safe and happy, in the comfort of your home!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
What Do You Think? - Leave Your Feedback Here
andrea on June 17, 2020:
My cats have always gone outside, they hang around the backyard all have lived to 20 years old and are not overweight because they get plenty of exercise..
Troj on March 10, 2020:
Bird populations being decimated in Holland where the populations are already very much at risk isn't enough reason for you? Typical...
A Ninny Mouse on January 29, 2020:
I have a 5-month old female Tortie and I never let her outside my house. I'm afraid of my baby becoming road kill or getting killed by dogs or other cats.Also, a lot of people can be cruel to animals.
Quinten on July 23, 2019:
Hey there, I'm from the Netherlands and I mostly agree with what you are saying but I don't think it's enough to make me not let my cat outside.
My cat has always been allowed to go outside whenever we are around to open the door for her. most of the time we try to get her in before we go to bed, but from time to time she just wants to spend the night outside (especially in the summer) or she's too far out to hear us.
Our previous cat was also always allowed outside and she lived to the ripe old age of 18, she died of kidney failure.
The biggest reason why we let our cat out is that it allows her to get rid of her energy in her own way. She loves climbing onto our roof and look out over the street we live in.
We have a very safe neighborhood, with a park just across the street where she loves to run around (it's basically a tiny forest in the middle of our city, so nobody cares if she does her business there)
Of course, there is the occasional car that drives through our street but they won't be going over 15km/h. At the back of our house, we have a little river and behind that, there is a bigger road. She'd have to cross a bridge to get to that road and somehow she knows that she isn't allowed to cross it (our previous cat knew that as well)
When we first got this cat she was very energetic and we'd have to play with her a lot, or she would start play hunting us. After a couple of months when we knew that she knew that this was her home we let her out for short periods until she was completely comfortable being outside. And now that she can get rid of her energy by doing whatever she does outside, from climbing to running around in the park, she just seems so much happier and relaxed when she gets home. She's best buds with our neighbor's golden retriever and she loves playing with other cats in the neighborhood.
I just don't see why I would keep my cat inside when she is so much happier when she can roam around and be a real cat outside. Some side benefits are that we don't have to clean the litterbox as often, her claws never grow out too far and she gets more than enough exercise, so she won't get overweighed even if she eats like a boat worker (which she does).
I get that there are dangers, she got into a fight with a seagull once and she still has a scar in her eye from that encounter.
But she doesn't seem to care about that at all, she just loves it too much out there.
Who am I to be so selfish that I would keep her couped up and unhappy in our house just because I want her to live a couple of years longer. If your cat is an indoor cat, sure keep them inside, but don't force them into a lifestyle they don't want if they want to go outside. How would you like it if I kept you in my house as a companion, for your entire life just so you live to 100 years old instead of 70, so I can have you for 30 more years even if you are miserable?
Maybe it's because I live in a different country and we just have different standards, a lot of people let their cats go outside around here. Maybe it's because we don't have as many dangerous animals just walking around outside, or maybe it's because we have better control over the feral cat population and animal diseases in my country.
The reasons that you give for keeping my cat inside just don't weigh up to the happiness I'm giving my cat by giving her the option to do whatever she wants with her life. If one day she is too tired to go outside as much anymore she is welcome to come on in and sit on my lap for the rest of her days, Just like my late cat Rolo.
May she rest in peace.
Natasha Orton on June 08, 2019:
My two cats are very afraid to go outside. I don't have to worry about it
Juliette Jones from Vancouver Island, BC, Canada on November 06, 2018:
Great article. I so agree with you...:)
unknowned on May 22, 2018:
do you know i love cats and i have 3 cats
Isabelle1961 on April 14, 2018:
What does everyone think of cats being kept in small fenced in area 24 hours a day.
I don’t like seeing this. Outside area
Cats on March 08, 2018:
Yep so true!
duddee on December 17, 2015:
?????? on November 30, 2014:
Cats rule dogs drool!
Katie Hazel (author) on October 25, 2013:
@SusanDeppner: 20 years old is a long time! It sounds like your cats have a great home :)
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on October 25, 2013:
My indoor cats have lived wonderful, happy, long lives. Our current cat is 20 and has never had an interest in going outside.