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“Cats: Indoor or Outdoor?”

By Meghan Wuorio

 

 

Deciding whether to have your cat reside indoors, outdoors, or both, can be a tricky decision. 

There are many factors that play into choosing the desired lifestyle for your cat. 

Pros and cons of having an indoor cat.

  • You always know that your cat is safe, warm, and dry indoors with access to food and water.  Your cat is at less risk of harm, theft, and disease.
  • You are able to monitor your cat’s normal intake of food and water, and are also able to monitor your cat’s urine and bowel movements.
  • Your household is susceptible to territorial and stress behaviors such as inappropriate urination, and clawing of furniture.Note: not all cats present such behaviors when housed indoors.
  • Your cat is at risk of eating household objects such as string, charcoal, plastic bags, etc. which can cause a blockage within your cat’s digestive tract.
  • Pros and cons of having an outdoor cat.
  • Your cat has the freedom to roam and exercise at his/her leisure.  Your cat may hunt mice, lowering your houses’ risk of pest infestation.
  • You are less able to accurately monitor your cat’s food and water intake.  You are also less likely to be able to monitor your cat’s urine and bowel movements if your cat does not use an indoor litter box.
  • Your cat may be at higher risk for being hit by a car, injured by a predator, or bitten by a rabies carrier.  Your cat may also be mistaken for a stray if your cat has no source of identification, and may be picked up and put in a shelter, or taken home by someone who means well.
  • Your cat is at a higher risk of internal parasites and disease.
  • Before you decide whether or not your cat should have access to the outdoors, here are a few more things to consider:
  • Age:
  • A younger cat will learn how to survive in the outdoors, and is more able to flee from danger.
  • An older cat may have trouble with mobility, hearing, eyesight, and may become lost.  An older cat may also be less capable of staying warm during colder months.Note: whether your cat is young or old, your cat is still at risk living outdoors.

Parasites:

  • A cat that is living outdoors is at higher risk of contracting parasites such as worms, ear mites, ticks, and fleas.  These parasites are not only harmful to your cat, but can also harm other pets in the household if your cat brings them inside.  We recommend having your cat on preventatives year-round.NOTE: a cat that lives strictly indoors is still at risk (though a lower risk), of parasites.  Did you know that parasite eggs are laid in soil and feces outdoors, and can be brought in on your shoes?  They can even be brought inside on the family dog when he/she goes outside to use the bathroom!

Diseases:

  • A cat that lives outdoors may have more exposure to diseases.  They would more often come in contact with other cats and wildlife.  Dehler Animal Clinic offers many different types of feline vaccines, and our staff always strives to provide you with the information you need when choosing which vaccines to give to your furry friend.  Keep in mind that your cat is susceptible to all diseases whether or not he/she goes outdoors, but it is important to know that living outdoors provides higher risk to injury/illness.
  • Rabies: a vaccine required by law in the state of Maine for all outdoor and indoor cats.  This viral disease affects all mammals, causing foaming at the mouth, fever, neurological symptoms, and death. Rabies in contracted through the saliva of infected animals.  Rabies is always 100% fatal.  There are no testing options for your cat until he/she is deceased.
  • Distemper (RCP): the distemper vaccine provided at Dehler Animal Clinic covers three different diseases.  This disease is contracted through urine/saliva, and feces.
  • Calicivirus: a contagious respiratory disease that attacks the upper respiratory system, and can present lifelong sneezing and eye discharge in affected felines.
  • Panleukopenia (feline distemper): a gastrointestinal disease causing depression, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea.  Due to the high number of affected unvaccinated felines, most cats are likely to be exposed to this disease in their lifetime.
  • Feline Herpes: a common upper respiratory infection that even when treated, can lead to lifelong infection.
  • Rhinotracheitis:  a major cause of upper respiratory disease and conjunctivitis.
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV): this immunosuppressive disease causes feline AIDS.  Unlike in humans, felines can survive several years with this disease before their immune system starts to become unable to fight off minor illness.  This disease is contracted through bodily fluids and cat-to-cat contact.  There is no cure for feline AIDS.  There is a simple blood test for feline AIDS available at Dehler Animal Clinic; one in 12 cats will test positive for FIV.
  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV): this viral disease attacks the immune system, leaving your cat susceptible to many secondary infections.  Multi-cat houses and outdoor cats are particularly at risk, since transmission of this disease happens through cat-to-cat contact.  Dehler Animal Clinic provides a simple blood test for feline leukemia.
  • Previous household exposure:
  • If you have previously had cats affected with one of these diseases, it’s a good idea to always consult a veterinarian before adding another pet to your household.  Some diseases are extremely contagious, and can live within the house for an extended period of time.
  • Health of new and old cats:
  • Before adding another cat to your household, always make sure all of your cats are up to date on vaccines, test negative for feline Leukemia and feline AIDS, and are given a clean bill of health by a licensed veterinarian.
  •  After you’ve made your decision, here are some tips on keeping your cat healthy, happy, and stimulated.
  • A healthy, happy outdoor cat:
  • Keep up to date with vaccines and flea and tick preventatives.
  • Give your cat a breakaway collar with an identification tag
  • Microchip your cat to ensure that he/she can be identified if he/she ever becomes lost.
  • Make sure there is always food, water, and shelter available outside for your cat.
  • Consider purchasing an Invisible Fence system for your cat, so you know where he/she is, and know he/she will not get lost.
  • Never leave your cat outside when you will be gone overnight, or when there are bad weather alerts.
  • A healthy, happy indoor cat:
  • Keep up to date with vaccines and flea and tick preventatives.
  • Give your kitty lots of perches and climbing spaces – especially near a window as they love to sunbathe!
  • Also provide hiding places for your cat for those times when he/she feels scared.
  • Play with your cat daily.
  • Scratching posts.
  • Windows that look out to a bird feeder – just remember to keep the windows shut to prevent escape!
  • Consider owning cats in pairs, as they may like to have a friend. 
  • References: B.I., vcahospitals.com, http://thepianoguys.com/events/