Many cat owners allow their cats to roam free outdoors. However, allowing your cat to be an outdoor cat may actually be decreasing your cat’s life expectancy. The average life span for an outdoor cat is only two to five years of age while an indoor cat’s life span can reach seventeen years of age or older.
Why is there such a big difference in life span for outdoor verses indoor cats? Here’s a few of the big reasons:
Outdoor cats are more likely to develop the following diseases from stray cats: feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, feline infectious peritonitis, feline distemper, and upper respiratory infections. According to Jeff Horn’s two-year study focusing on what 42 pet cats and stray cats do while roaming around outside, there was a large overlap between the stray cats and pet cats. The pet cats stayed closer to home, but often wandered into the territory of stray cats. Diseases became one of the leading causes of deaths amongst the cats.
Outdoor cats have the possibility of picking up fleas, ticks, ear mites, intestinal worms, and ringworm. Households with any outdoor pets also risk having that pet bring parasites inside.
3. Wild and Stray Animals
Outdoor cats may attract the attention of other animals. In the Twin Cities area, coyotes have become a rising issue in many neighborhoods. Cats may be attacked by wild animals, stray dogs, or even other cats. Horn’s study provided evidence that one stray cat waited for a pet cat to come outside each morning and tried to chase it out of its own backyard. While diseases were one of the leading causes of cat deaths in the study, the other leading cause were other cats.
Many outdoor cats find their ways to busy streets. In Horn’s study, he tracked all 42 cats and discovered that even though the pet cats would stay closer to home, many pet owners involved in the study were surprised to learn that their cats roamed a distance equaling approximately 12-16 backyards in the surrounding neighborhood. Stray cats and pet cats don’t know to look both ways for cars, and they may get hit or even killed by a car.
5. Outdoor Toxins
From toxins in the garage to toxic plants in the garden or compost piles, your cat might discover something that will lead to trouble.
6. Animal Cruelty
Unfortunately, some people find animals outside and choose to trap, torture, or kill them. Enough said.
We encourage cat owners to keep cats indoors. Outdoor cat owners tend to have a higher veterinary bill than indoor cat owners due to needing more vaccines, parasite protection, and more emergency care services. If you do choose to let your cat go outside, purchase a harness and a leash. This option doesn’t eliminate all of our safety concerns, but it does help keep your cat safer while allowing it some of the excitement of the great outdoors. Otherwise, the best option is to not let your cat go outdoors. Give your cat a longer, healthier life by keeping him/her indoors!
If you have any questions or concerns about your cat, contact your veterinarian. If it is in emergency and you cannot reach your veterinarian, both our Oakdale and St. Paul locations are open 24/7, seven days a week.