So the title of this article may be a bit deceiving. The advice that most veterinarians would give to pet owners regardless of where they live is the same: indoors is best. However, in an area like Dartmouth, Massachusetts or anywhere else in the northeastern region, there are even more reasons why you should not let your cat go outdoors.
Many pet owners feel that they are somehow depriving their cat of their natural instinct and love of the outdoors by keeping them inside. The truth is that if you are going to keep a domesticated animal as a pet, it is your obligation and responsibility to keep them as safe as possible. When it comes to cats, that includes keeping them indoors.
The Case for Keeping Cats Indoors
This may be hard advice for some people to hear. Many families have long kept outdoor cats for a number of reasons. People who live in rural areas will often keep semi-feral cats as a method of keeping rats out of barns and sheds or away from livestock. However, if your goal is to have a cat as a pet, you should heed the advice of veterinarians everywhere who will caution you against allowing it to go outdoors. The bottom line is that indoor cats live much longer than outdoor cats, and when you see the reasons listed below, it will hopefully make more sense.
- Exposure to Disease – Outdoor cats are exposed to more risk by other cats who carry diseases, such as feline leukemia (FeLV), feline AIDS (FIV), feline distemper, and even upper respiratory infections. Many of these diseases are extremely serious and, in some cases, can be fatal. Visit your veterinarian at the Dartmouth vet hospital for regular veterinary check-ups and vaccinations.
- Exposure to Parasites – Some parasites can be more common than others in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, such as fleas and ticks. Ticks are known to carry many diseases which can affect not just your beloved cat, but also you and your family. Ear mites, intestinal worms, ringworm, and other parasites can all be dangerous to your pet’s health. Scratching, vomiting, diarrhea and infections are just some of the symptoms of parasites.
- Risk to Humans – In addition to diseases that can cross to humans from parasites and other diseases, there are other risks to consider. Cat scratch fever is a real thing, affecting cat owners all over the world. It is caused by Bartonella henselae bacteria, one of the most common bacteria thought to come from infected fleas, which is transferred from cats directly to humans through a scratch. People with compromised immune systems, including young children and the elderly, are most often at-risk for infection.
- Safety Risks – One of the biggest risks to allowing a cat outdoors is coming in contact with busy streets and cars. Second is the risk of other humans and animal cruelty. Kids, teenagers, and even adults have been known to trap, shoot, and abuse outdoor cats. Even the nicest neighborhoods can harbor hidden risks like this without the neighbors even being aware. Other animals can also be a risk, including other domesticated animals like dogs and cats, as well as wild animals.
- Poisons and Toxins – While you are careful to keep chemicals, poisons, and other products up and away from the reach of cats and dogs, your neighbors might not be as diligent. One of the most dangerous toxins is antifreeze, as the pleasant taste of the product can be attractive to cats and dogs. Hunting down rodents and other prey that have ingested poison can also be dangerous or fatal to cats. Flowers, bushes, and other plants that are toxic to cats are commonly planted in suburban neighborhoods.
Keeping Your Cat Happy Indoors
If the idea of coming in contact with wildlife, poisons, parasites or bringing home dangerous diseases like cat scratch fever doesn’t sound appealing, there are things that you can do to help keep your cat happy indoors. Even once outdoor cats can be “rehabilitated” to enjoy the indoor life. Work with your veterinarian in South Coast to make sure that your cat is healthy. Bring them for a veterinary check-up at least once each year, more frequent if your cat is older in age or once lived outdoors. Your local Dartmouth vet hospital can help you get your pet on a healthy regimen that will help them to live a longer, healthier life.Bartonella henselae bacteria, one of the most common bacteria in the world.
Interactive toys, cat scratching posts, climbing toys, cat perches near windows or even adding a sunroom, screened in porch or other “viewing” area, can all be great solutions for cats who need something more than a comfy bed and a scratch behind the ears. Consider getting a second cat for your cat to play with if none of these solutions seem to solve the problem of your cat wanting to get outdoors. Speak with your veterinarian about the best way to introduce your cat to a new friend and make sure that the new cat has a veterinary check-up before you bring them home. You don’t want to accidentally introduce disease, parasites or other issues to your cat by bringing home an unchecked cat.
Visit Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth to provide your cat with a regular veterinary check-up, vaccinations, and advice on proper nutrition, care, and prevention. Give us a call at 508-996-3731 to schedule an appointment or to speak with one of our veterinary team members.