Should You Let Your Cat Outdoors?

When it comes to our animals, most of us just want to make them happy. This is often the reason provided when people explain why they let their cats outdoors. Although you might think your cat will be happier if it has access to the outdoors, it’s not a wise idea to let your cat be outdoors by itself. There are a number of hazards and threats lurking outside that can cause your pet illness, injury, and even death.

Cats: Indoor or Outdoor?

Many people are concerned that their cat is bored inside and needs to indoor outdoor catexpress his natural instincts by going outside, hunting small animals, and roaming the neighborhood. While the cat may be happy to run out when you open the door, doing so, in reality, doesn’t help your cats, but is more likely to hurt them and their chances of survival.

Just because cats are quicker and more agile than dogs doesn’t mean they know what they are doing when they are outside by themselves. Cats don’t have any natural instincts to avoid busy streets and therefore are often hit and killed by cars when trying to cross street.

Things like antifreeze, rat poison in small rodents, and other toxins also pose potential problems for your cat, who doesn’t know better than to ingest these things, whether directly or indirectly through their prey. Trees also cause trouble for some cats. They can get stuck after climbing up in an attempt to escape from another creature and find themselves to high to climb down.

Stray Animals

There is always a chance that your cat will come into contact with a stray or feral cat. The American Feral Cat Coalition estimates there are approximately 60 million feral and stray cats across the United States. Many of them carry diseases like feline leukemia, feline aids, or upper respiratory infections that can easily be passed onto your cat via contact. There is also a chance that your cat may end up in a fight with another cat, which can lead to injuries that if left untreated could result in serious health problems.

Stray dogs and other animals like coyotes, foxes, and raccoons are also a threat to your cat and can easily cause a severe injury or death. Unfortunately, even some people aren’t to be trusted with stray cats. Kids and adults sometimes hurt loose cats by shooting them with bb guns, capturing them, or even killing them.

It sounds like a good idea to let your cat out, especially when he or she is sitting by the door and meowing to be let outside. When you consider all the various hazards that exist outside of your house, though, it becomes clear why letting your cat outside only increases the risk that it will die early. In fact, outdoor cats have much shorter life spans than indoor cats. According to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, indoor cats live an average of 10-15 years while outdoor cats have an average lifespan of just 2-5 years.

Cure Your Cat’s Boredom

If your cat seems bored, there is a good chance he or she may actually be bored, but opening the door to outside isn’t the solution. Instead, try enriching the environment by installing window perches, play houses, or climbing trees. Make sure your cat is getting enough exercise to help burn of any excess energy. You can help your cat stay healthy by playing with him every day and providing scratching mats and posts to help avoid destructive behavior.

A great way to let your cat enjoy the outdoors without being exposed to all the risks is a screened in enclosure. That way, your cat can soak up the sun and watch other creatures outside without other animals having any access to them. You can also walk your cat using a leash and harness or let them out into your backyard under supervision. Enriching the indoor life of your cat will make them happy and help ensure they live the long life they were meant to live.

Pets Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

If you have a pet, particularly a dog, chances are you are reaping more benefits than you know from the relationship. Most people get pets for companionship, but often end up getting much more out of it than just a friend. According to the American Heart Association, pets can help reduce the risk of heart disease in their owners.

Fewer Risk Factors in Pet Owners

Recent studies have discovered a connection between owning a pet and a reduced risk of heart disease. Not only are pet owners less likely to have heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity, but they also have higher survival rates than non pet owners. There are a number of factors that may influence this reduced risk and scientists aren’t sure whether or not owning a dog directly reduces the risk of disease or if there are other reasons for the drop.

“It may be simply that healthier people are the ones that have pets, not that having a pet actually leads to or causes reduction in cardiovascular risk,” said Glenn N. Levine, M.D.

Levine is a professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and chair of the committee that wrote the statement in Circulation after reviewing studies that looked at the different influences of pets. Their review found an association between pet ownership and a decreased cardiovascular risk. Dog owners were especially likely to display this decreased risk.

More Exercise

One study the committee reviewed found that owners participated in animal health dog heart diseasemore walking and physical activity than non-dog owners. The dog owners were also 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity.

The study looked at 5,200 adults. It also revealed that a significant proportion of dog owners don’t walk their dogs, which means neither they nor their dog were getting the amount of daily exercise they need. Not surprisingly, cat owners didn’t have the same increased physical activity levels that dog owners did.

Regardless of the possible health benefits, the statement author discourages people from adopting a dog solely to reduce the risk of disease. “The primary purpose of pet adoption or rescue should be to provide the pet a loving home and to derive enjoyment from the pet,” Levine wrote.

Don’t Adopt Just for Your Health

Adopting a pet comes with certain responsibilities and among those like feeding, sheltering, and providing veterinary care is ensuring your pet gets the proper amount of exercise to help expend any extra energy he or she might have. With a cat, that might mean playing with the laser pointer or dangling a mouse from a string, but with a dog, there is typically much more involved.

Most dogs, especially bigger dogs and working dogs with high energy levels, need at least one walk a day. Even small dogs should get some type of exercise every day, even if it’s just a short walk around the block. Engaging in this exercise helps the pet stay in good health and helps the owner add in exercise to their routine, which can stave off depression, obesity, heart disease, and other medical problems and help keep you healthier for longer.

Read more about the main risk factors for heart disease and ways to prevent them here.