by Amanda L. Maus DVM
There are many dangers to cats who spend time outdoors on adventures. Cats encountered outside may instigate fights and spread fatal viral diseases such as Feline Leukemia and FIV, as well as cause abscesses and bite wound infections. Outdoor cats can also spread ringworm and upper respiratory diseases. Depending on where you live, predators can include wild animals or even a neighborhood dog who attacks cats. Cats may lick or eat toxins like antifreeze or rodent poison that can cause a painful death. Accidents can involve your cat falling from too high a height or getting hit by a car. Exposure to extreme heat or cold weather can be detrimental. Cats can get frostbite on their ears, feet, and tail from freezing temperatures and severe burns on their paw pads from hot surfaces. Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and ear mites in addition to making your cat itchy can cause disease, too. If your cat eats certain prey or licks contaminated areas, they can become infected with intestinal parasites. These parasites can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or weight loss in your cat and some parasites can be transmitted to you!
Cats are curious creatures that need mental stimulation to "stay out of trouble". This can be addressed with indoor environmental enrichment such as access to windows with a view, interactive toys, and daily play time with their owners. A fairly safe way for cats to have access to the outside world is on supervised walks on a harness.
For cats who really insist on being allowed outdoors alone or with owners who cannot keep their cats inside all of the time, here are some safety tips. Make sure your cat is microchipped and registered so that if they get lost or picked up by animal control, they can be scanned and you can be notified. Have your cat wear a safety collar that has an identification tag. A safety collar features a quick release latch in case the cat gets the collar caught so they do not hurt themselves. Use monthly parasite protection for fleas, ticks, heartworm, and intestinal parasites. Limit your cats outside exposure after sundown since there is a higher risk of danger at night.