Steve Dale is a certified
animal behavior con-
sultant who’s authored
several books, including
the e-book Good Cat, and has con-
tributed to many, including The Cat:
Clinical Medicine and Management,
edited by Dr. Susan Little. He hosts
two national radio shows and is heard
on WGN Radio, Chicago, and seen on
syndicated HouseSmarts TV. He’s on the
board of the American Association of
Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians and
Winn Feline Foundation. Visit him at
side as they desire, with the remaining
five percent described as outside only.
Still, when you do the math, millions
of cats continue to have the option
to wander outdoors. With some, it’s
because the cats — who perhaps
have been outdoors for their lifetime
and taken inside — still demand to go
outside. Not wanting a feline temper
tantrum, cat caretakers relent.
When bad things
Some cat parents insist that nothing
bad can happen to their kitty outdoors — but that’s just untrue. While
there are still rural places in the U.S.
without nearby roads and lots of cars,
those locations remain the exception.
Still, many insist their cats are too
clever to get in the way of a car. But
it turns out that, according to the
National Traffic Safety Administration,
5. 4 million cats are hit by cars each
year in the United States, and 97
percent of those cats die. There’s no
data to reveal how many of these cats
are owned or unowned, but these
numbers clearly demonstrate that the
notion that cats are too ingenious to
get hit by cars is a myth.
And getting hit isn’t the only car
hazard. In cold weather, cats seek
heat, and slinking under a car hood
can be a feline version of an electric
blanket — until an unknowing driver
starts the car.
A few licks of sweet-tasting
antifreeze can kill a cat, unless it’s a pet-safe product.
Cats can also nibble on plants
treated with pesticides or plants that
may be tasty but are also toxic.
Another myth about outdoor
cats is that they aren’t prone to tick
disease. While Lyme disease may
not make cats ill, there’s plenty that’s
delivered by the bloodsuckers that
can: cytauxzoonosis (sometimes
called bobcat fever), ehrlichiosis,
and tularemia. Using a veterinary
tick protection, tick disease might be
prevented, and the same to stop flea
bites that can also cause disease.
Mosquitoes carry heartworm,
and the American Heartworm Society
points out that all cats should be pro-
tected, as mosquitoes do get indoors.
You’d think that all cats going outdoors
would receive protection, but few do.
In cats, heartworm can cause heart-
worm associated respiratory disease
(creating asthma-like symptoms), and
heartworm is one of the most com-
mon causes of sudden death in cats.
While heartworm treatment is
uncomfortable (and expensive) for
dogs, in cats there’s a larger problem
— there’s no treatment for heartworm
(short of prevention).
It’s not only parasites that threaten outdoor cats. There’s a long list of
predators, including coyotes, foxes,
wolves, large birds of prey, stray
dogs and even other cats — who
may share infectious disease like feline
leukemia or the feline immunodeficiency virus.
Cats are also a threat to other ani-
mals, as cats are both predator and
prey. Numbers floated by some bird
organizations may be exaggerated,
but cats do certainly kill birds and
other wildlife. There is an ethical ques-
tion about allowing cats outdoors.
Even well-fed cats will sometimes
bring home a “gift.”
What’s more, allowing cats to use
the neighbor’s lawn as their litter box
or playing on their car (and possibly
scratching it) is just plain rude. And
just being in front of a neighbor’s
home (perhaps more likely to appear
knowing there are cats indoors in that
home), those indoor cats may begin
to spray in response. Inappropriate
elimination is the most common
explanation for relinquishing cats to
shelters. There are people who give
up on their indoor cats, all because
of outdoor cats who have wreaked
havoc among those inside cats — it
happens all the time.
Hidden indoor danger
There’s a surprising medical revelation
about a shortcoming of cats living
indoors only. While indoor cats are
safer, there’s one silent danger lurking
Continued on page 72
Disease from ticks and other pests
Poisons (antifreeze and pesticides)
Disease from other animals
Nuisance to neighbors
Disease caused by boredom
Behavior issues caused
Disease caused by