I’m a night owl and when the weather is nice, my windows are opened at night sounds drifting into the house while I work. My cats are inside all of the time and when I hear my neighbors’ outside cats yowling when they’ve encountered an intruder, I’m thankful my cats are safe. I’m also a dog owner and while sitting outside with them late at night, I hear, and sometimes see, the dangers outside cats face from predators. There’s a very real cost associated with letting your cat roam around outside at night and even during the day.
One of the biggest risks to outside cats come from predators like coyotes, bears, mountain lions, and birds of prey. Predators follow their prey and if you have garden plants that attract deer, rabbits, or other small animals into your yard, an outside cat, or small dog, is also at risk of becoming a meal.
Other wild animals
If necessary, cats will fight with wild animals and that puts them at risk of contracting rabies if they are bitten by an infected animal. Rabies is more often found in raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes than other animals. Even if rabies isn’t a factor, most cats end up on the losing end of a battle with a wild animal. We shut off the lights and go to bed, but the natural world continues throughout the night.
Other cats and dogs
Several years ago, a cat streaked across the street in front of my car. Two dogs were right on her heels. I followed them to a house, but by the time I got out of the car, the dogs had the cat. It only took a minute for them to kill the cat once they caught her. The financial cost for cat owners can be expensive if their pet needs medical attention for injuries sustained from catfights or dog attacks.
Vehicles can be a deathtrap for outside cats during the winter months, especially if an engine is still warm. Cats and other animals will crawl into the engine and wheel wells of vehicles to find shelter. In the morning, a cat sleeping under the hood of your car can be severely injured when you start your car. Being hit by a car when crossing streets is also a very real danger for cats.
People who sell animals to research labs are always on the lookout for free pets and they have no problem stealing an outside cat or dog. Halloween is a bad time for black cats in particular. People take outside cats to entertain themselves by torturing and killing them. Some people steal cats because they want a pet for themselves.
Outside cat has their own territory and it can be large or small, depending on the cat. For a lot of cats, their territory is confined to their own yard, but others can cover an entire neighborhood and some cats will wander even farther. If a cat is chased out of their territory, it can take them a while to get back if they run too far away and become lost. Some cats never do find their way back home. Dogs, wild animals, other cats, and people can scare a cat out of her territory.
Disease, injuries, or poisonings
It’s hard to monitor the health of an outside cat and injuries or medical conditions can be missed. Cats like to nibble on plants, but there’s a lot of garden plants and flowers that are toxic to pets. Anti-freeze is a common poison for cats to find and it’s fatal if your cat doesn’t receive immediate medical care. There are people who like to shoot arrows at cats, throw rocks at them or injure and kill them in other ways. Abscesses are common in cats that get into fights and outside cats are more prone to catching communicable diseases.
It’s a hard life for outside cats. They’re in an environment where they need to stay on guard. The average lifespan of most outside cats is about 4 to 6 years and 12 to 18 years, or longer, for inside cats. There is a cost to letting your cat outside, especially at night. Give your cat a top protected fenced area where she can enjoy the outside without risking her life. That way you don’t have to wonder what happened to her if she doesn’t come home one night.
Is it OK to let your indoor cat outside?
Fact: The truth is, indoor cats can and do get bored, but letting them outside is not a good solution. Instead, make your home more interesting: Set up perches where he can watch birds from the safety of inside, build a DIY cat playhouse, hide his food or modify his feeder so he has to “hunt” for it.
Why you should never let your cat outside?
Parasites — Outdoor cats pick up parasites much easier than indoor cats. While not immediately deadly, they can cause major health problems if left untreated. Cars — Cars are one of the biggest threats to cats because if they get hit, they're almost always fatally injured.
Are cats happier outside?
If you love letting your cat lounge outside, you may feel tempted to stop reading, but AHS experts want you to know that your outdoor kitty isn't any happier than it could be indoors. It's true that it's much easier for your cat to get enrichment outside, says Dr. Graham, Chief Veterinarian at Animal Humane Society.