Pet safety: 15 reasons to keep your cat indoors

By: Signe Langford
Reasons to keep your cat indoors

Getty Images Author: Signe Langford


Pet safety: 15 reasons to keep your cat indoors

By: Signe Langford

Many dangers exist for outdoor cats. Keep your beloved pet out of harm's way with our expert tips on how to keep your cat safe and healthy.

Dr. Dawn Ruben, DVM, states on that the most important factor in determining a cat's life span, is whether it is an indoor-only cat or an outdoor cat. "Indoor cats generally live from 12-18 years of age -- many may live to be in their early 20s -- while outdoor cats generally live to be around four to five years of age." 

Sure, Fluffy yowls at the door to be let out, but is it worth it? It's not. Not for your beloved furry buddy and not for the wildlife. We chatted with Nathalie Karvonen, founder and executive director of the Toronto Wildlife Centre, where she and her staff patch up wildlife, injured by cats, every single day. Sadly, explains Karvonen, "many of them die, despite emergency medical care; their injuries are too severe to start with, or they succumb to infection."

The dangers your cat faces outdoors are many and often life-threatening. Here are some of the most common threats:

1. Roads
Every year, thousands of cats are hit by cars.

2. Cars
In wintertime, cats look for warm places to cozy up in. Car engines are warm and deadly. Many cats don't hop out in time and are killed by the fan or fan belt when the driver starts up the engine.

3. Anti-freeze and other poisons
Many pets like the sweet taste of anti-freeze. If they find a puddle of the stuff on the road, in the garage or on the neighbour's driveway, they will lick it and it is highly toxic. It takes about one teaspoon to inflict a painful, lingering death on a cat or dog.

4. Other animals
Dogs, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, even large birds of prey have a taste for cat. And it's not just in the country that predators are a concern; as cities encroach on green spaces, wildlife, pets and people are having more frequent and unhappy encounters.

5. Cat fights
We've all heard that bone-chilling sound of two cats scrapping. Well, it's not all sabre rattling. Cats can really injure -- even kill -- each other and if your kitty fights a tough, old, stray, then contracting a disease is a real possibility. Not to mention the big vet bill.

6. Abuse
Unfortunately, as difficult as it may be to accept, there are sadistic people in this world, and cats are easy targets for all manner of torture, especially black cats on Halloween.

7. Starvation 
Cats are not homing pigeons -- they can get lost. They might also become trapped or too injured to make it back home and then a slow starvation, heat stroke or freezing may be your kitty cat’s fate. According to the City of Toronto Animal Services, “less than 10 percent of lost cats in Toronto are reunited with their owners.” 

8. Research labs
Some animal shelters sell cats and other animals to university and other research labs. What a cruel fate for a once loved and pampered pet.

9. Ending up at a shelter or pound
This may be your pet's fate if it gets lost and ultimately, may mean euthanasia.

10. Pools
Drowning is possible if your cat falls into a pool or hot tub in the dark of night.

11. Leg-hold and snare traps
Trapping fur-bearing animals isn't relegated to the wilderness. According to Karvonen, "unbelievably, the use of body-gripping traps is not against Toronto bylaws. We’ve admitted wildlife from Toronto with leg-hold traps on them numerous times, so I’m sure cats in Toronto have been caught in them as well."

12. Spraying
This isn’t dangerous, but it sure is stinky! Cats that roam free can smell other cat’s markings, prompting Fluffy to start spraying inside and cat urine is hard to get out of floors and carpets.

Aside from dangers that face your cat outdoors, there are also numerous ways that an outdoor cat can cause damage. Here are some examples:

13. Hunting
Yes, hunting is natural, it's instinct and that's precisely why cats must stay indoors, especially in the spring when defenceless baby animals are everywhere. The American Bird Conservancy estimates that "…free-roaming cats (owned, stray, and feral) kill hundreds of millions of birds and possibly more than a billion small mammals in the U.S. each year."

Now add to that tally Canada’s cat population. Karvonen tells us, "during spring and summer, Toronto Wildlife Centre receives call after call after call about birds and small mammals attacked by cats. It’s a huge problem," she says.

14. Doing its business in the neighbour's garden or sandbox
It's just not neighbourly to let your cat make life less pleasant or even harmful to others. It's no fun when a gardener gets a whiff or handful of doo-doo. And it's dangerous when a kiddie -- who is putting everything into his or her little mouth – finds kitty's number two in his play sand. Toxoplasmosis is a dangerous disease humans can contract from feline feces.

15. Darting into traffic
Accidents have been caused when a driver is surprised by a cat running right in front of them. The driver brakes and when the driver behind isn't able to stop in time, a rear-end collision ensues, followed by personal injury, medical and insurance costs.

The common housecat is not indigenous to North America and therefore, its presence in the ecosystem is disruptive to the fine balance of the local flora and fauna. In Australia, where introduced cats have wreaked havoc on their unique wildlife, bills have been passed insisting that all cats be spayed or neutered, registered, micro-chipped and kept indoors or contained when outside. Break any of these laws and the cat can be confiscated and destroyed. Perhaps if caring cat owners take the initiative to be responsible and respectful of wildlife, neighbours and the cats themselves, it won't come to that here.

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Pet safety: 15 reasons to keep your cat indoors