Is your companion cat allowed outdoors? If so, you’re not alone. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates there are between 50 and 60 million owned, free-roaming cats in the United States. Those cats are responsible for killing a significant number of birds and small animals.
While the average lifespan of an indoor cat is between 12 and 18 years, the average lifespan of a free roaming cat is 3 years. Most people are aware of the risks of allowing cats outdoors, but do so because they believe cats should have the freedom to live a natural lifestyle outdoors.
So K. A. T. Loyd et al. set out to determine what cats do when they’re roaming to determine what risky behaviors they may engage in. The study, entitled Risk Behaviours Exhibited by Free-roaming Cats in a Suburban US Town, followed 55 cats, both male and female, of varying ages, for one week. The cats were fitted with video cameras. The video footage was then viewed and analyzed to determine what types of risky behaviors the cats engaged in.
The results? In 7 days, the video footage showed:
- 178 instances of cats crossing a road,
- 28 instances of non-aggressive contact with a stranger cat, which puts the cats at risk of disease transmission,
- 20 times cats ate food or drank water not left out by the owner,
- 19 times cats entered a storm drain,
- 13 instances of cats climbing trees,
- 7 instances of cats climbing onto a roof,
- 1 instance of an encounter with a wild animal, and
- 1 instance of a cat climbing into a car engine.
Another disturbing discovery is that these cats killed other animals, but consumed their kill less than 25% of the time.
By the way, of those cats that were used in the study, researchers found that:
- 2 were infected with FIV,
- 1 was infected with FeLV,
- 6 were infected with mycoplasma species (causes Feline Infectious Anemia),
- 2 cats had values consistent with renal insufficiency,
- 3 had an elevated white cell count, indicative of infection, and
2 displayed a significant eosinophilia, consistent with parasitism.
While this is but one small study, the findings are eye-opening. The risk of cats being hit by a car is significantly higher than many think. In Baltimore alone, 500 owned cats are found dead on the roadways each year.
If you allow your cats to go outside, that’s your choice. But by doing so, you put them at risk. I hope this may make you rethink that decision, and choose to have your cats remain indoors.