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Answers from vets about your cat:

Why Your Cat Should Stay Indoors: Part I

Reviewed by Dr. Alexis Seguin, DVM, MS, DACVIM on Friday, April 3, 2015
Posted December 18, 2014 in Cat Checkups & Preventive Care

indoor cat looking out the window

Dr. Ruth MacPete discusses the controversial topic of whether or not cats should be let to roam around freely outdoors. For more from Dr. MacPete, find her on Facebook or at!

Did you know the average lifespan for an outdoor cat is just 3 to 5 years while indoor cats average 13-171? This huge difference in life expectancy should be a compelling enough reason for all cat parents to keep their feline friends indoors. Yet despite the perils of the great outdoors, many people allow their cats to go outside. In my opinion, cats should always be kept indoors in the safety of a warm and loving home. Like many veterinarians, I believe that the decision to keep your cat indoors is one of the most important actions you can take to promote the health and longevity of your feline friend. Here are the outdoor dangers you can avoid by keeping your cat indoors. 

Cat Fight Wounds
Cats are solitary animals by nature and they do not typically like to share their territories with other cats. With increased crowding, territories overlap and normally solitary cats are forced to face each other. Unfortunately, these encouters usually result in territorial disputes. Besides bites and scratches, cat fights can result in an abscess when a bite wound becomes infected. Abscesses are painful and cats with abscesses usually have a fever and do not eat well. Treatment requires a veterinarian and involves surgical drainage and oral antibiotics to fight the infection. 

Viral Infections
Even worse, cat bites can transmit infections like feline leukemia virus (FeLV)feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and, on rare occasions, rabies. Interactions with stray cats do not need to be unfriendly to transmit disease: feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) can be spread by close contact alone.Some of these diseases do not have effective vaccines and unfortunately there is no cure for any of them. 

In addition, outdoor cats are more likely than exclusively indoor cats to become infected with internal parasites, like roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, heartworms and toxoplasma.

Automobiles are one of the deadliest hazard to outdoor cats. Most car injuries are fatal. The lucky ones who survive usually have severe injuries that often require surgery. Many people believe that their cat is smart enough to avoid being hit by a car, but even the most street-savvy cat can be a victim. Like people, cats can become distracted: they could be chasing after prey, they might be running away from a dog, or they could be pursuing another cat in play. The fact is, all free-roaming cats are at risk of being hit by a car.

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Ruth has more than 15 years of experience in the veterinary industry as a companion animal veterinarian in private practice. Along with being a writer and media personality, she is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.