Health Concerns

Concerns for free-roaming cats come largely from two differing perspectives, which we will also look at through the lens of journal articles.

The first concern is one held largely by owners of free-roaming cats, this is the idea that something will be lost from a cat's life and mental well-being if they are kept inside and kept from hunting smaller animals.

This perspective falls into the trap of personifying cats, taking an anthropogenic (human-centered) perspective and applying it to the mental faculties of cats. It’s the idea that cats tend to yearn for the outside, to hunt, and to explore. While these things are all true depending on the cat, there are also a plethora of ways to meet these needs while making sure that your cat isn’t hunting native prey animals and breeding with other cats. We will get into this in more detail within the next section, in the “Suggestions” tab.

The second perspective is the concern for the safety of free-roaming cats. This is a well-studied topic, as it comes up in the veterinary field frequently.

This study comes from the National Library of Medicine. It takes stock of the risks and benefits that come from allowing your cat to free-roam. Let’s start by going over the benefits that they list:

Outside access seems to assuage the behavioral problems of ‘problem’ pets. This was determined to largely be a benefit to cats who had already had outside access in the past (rescued strays, barn cats, etc.), and was not seen to be a particularly prevalent issue to address within cats who were never given outside access.

Being outside helps cats burn off energy. This is a point that can likely be taken care of in other ways, unmanned cat toys, one-on-one playtime with owners, as well as companion cats also tend to take care of the issue of surplus energy.

On the side of risks that are posed to cats by being given unsupervised outside time:

Car fatalities are a prominent risk, as well as fatalities by other animals (dogs, coyotes, other cats, etc.) this is not an easy risk to mitigate when cats are left to roam.

There are also a plethora of disease and parasite risks, as well as the ever-present issue of fleas and ticks that can parasitize cats.

Cats that are left to roam outside are at risk of encountering many other toxins as well, many plants and animals are poisonous to cats, which doesn’t even touch on the issue of human-applied toxins (usually used to get rid of pest animals like rats), that cats are at risk of ingesting second-hand.

These problems are not easily controllable without direct interference from the owner within the life of the cat, but taking the right precautions to protect your cat can be a benefit both to the long-term health of the pet as well as the environment around us.

For more information on how to protect your cat and the environment, click the link labeled "Suggestions" at the top of the page.