With spring just around the corner, we are all itching to get outside again and that includes our pets. Many cats have an indoor/outdoor lifestyle and with the weather warming up, those cats will be spending more time outdoors. Allowing your pet cat to roam outside has always been controversial. Many owners say that their cats are unhappy staying indoors and that they deserve the freedom to wander about outside. It must be remembered, however, that the great outdoors harbors all sorts of risks to your feline friends.
For one, there is the obvious risk of cars. Cats don’t look both ways when they cross the street and cases of hit-by-car cats are all too common. We also see many cat fight wounds, especially in the spring when the cats first start going out. Cats are very territorial and even the most even-tempered cat at home can become very aggressive towards a strange cat in their territory. When cats bite, they use their sharp canine teeth to deliver a deep puncture. This wound often isn’t seen until it abscesses. This is a very painful and potentially serious infection for the cat. If your cat shows signs of pain or swelling anywhere, you should make an appointment to have us see him right away. Cats are also natural-born hunters and besides causing substantial losses in our natural wild bird and small mammal population, cats that hunt often get parasites that can harm them and that they can transmit to other pets and even people.
Another risk cats that go outdoors have is exposure to numerous diseases. Two of the most serious are feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), also know as feline AIDS. There is no treatment or cure for either of these fatal diseases. FeLV can be acquired through casual contact- sharing food bowls and litterboxes, or by direct contact. Mother cats can also transmit the virus to their litter. FIV is transmitted through bite wounds. Just one bite from an infected cat is enough to spread the virus. Cats with these viruses are infected and contagious for life. FIV is like human HIV (but it is not transmissible to people from cats). Both diseases can cause anemia and susceptibility to infections. FeLV can also cause certain forms of cancer. Cats that get FeLV will often only live a few months to a few years. Tragically, many of these cats are very young when they get it.
The best way to protect your cat from these outdoor risks is to keep them indoors. However, for those cats that do go outside, there are several things that you can do for them. Most importantly, they should be spayed or neutered. One female cat can have two litters of kittens a year (which isn’t good for her or for our stray-cat population problems). Male cats that are not neutered are much more likely to get into fights and get hit by cars. They are also much more likely to get FeLV and FIV. You should also vaccinate your cat for Feline Leukemia if he or she goes outside. And of course, don’t forget to have all your pets visit us yearly for their physical exams, and vaccines. Don’t forget to bring a fecal sample with you and to pick up any flea and tick products and heartworm preventative you’ll need this year.