When my husband and I were first married, one of his clients gave us a beautiful Burmese kitten. It was love at first sight. We named her Mo and she brought such joy and laughter to our lives. When our daughter was born, Mo was her best friend.
Mo traveled with us from state to state and when we finally settled in California, she was allowed to go outside once a day. When the inevitable happened — she was hit by a car — she left three devastated people behind. Our precious girl who had given us six years of joy was gone. How I wish someone had told me that cats should be primarily indoor pets.
I’ve never forgotten the lesson I learned from Mo and have had seven cats since I lost her. All have been indoor cats and all lived well into their teens. The average lifespan for an indoor cat is 15-18 years. For an outdoor cat, it’s less than 3 years.
So why is a bad idea to let cats go outside? Three main reasons: cars, diseases and predators. Unless you live on a farm or ranch miles from any roads except your own driveway, cars are life-threatening to your cats. Cats are curious by nature and that patch of weeds across the street will always seem more interesting than the weeds in your yard. Each time a cat crosses a street, his life expectancy plummets. Sooner or later, disaster will occur.
Outdoor cats are also susceptible to being infected with disease — from other cats and from wild animals. Even cats who are vaccinated yearly against feline panleukopenia (distemper), feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus, and rabies are still at risk from coming in contact with environmental dangers. Cats love to chew on grasses and weeds and some are toxic to cats, not to mention the herbicides they can be carrying due to fertilizers and weed killers that have been applied to them.
Millions of cats die each year from fights with other animals they encounter outside. Cats can be very territorial and if your cat wanders into the yard of another cat, a fight to the death can be the result. In our yard in Colorado, we have seen possums, skunks, bobcats, bears, and even a mountain lion once. Our two cats can watch them safely through the window. Outside, they would be no match for predators.
“But my cat is happier outside!” “But my cat cries to go out!” No doubt some cats are drawn to nature. One of my cats can meow pitifully to get outside, especially if one of the family is in the yard. In those instances, I put his harness on him and let him roam through the yard to his heart’s content. He rolls in the dirt, lies in the sun, climbs the fence and watches the birds, but safely at the end of his leash. Does it take some time and commitment on my part? Certainly. But he’s worth it. I don’t want to lose him the way I lost my precious Mo.