Some cat owners are now keeping their feline friends indoors to keep them safe, while others are still thinking that cats deserve to run outdoors.
In Dubai where I practice, the general rule is to keep pets indoors to protect them from the extreme heat and humidity outside. In fact, the number of pets dying or getting seriously ill due to heat exhaustion by staying outdoors has become a national concern, as reported by The National UAE newspaper.
Animal groups are also campaigning for all cats to be secured indoors or kept within an enclosure if necessary (such as in the case of cat owners living in high-rises and villas). Doing so will reduce the large number of cats reported to have gotten “lost, stolen, run over or killed.” Microchipping is mandatory in Dubai, and cat owners are expected to make sure their cat is registered with Dubai Municipality.
These best practices are applicable regardless of your location. As an animal care specialist, I believe that if you domesticate cats, you take on the responsibility for their safety, health and well-being.
If you let your cats roam outside, it pays to consider the following reasons to keep them indoors from now on.
1. The Outdoors Present Plenty of Hazards
Diseases and Parasites
Cats can acquire diseases from other cats through bites and close contact. These include Feline Leukemia Virus, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline Infectious Peritonitis and zoonotic diseases. Since some of these diseases don’t have effective vaccines yet, there is no cure for them.
Also, they can be infected with internal parasites like Toxoplasma, whipworms, hookworms and roundworms.
It is common for outdoor cats to develop serious, painful abscess from fighting with other outdoor animals. There are plenty of territorial cats roaming outside that fight to the death when necessary.
Cars are the most fatal hazards to outdoor animals. You may think that your feline friends can avoid being hit by cars but even street-savvy cats can become a victim. Like human beings, cats can easily be distracted. For instance, some of the cats The Veterinary Hospital treated lately were struck by cars because they were either running away from a dog or chasing after prey. The point here is that all cats roaming outdoors are at risk of being hit by cars.
Aside from cars, poisons are also a common hazard to outdoor cats. Your cat can come across poisonous chemicals – with pesticides and washing detergents being the most dangerous.
2. No Risk for Cruelty
Cats that have access to the outside may fall victim to abuse from people that dislike their presence in their garden or simply have malicious intent. Sadly, this is not uncommon.
3. You Can Monitor Your Cat’s Health Better
If you have your cat indoors, you can monitor their health better. An early detection of any change in your feline’s habits can mean less suffering and pain.
4. You Will Have Control Over Their Food
With indoor cats, you will be in the best position to control what they eat. Most importantly, you are confident that they are eating the most nutritious cat food and drinking clean water. If you let them go outdoors, you will not know if they are munching on food left out for stray cats. The risk of acquiring diseases will also be reduced if they eat from the same food bowl.
As cat owners, it is your responsibility to protect them from any harm. Trustworthy vets emphasize that if you keep them indoors, you are keeping them out of unnecessary danger. So think about the hazards the outdoors present the next time you think of letting your cats roam freely outside.
Dr. Max Spicer is the Managing Partner and Senior Veterinary Surgeon at The Veterinary Hospital in Dubai. He has taken strides towards providing comprehensive service by hiring veterinarians that are flexible, approachable, and highly specialised in their respective fields.