It’s hard to believe it, but Fluffy could secretly be a wildlife assassin outside of the home. A study released in 2013 by the journal Nature found that “free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals annually.” The study goes on to state that non-owned cats cause the majority of this mortality, but if we kept even our posh, spoiled cats indoors, the rate of these killed animals would decrease significantly. The Oatmeal, a webcomic, also did a humorous, but factual cartoon on housecats’ impact on wildlife, titled “How Much Do Cats Actually Kill?”. You can read it here (Warning: has some strong language).
Yes, I’ve been there. All my life, our cats were indoor/outdoor cats and came in to eat and grab the occasional cuddle, but mostly wanted to be outside and enjoy the grass, the air, and the tons of living playthings for them to torment and leave as gifts to the humans. It was downright hard to keep them inside sometimes.
However, now that I have personally seen the impact cats have on wildlife to the many patients we get each year due to cat attacks, I have made an effort to keep my cat indoors and educate other cat owners to keep their cats inside as well. It takes a bit more effort, but in the long run, it ends up better for human, cat, and wildlife.
Cats free-roaming outdoors not only wreak havoc on wildlife, but they are also susceptible to many dangers. Cats outdoors are at risk for:
- Getting hit by a car
- Contracting disease or parasites from eating or coming into contact with wild animals
- Getting killed or injured by dogs, coyote, bobcat, or other predator
- Getting injured by another cat during a territorial dispute, which can lead to infection
- Becoming victim to cruel people
- Getting kidnapped or picked up by animal control
Not only that, but if you live in a neighborhood, many neighbors don’t appreciate free-roaming cats urinating on doorsteps or gardens, digging up plants, harassing the birds at their bird feeder, or making their dogs go crazy at the sight of a cat wandering around.
There are some steps you can make to keep kitty safe indoors (and out!). They include:
Building an outdoor enclosure or screened in porch, safe from small wildlife such as lizards, allowing kitty to be outside and get fresh air, sun, and watch birds from afar. There are many do-it-yourself instructions and kits available online. Here is a Google search to get you started.
Training your cat to wear a harness and take a walk outside. While some think this silly, some cats do very well walking down the sidewalk or in a private yard on a harness.
Giving kitty plenty of things to do inside. Toys, catnip, cat trees, hiding places, and even installing ledges high on the walls and places to climb. This is where you can get really creative. One great example can be found in this video.
Installing a ledge by a window so your cat can look outside and watch the wildlife from a distance – if this is a screened window, even better!
Supervising your cat on outdoor excursions and bringing inside when you’re ready.
You are of course always welcome to call our hotline to get some advice from a real person, as well! We would love to help you keep your purr factory and the wildlife happy. And of course, if you do happen to have kitty bring in a wild animal, please give us a call or bring the victim to us so that we can administer the appropriate medical care. You can always reach us 24/7, 365 days a year at (520)290-WILD (9453). Feel free to share your own tips in the comments, or ask a question!