Should cats go outside?

It all depends... on how long you want to keep the cat.

Because no matter how savvy the cat is, or how safe you think your neighborhood is, the odds are not good for the cat, outdoors.

It's the little things. Letting cats out means exposure to parasites and disease. It means we have to keep up their immunizations and work much harder on flea control.

While most of these problems will impact the cat, they can affect us, too. We hate getting fleas. Cats who don't go outdoors won't pick up toxoplasmosis, which is dangerous for pregnant women and their babies.

It's the big things. Dogs, other cats, and automobiles are serious dangers to our cat. The cat's instincts might help them when it comes to fighting with other animals, but they can still get seriously injured. And they have no way of handling automobiles, which move much faster than anything in nature.

It's bad enough when the cat comes home injured, which leads to expensive vet bills. It's even worse when the cat doesn't come home at all.

It's the uncertainty. Every time we open the door for the cat, we roll the dice. If the cat doesn't come home, we probably will never know what happened. We can soothe ourselves by thinking the cat found another home, but that's hardly ever true.

This also makes the cat vulnerable to being picked up by the shelter authorities. If we don't get to the shelter in time, many of them will kill the cat. Collars don't help that much; they either breakaway, and might not be there. Or they don't breakaway; and trap our cat forever.

It's the horrible things. Disturbed individuals like to kill animals. Our friendly cat, who trusts and likes people, can be an easy target.

Even if we don't have a crazy person in the neighborhood, many otherwise "nice" people get upset about cats near their house. To safeguard their bird feeder or their garden, neighbors have been known to use ugly methods on neighborhood cats.

So we shouldn't ask ourselves "When is it safe to let the cat out?" When so often the answer will be, "Never."

Read more about the indoor/outdoor issues with cats.
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