Hazards of Letting Your Cat Roam Outdoors

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Being a wildlife lover, I have to say, when I found out just how many birds and small animals are taken by cats each year, it blew my mind.

And that was just another reason to keep my cats inside. Though it was a hard decision for me, because I saw how much they enjoyed being out. But in the end, letting them roam free just wasn’t worth it.

If you are still on the fence with this, let me give you some more reasons as to why your cats are better off inside than roaming free.

Killed. Lost. Injured. Trapped.

That basically sums it up. And there are many ways for these things to befall Kitty when you let her roam outdoors. And I should add “Stolen” to the list, though less likely as people are more prone to try and get rid of cats than steal them.

However, if you have a purebred cat, cat-napping is a real possibility, and I don’t mean the cat-nap that helps the sleep-deprived. I mean the kind that will deprive you of much-needed rest as you are plagued by what has happened to Kitty who never came home last week.

Death by Car

One of the most common ways for cats to die or be injured is getting hit by cars. Crossing the road, or even sleeping in someone’s driveway. God forbid it should be in your own driveway. But it can happen. Happened to a friend of mine, whose husband backed over their cat, who’d fallen asleep underneath the truck.

Drivers in high vehicles like trucks and SUV s really have a challenge to see small animals at ground level. It’s always good policy to check under the vehicle before you get in, even if you don’t let your cat out. It could be someone’s cat under there. You don’t want to have that on your mind.

And, perhaps worse, is the reality that many cats (and other animals) get hit by cars every day, and don’t die immediately. They manage to crawl off the road, but can’t get far with a broken leg or internal injuries.

In fact, one of my most scarring memories was the time I was driving back from going berry picking and just ahead on the road there was a commotion.  Suddenly in my field of vision there was this cat that had just been hit and was in the throes of death but still scampering around on the road with body parts missing.  I think a car a few cars ahead had hit it and kept going, but this cat was still alive and freaking out as it died.  I swerved to miss it, but perhaps I should have hit it to put it out of its misery.  I had no time to think, and I just kept driving.  Anyway, that ranks up there as the most sad, awful things I have ever seen, and I only saw it for about 5 seconds.  

Another friend had a cat go missing, only to drag itself up the driveway over a week later, badly injured, and so dehydrated and starved it was mere skin and bones. Miraculously, they were able to save it. They had looked and looked but somehow, it was concealed and could not get to them. Do you want this to happen to your cat?

On the other side of it, if you hit a cat yourself, I hope you make an effort to find the owners, and not leave an injured cat by the roadside.

Mind you, an injured cat can be tricky to deal with if you don’t have a HazMat suit in the trunk, or you left your falconry gloves at home. But a blanket can serve as a containment field for her teeth and claws, and hold her tight til you can take her to the vet or shelter, or home with you. She might be micro-chipped, or have a tag on her collar to help you contact the owner.

At least think of how you would want someone to treat your cat. And a word to the wise (who might not actually need it if they are wise) realize that if you don’t do anything, but drive off and leave the animal there injured, it will forever haunt you. Just saying.

The only way to protect your cat is to prevent her from going near cars, except when you take her in a carrier, and that means don’t let her roam free!

Read our article about the Best Indoor Cat Toys

The Food Chain

It might seem to be justice served if your cat gets eaten by another animal. After all, every cat is a hunter, and the average cat will kill birds and small animals at an alarming rate if given the chance, more than you suspect!

Just because you’ve never seen the prey, doesn’t mean she isn’t following her true nature—that of a first-class predator on the very edge of existence, killing and eating fresh meat every day. Kitty is part of the food chain when she goes outside, and the domestic cat has the same basic nature as a lion or a leopard.

They live with us, but they are still true carnivores, and the instinct to catch and dispatch the prey is alive and well. Which is why cats are so “playful” and enjoy toys such as balls, the “cat dancer”  and crackly toys that sound like mice moving through dead leaves.

But a cat is small. Once she is in the food chain, she may be the hunted as well. There are others out there, even if you live in a city, who would nimbly take a cat home for dinner.

Coyotes dwell in most cities and suburbs, though we rarely will see them. They are omnivores, and opportunists. They’ve learned to make the most of every situation.

An acquaintance in my area was studying coyotes as part of his university research, examining the dens of coyotes in and around the capital city. There were dens in the parks, in ravines, in vacant lots. Under stumps and stones and old cars.

And in examining the contents of the dens, they found many, many cat bones and remnants. They were surprised at the sheer number of cats, and he said he then realized why so many of the cats who go missing are never found. Adds a poignancy to the posters you see pleading for info on Fluffy who “failed to come home last night.” Coyotes can’t answer your “Reward Offered” post. Sorry.

Better to keep Fluffy inside, and be careful opening and closing doors! Cats are quick to escape, and can be very tricky to recapture, especially if they are freaked out by being outside for the first time!

There are also foxes to be concerned about. I can attest personally to this one, sadly. Especially if the cat is small, young, old or not well. A full-grown strong cat might be able to hold off a fox for a while, but if it turns to run, the fox will win the battle.

And a fox may be brave and come very close to your house if it feels confident it will get a reward. Don’t be lulled into false security by the elder cat who lounges near the house and never goes far anymore.

Raccoons can take on a cat and sometimes will. Then there are the Great-horned Owls, Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks and one friend even witnessed an Osprey take a small cat. Of course, a larger cat such as a Lynx or Bobcat will also take on a cat, and they can climb like Fluffy, and then some. So there’s no getting away if one of those shows up. It can well happen, they travel through. I had a Bobcat show up here last season—the only one in 20 years. So you never know.

Of course, porcupines are herbivores, and will not eat a cat. But they can injure a curious kitty, to the loss of an eye, or if quills migrate in, to kill via injury to internal organs. I had a beagle die this way, I really urge you to keep kitty in. If in a woodsy area, porcupines will come right up to your house! I know.

Then there are other cats, such as feral cats, who can attack your cat and put her in hospital, or transmit a disease such as Feline Leukaemia, which is not curable.

Dogs can also kill a cat. I mean pet dogs. I witnessed this when I was a child, as dogs often roamed free, or got off the leash and went running. It was horrific to the cat, and also to the children present who saw it happen and could not do anything to stop it except scream and scream. Two dogs, one small cat and a narrow lane. It happened right next to the house where the cat lived. It was a traumatizing event for me, and I wish I could forget it. If only that old man had kept his cat inside.

Is that enough to persuade you to keep your cat inside? You want more? Okay…


Cats are curious, and can climb. They can get stuck in the weirdest places, and with no one to get them out, they will die there. Even up a tree. I had a cat go missing and found her 30 feet up a tree a day and a half later. She would NOT come down. I had to climb up and get her, and I wouldn’t recommend it! I could’ve been killed, as the limbs were mostly dead and kept breaking under my feet. Then, at the swaying top, I had to hold her with one hand to prevent her claws from destroying my head as she clung on, and use the other hand to climb down. I seriously don’t recommend it, but I had no choice at the time and just plunged in and did it.

I’d always thought they would descend on their own, and often they do. However, in this case, she was injured, with a tail she couldn’t move and puncture marks where something had grabbed her around the middle. Probably a coyote. Amazingly she got away. I have had to learn this lesson more than once, and finally I bit the bullet and decided to keep my cats inside.

Another friend had a cat trapped up a tree for over a week, she was almost dead when they found her. Obviously something had chased her up there, and no way was she coming down on her own.

Cats can become trapped in buildings, when they go inside after a mouse and someone locks the door, trapping Kitty in, and then the family who owns the shed goes on vacation! It happened to a friend of mine, who found her cat by gut instinct, in a locked shed on a neighbour’s property.

They can become trapped in culverts when the snowplow pushes snow into the ditch. Cats can fall down wells. They can climb into moving vans and travel with someone’s furniture across the country. If they don’t die of heat, cold, starvation or thirst, they might find another home or travel back! The incredible journey does happen. Mostly, they don’t make it back.

Sometimes your wandering cat will be taken in by someone thinking she is lost. Maybe someone very near to your home. But you won’t know unless she wanders back, having escaped or been let out. Maybe you lie in bed at night, wondering what happened, and she is only three doors down, living well. But you have no peace of mind in the meantime!

Read our article, “How To Keep Your Indoor Kitty Happy”

Other Reasons

Then there’s Animal Control. They pick up cats and dogs, and in some areas (such as mine) they will euthanize them in three days unless you think to contact them.

In some areas, stray animals are caught and turned over for vivisection (experiments on animals, for food, cosmetics and drugs). In some areas of the world, cats and dogs are eaten, and strays can end up that way. Or be killed for their fur, the kind is fake “rabbit paws” in the “lucky charm” on those tacky key chains. Or the knickknacks made of fur. Sometimes fur trim on clothing is actually from cats and dogs.

In those places where humans are poor, animals such as dogs and cats have little value; strays are slated for euthanasia, and the method is truly disturbing. I won’t repeat it. Dog Whisper Cesar Milan, detailed some of that in one of his books, talking about his home country of Mexico, and his efforts to educate his own people on how to euthanize animals who need to be put down in humane ways.

The point is, when your animals goes roaming around, no one knows she is your beloved cat. And some just don’t care if she is or not.

Consider some of the sick people out there, the kind who like to kill animals. With guns or in some other more cruel way. There are those who like to inflict suffering, not just to kill a creature. It’s one thing to have an animal injured by accident; when someone does it on purpose, there’s another whole other psychological dimension to endure.

Then there are even those who use animals in rituals! They see nothing wrong with using animals or people in their rituals, whether it’s voodoo or some other form of witchcraft. I know it’s hard to believe for some of the good folks reading this; it’s a very unpleasant topic for those not involved. Just keep your kitty at home!

Besides Satanists and those who purposely take sick pleasure in the pain and suffering of other beings, there are those who just HATE cats. They have no tolerance for cats trespassing on their property and will do whatever it takes to stop it. Some will try to run cats over when they see them crossing the road. They will shoot to kill if they have guns. Or they will use poison.

Speaking of poison, some cats become ill or die from eating things they shouldn’t eat. Tainted food, or even rats which have eaten rat poison. Or she could come in contact with toxic chemicals used by neighbours or industry in the area. She might eat poisonous plants, the ones you choose not to grow in your own yard, because you don’t want her to eat them and die! But what is being grown elsewhere?

Once your cat is out of your home, you don’t know what she will get into. If she comes back, and turns ill, it might be very difficult and costly to try and figure out what is wrong with her. Because once out of your home, there is no way of knowing what she has eaten or encountered.

I hope I’ve tipped the scales for you. It was hard for me to keep my cats inside, but having learned some of these lessons the hard way, I can say that it is the best choice for your cat, and your peace of mind! And maybe even for your finances, when you consider the cost of injuries, lost time looking for a missing cat, and productivity down the drain because you are distracted by thoughts of what might have happened to your cat who has gone missing.

Now, for those who long to see Kitty enjoy the great outdoors, there are a few solutions besides total freedom. We will deal with those in another article!

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