Indoor or Outdoor? Keeping Your Cats Safe in Clifton!


As the weather warms, our cats may be eager to go outside to explore the garden. We all love our furry friends, and want them to have the happiest lives possible, so what is a pet lover to do? Do we keep them inside or let them wander around Clifton, exploring?

Statistics show that indoor cats lead longer, healthier lives than outdoor cats. Indoor cats live on average 10-15 years, while outdoor cats live on average 2-5 years. This is especially true in cities like Clifton, where due to our population density, there are a lot of cars, other animals, and communicable diseases. So what are the risks to our cats and how can we keep our cats safe, entertained, and happy?

The Risks of Car Accidents: 5.4 million cats are hit by cars in the US every year, and most of these accidents are fatal. Studies have shown that 51% of cats who have outdoor access that died did so as a result of car accidents, making these the 4th leading cause of death for all cats, after old age, cancer, and renal failure. If you do find an injured cat, here is some information on what you can do to secure the cat before taking them to the vet. If you find a dead cat, move the cat to the side of the road and call the non-emergency police line (973-470-5900) and animal control will come out and scan for a microchip.

The Risk of Animal Attacks and Fights: Another major risk that cats face outdoors is being attacked by dogs or other cats. Cats are territorial animals, and often will attack other cats that come into their areas. This can result in puncture wounds that quickly become infected. The infection may go unnoticed for several days until swelling and pain at the puncture site develop. At this point, the cat will often develop a fever. If the skin surrounding the wound is loose, a pocket of pus will develop, forming an abscess, which will need to be cleaned out by a veterinarian. When a cat enters a yard with a dog, the damage can be fatal, with dogs shaking and biting the cat. If the cat does survive, recovery is often long and expensive. Some Cliftonites are concerned that foxes might be a threat to their pets, but foxes rarely attack cats.

Risks of Infection, Disease and Parasites: Cats can quickly become infected with communicable diseases, especially if they are involved in fights. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is common in our area and attacks the immune system, leaving the cat vulnerable to many other infections. Feline Leukemia Virus (FLV) is one of the most common infectious diseases in cats, affecting between 2 and 3% of all cats in the United States. It is the most common cause of cancer in cats, may cause various blood disorders, and may lead to a state of immune deficiency that hinders a cat's ability to protect itself against other infections. The most common and significant infections that humans can get from their cats include rabies, cat scratch disease, toxoplasmosis, and ringworm. In addition, cats can bring in fleas, ticks and other parasites like giardia.

The Risk of Poisoning: Anti-freeze, fertilizers, and insecticides used on lawns, rat poison, and even plants like lilies can be toxic to cats. The symptoms of poisoning include uncharacteristic sluggishness, unsteady gait, drooling, heavy breathing, diarrhea, seizures, and sudden bouts of vomiting. If you notice these signs, get your pet to the vet as soon as possible. If your regular vet is not open, Veterinary Emergency Group in Clifton is open 24 hours.

The Risk to Wildlife and Birds: In the United States alone, outdoor cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds every year and the median number of mammals killed is 12.3 billion. Even well-fed cats will hunt and kill, and the mere presence of cats outdoors is enough to cause significant impacts to birds. Because cats are recognizable predators, their presence near nesting birds has been shown to reduce the health of chicks and decrease nest success. Birds are under so many environmental and other stresses that since the 1970s, the United States has lost nearly 3 billion birds. nearly 30% of the total, and even common birds such as sparrows and blackbirds are in decline.

The Risk from Humans: People may scoop up a cat they find outdoors to take home as a pet. Unfortunately others may take the cat to abuse or torture or use as bait in dogfighting.

Keeping Indoor Cats Entertained and Avoiding Escapes: Pet owners who let their cats outside often express that they’re concerned about their cats happiness and believe that outdoor cats are healthier, as they get more exercise and stimulation. Research shows that there are many ways to engage your cat at home, whether it is providing perches for them to sit and enjoy the sunshine, feathered toys and balls to play with, or adopting another cat for them to have as a friend in your home. Here are some tips to keep your cat happy indoors.

Cats that are raised as indoor cats from the time they are kittens are less likely to want to escape and go exploring. Make sure that cats are kept in a closed, safe room when there are a lot of people coming in and out of your home, like during moving, technician repairs, or big parties. Spaying and neutering your cat will also reduce their urge to go looking for love in all the wrong places, and also reduce your cat’s risk of having an unexpected pregnancy, which can be life threatening for a cat. It is currently kitten season, and the Clifton Animal Shelter has many adorable kittens looking for home, attesting to the fact that cats are incredibly effective at making more cats.

Safety Precautions: Even the best laid plans can go astray, and your cat may escape and become disoriented and unable to find their way home. In order to keep your cats safe if that happens, you should make sure that your cats are fully vaccinated. Put visible identification on your cats. Cats can easily and safely wear collars with identification and a microchip is a great means to back that identification up. The Humane Society estimates that only about 2% of lost cats that enter animal shelters are claimed by their families, so having a visible means of identification and a microchip can get your pet home quickly and safely. Here are some tips on what to do if your cat gets out.

In summary, cats and kittens can be very happy indoors, and the risks to their safety from vehicles, disease, other animals, and unscrupulous humans cannot be overstated. Some shelters and rescues will not allow you to adopt a cat without promising that the cat will be indoors only. Cats live longer, are less prone to injury, diseases, and other harms, when kept indoors, and your local wildlife and birds will thank you as well!

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