Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Is Your Cat Really "Indoors Only"?

When you take your cat to visit your veterinarian, one of the most common questions asked of you is whether your cat is an indoor or outdoor cat.  Most owners will say that their cats are indoor cats.  However, if your cat spends any amount of time outside, even on a covered patio under your direct supervision, he's not an indoor only cat.

Why is this distinction so important?  Because any type of outdoor exposure can impact your cat's health in terms of exposures, from other animals to parasites.  All of this information helps your veterinarian help you take care of your cat, and can potentially prevent health issues down the road.

Even if your cat is strictly indoors, if you have other pets that go outside, your indoor cat may have additional exposure risks from your other pet.  For example, let's say you have a dog as well as your cat.  Your dog goes with you to the local dog park where other dogs expose him to fleas, which he brings home with him.  Now your cat has been exposed to them too.

If you have a multi-cat household and the other cat goes outside, this can impact your indoor cat in similar ways as having a dog that goes outside.  In addition to parasites, your outdoor cat may also bring in viruses that your indoor cat may not otherwise encounter.  This means your indoor cat may need additional vaccinations, for example.

Here at Scottsdale Cat Clinic we do recommend keeping cats indoors due to the variety of dangers that are outside.  These include parasites, predators - including abusive humans - toxins, cars, and even fights with other cats.  We went into more detail on these dangers in our blog The Dangerous Outdoors.

Still, keeping a cat indoors does mean that special attention must be given to ensure a healthy life.  Although the always sleeping cat is a popular image, cats do need exercise and mental stimulation, something that can be lacking in the indoor environment.  Fortunately, it is relatively easy to add these elements to your indoor cat's life with interactive toys, a well placed perch to check out the great outdoors through a window, or even a companion cat assuming they get along.

Because of the additional exposures and potential risks for cats outside, it is very important for your veterinarian to know if your cat goes out, even for a few minutes.  Make sure your veterinarian knows all of your cat's habits so she can help you take the best possible care of your cat.