If you share your life with a cat, you know how wonderfully playful, intelligent, independent, and affectionate felines can be. However, you may have some questions about how to care for Fluffy, keep her happy and safe indoors, or identify potential health problems. This section will address these and other issues that face those who enjoy the companionship of a cat.
Cats are America's most popular pets, but they are also the pets most likely to die prematurely from diseases, poisons, attacks by other animals, abuse by humans, or speeding vehicles. The reason is simple: Owners often don't realize that allowing their cat to roam outdoors can be a one-way ticket to trouble.
Millions of cats suffer and die because their owners give them free reign to roam the neighborhood. The vast majority of these owners aren't cruel or thoughtless; many love their animals as much as the rest of us. They just believe that cats are happiest outdoors. In fact, many cat caregivers acquired their felines by "taking in" or caring for someone's cat who was allowed to stray.
When cats are left outside unsupervised, their freedom to roam comes at a cost because they have a vastly increased chance of being injured, becoming ill, or even dying. The estimated average life span of a free-roaming cat is less than three years-compared to 15-18 years for the average indoor-only cat. Even the cat who only occasionally ventures outdoors unsupervised can fall victim to automobiles, predators, disease, and other hazards. In fact, two out of three veterinarians recommend keeping cats indoors, most often citing dangers from vehicles and disease.*
Even cats in "safe" suburban neighborhoods can meet untimely fates and never return home. Fewer than 5% of "found" cats taken in by animal shelters are reunited with their families. That's why many shelters now require potential adopters to commit to keeping their cats safely confined and strongly recommend that cats wear collars and ID tags, and even be implanted with an identifying microchip. Some communities are adopting ordinances aimed at encouraging owners to confine their cats-just as they do their dogs.
So what is best for your cat? The HSUS's Safe Cats campaign was created to help you keep your cat safe and happy by making the great indoors both interesting and comfortable. The campaign can teach you how to "bring the outdoors in" and enrich the life of your cat. There are lots of things that you and your cat can do together for fun-and you will have longer to enjoy one another if you keep your cat safely confined in his natural habitat: the home you share.
*HSUS veterinarian study conducted in June 2001 by Jacobs, Jenner & Kent.