8 Reasons To Keep Your Cat From Roaming Outside 

Written by Angie Menjivar
Published: November 15, 2023
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You watch as your cat gazes longingly out the window. They should be out there chasing birds and squirrels, right? They should be living their best lives snacking on rodents and basking in the sun! While this sounds ideal for a cat, it’s not and we’ll tell you why. Discover eight reasons to keep your cat from roaming outside!

8 Reasons to Keep Your Cat From Roaming Outside

1. Car Accident Prevention

Vehicle Crashes / Malfunctions

Nobody plans accidents, but they happen. Roaming cats are unsafe when moving vehicles are around.

©iStock.com/Halfpoint

Neighborhoods purposely have low speed limits but that doesn’t stop some people from racing through. If you live in more rural environments, you know how frequently you pass dead animals on the road. When cats are left to roam outside, they’re exposed to a range of dangers, including car accidents. Cats are agile and intelligent, but when they’re spooked, their survival instincts kick in.

They’re not strategizing their next move. A startled cat may take off running and fail to see a car coming toward it, which could result in severe injury or death. Additionally, when it’s cold outside, cats may seek shelter beneath vehicles or even closer to the engine, underneath the hood of a car (especially when they’re small). A person may not notice that a cat is present, and the results could be disastrous.

2. Keep Predator From Becoming Prey

A Red tailed hawk going in for the kill

Hawks hunt small mammals, including outdoor cats.

©David Brace/Shutterstock.com

Cats are excellent hunters, eating a range of meals out in the wild. They snack on mice and rats and anything else they can get their little paws on. However, there are also larger predators in the wild that may look at your cat the way your cat looks at a rat. If you’ve never seen a bird of prey like a hawk fly in from the sky and immediately snatch an animal off the ground, we’ll have you know it’s both horrifying and impressive.

Since birds of prey approach from above, an unsuspecting cat can easily become a meal. There are also coyotes to worry about as well as dogs, whether they are kept outside in the yard or they’re feral. Unless a dog has been socialized with a cat or has a naturally docile personality, it could attack an unknown feline.

3. Disease Prevention

The sick cat lay weakly on the blue cloth, it gaze stared out in motion. Cat's Health Concept. Soft focus.

Cats are exposed to various diseases outdoors, which detrimentally impacts their health.

©Oporty786/Shutterstock.com

When your cat roams outside, it’s not just exposed to the elements. It’s also exposed to a range of diseases that other animals carry. For example, if another cat is infected with the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and comes into contact with your cat, your cat may contract the virus. It’s highly contagious and can even be spread when two cats share the same water bowl.

Additionally, your cat becomes exposed to parasitic infections. Things like tapeworms and roundworms along with ticks and fleas can wreak havoc on your cat’s health. Your cat doesn’t even have to come into contact with another animal. Even contaminated soil can transmit these parasites. The list goes on as your cat may also develop conditions like mange, ringworm, or even toxoplasmosis.

4. Wildlife Protection

Male Northern Cardinal enjoying some birdseed from the bird feeder

Roaming cats can impact the wildlife population, including that of native birds.

©MLHoward/Shutterstock.com

There are plenty of reasons why you want to keep your cat from roaming outside. Most of them involve your cat’s safety but since your cat is a predator, it can also disrupt wildlife in your area. Small mammals and birds deserve a chance to contribute to the ecosystem.

When a cat is allowed to roam your neighborhood, it could impact the population of these other animals. Not just this but if your cat is roaming outside and it’s not spayed or neutered, that creates an ongoing set of problems. This leads to the overpopulation of cats, which then continues a cycle of impacting the wildlife population.

5. Prevent Physical Altercations With Other Cats

two young ginger and brown cats fighting in the garden on the grass.

Cats are territorial and likely to get into fights with other cats outdoors.

©Mariya Ilmaz/Shutterstock.com

Cats are territorial creatures by nature, which means that they put up a fight if they feel encroached upon. When other cats are roaming around and they come into contact with your cat, it’s likely a fight will ensue. During this fight, they may contract a range of diseases, but they also may suffer severe injuries. When your cat is injured, it’s more susceptible to getting preyed on, it’s not as strong with its defenses, and any open wounds can lead to infection and worse.

6. Prevent Accidental Poisoning

cats may accidentally ingest poison

Cats may accidentally ingest poisonous substances outdoors.

©iStock.com/krblokhin

Outside, your cat may encounter a range of toxic substances that could be harmful if they think they’re worth a taste. For example, there are a host of plants that are toxic to cats. They could get into them if they’re curious enough. Also, people use different substances and chemicals in and around their homes which your outdoor cat may get curious enough to ingest.

This would be accidental poisoning. Unfortunately, it also happens that some neighbors don’t like having cats in their yard and may purposely set out toxic substances to intentionally harm your cat. When your cat is outside, it’s fending for itself. It doesn’t have your knowledge, wisdom, and helpful redirection to help keep it safe.

7. Maintain a Harmonious Neighborhood

Aerial view of typical American new construction neighborhood street in Maryland for the upper middle class, single family homes USA real estate

Keep your neighborhood harmonious by keeping your cat secure indoors.

©tokar/Shutterstock.com

While a neighbor who poisons a pet is an extreme example, it does happen. However, in most cases, you either know and get along with your neighbors or you at least respect one another’s privacy. When you let your cat roam around, your cat doesn’t understand that there are property lines.

It may venture into their yard, onto their patio, and even into their home if there is an opportunity. While some people love cats, others would prefer to keep them at a safe distance. Letting your cat roam freely in the neighborhood disrupts the harmony and the unspoken agreement you all enter into when you share a neighborhood.

8. Promote a Healthy, Longer Life

pet cat walking between humans legs

Indoor cats have longer lifespans than outdoor cats.

©iStock.com/Chalabala

Indoor cats have a significantly longer lifespan than outdoor cats. When indoors, cats can live up to 20 years or more whereas cats that have to endure all the elements outdoors may only live two to five years on average. If your cat’s longevity is important to you, indoor living gives them the greatest chance.

By keeping your cat indoors, you protect them from diseases, other people, other cats, predators, and harsh weather conditions. You supply them with a nutrient-dense diet and give them access to fresh, clean water daily. In turn, they reward you with their healing presence and sometimes, if you’re lucky, with their affection!

Alternatives to Letting Cats Roam Outside

Try a Catio

A catio allows your cat to enjoy time outdoors without having to deal with any of the dangers that roaming around presents. It’s a small enclosure with different levels where your cat can perch and enjoy all of the outdoor stimulation. They get to not just watch through a closed window but also take in all the different scents that swirl around outdoors.

Use a Harness

If you’re going to train a cat with a harness, it’s best to start early. Some cats may completely resist a harness, which would make it difficult for them to enjoy supervised outdoor time. However, if your cat is comfortable with a harness, you two can venture outside. You remain close so they can enjoy the outdoors but still have you as their protector. Be sure that if you are going to be taking your cat outdoors, you get them flea and tick protection and keep them updated with all their necessary vaccines, including the rabies vaccine!

Set Up a Window Perch

If a catio or a harness aren’t options on the table for you, you can always just set up a window perch. This lets them settle in and enjoy all the sights and sounds without actually having to venture outdoors.

Make Indoor Time More Enriching

Sometimes, you’re limited on space, or maybe the view outside your window is not as enticing as you would like it to be for your cat. If this is the case, you can still create a more enriching space indoors so that your cat is never bored.

Interactive toys as well as playtime with you can keep your cat focused on enjoying its life inside your home. Set up cat trees or other structures like cat shelves so that your cat has plenty of places to jump onto and explore. You might even try to enrich their mealtimes by using puzzle feeders. Last but certainly not least, make sure to give your cat plenty of love and affection (if they’ll allow it)!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Evrymmnt/iStock via Getty Images


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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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