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October 26, 2004 > A Safe Cat is a Happy Cat

A Safe Cat is a Happy Cat

Move over dogs! According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), cats have replaced Man's Best Friend as America's most popular companion animal. Even with this designation of favorite critter, cats are still the "pets" most likely to die prematurely from diseases, poisons, attacks by other animals, abuse by humans or speeding vehicles. The reason is simple: Cat caregivers often don't realize that allowing their cat to roam outdoors can be a one-way ticket to serious trouble.

According to HSUS, millions of cats suffer and die because their guardians give them free reign to roam the neighborhood. The vast majority of these people 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.

The designation of free-roaming can be applied to many types of outdoor cats and does not necessarily mean they are strays or feral. They can be owned cats who are allowed to roam; owned cats who have become lost; previously owned cats who have been abandoned and no longer have a home; neighborhood cats who roam freely and are fed by several residents in an area but "owned" by none of them.

The estimated average life span of these free-roaming cats 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, human cruelty as well as other hazards. In fact, according to a veterinary study by HSUS done in 2001, two out of three veterinarians recommend keeping cats indoors, most often citing dangers from vehicles and disease as the reason.

Pay a visit to the animal shelter and read the lost cat reports. They will show that even free-roaming cats in so-called "safe" suburban neighborhoods can just disappear and never return home. The statistics show that cats are the greatest number of animals brought into animal shelter systems. And, sadly, even with tireless shelter efforts to promote adoptions and rescue, they also remain the greatest number of animals put to death. The fact is that fewer than 5% of "found" cats taken in by animal shelters are reunited with their families.

This is why many shelters now require or strongly advise potential adopters to commit to keeping their cats safely confined. As added insurance, they recommend that cats wear breakaway collars with ID tags, and as added backup, some shelters, including Fremont's Tri-City Animal Shelter, now include in the adoption process, the implantation of an identifying microchip. Should the animal become lost, the microchip can be scanned by shelters to help track his family.

Some people believe there are good reasons to allow their cat to be outdoors without their supervision but while your cat may enjoy being outdoors, by allowing him to go outside unsupervised, you're putting him at serious risk for a shortened life span. The birds in your yard and garden will also be happier and more plentiful.

HSUS is promoting "A Safe Cat is a Happy Cat" campaign aimed at informing cat lovers of easy ways to satisfy indoor-only feline needs and instincts. In fact, the indoor cat that gets lots of attention and playtime is likely happier than the indoor-outdoor cat who often gets far less attention by his human companions.

Think about it and check out the HSUS website at for detailed information on keeping your cat safe, happy and healthy.

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