The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - PETS - WORDS: DR MARK REEVE Dr Reeve is a mem­ber of the Aus­tralian Vet­eri­nary As­so­ci­a­tion

When­ever I see a cat for its yearly health check-up, there is one crit­i­cal ques­tion I ask own­ers to gauge whether their cat is likely to need more or less vet­eri­nary care go­ing for­ward: “Is your cat an in­side cat or does it have free ac­cess to roam out­side?” Cats that spend the ma­jor­ity of their time con­fined to their own prop­erty are, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, much less likely to need ex­tra care.

Sadly, road traf­fic ac­ci­dents hap­pen far too of­ten for cats that have out­door ac­cess. If you think about your own driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s more than likely that at one time or an­other you have been driv­ing along a dark road when sud­denly you have seen the shine from of a cat’s eyes ap­pear in front of you. Rather than wait­ing pa­tiently for your car to pass, cats dash out think­ing they can beat you across the road.

Cats are also ter­ri­to­rial crea­tures and fight a lot more than we as own­ers would ex­pect them to. I see a lot of cats pre­sent­ing to the hospi­tal with in­fec­tions from a bite or scratch. Cats’ nails are very ef­fec­tive at tear­ing skin and in­tro­duc­ing a nasty in­fec­tion and th­ese wounds of­ten need surgery. Th­ese in­juries can also in­tro­duce a chronic vi­ral dis­ease, sim­i­lar to hu­man im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency virus.

Free-roam­ing cats are a huge an­noy­ance to your neigh­bours as well. Many peo­ple com­plain about cats us­ing their gar­den as a toi­let.

While al­low­ing your cat to roam out­side puts its health at greater risk than in­door cats, this does not mean that in­door cats are prob­lem free. There are some is­sues we see with ex­clu­sively in­door cats that are less com­mon in cats that are al­lowed to roam, par­tic­u­larly obe­sity due to in­ac­tiv­ity.

There is no doubt that obe­sity causes a num­ber of is­sues for cats, from arthri­tis and di­a­betes to in­creased prob­lems with the uri­nary tract. It’s im­por­tant that if your cat spends all of its time in­side that you re­strict its calo­ries and make sure it gets some ex­er­cise each day.

I see be­havioural is­sues more of­ten in in­door cats too. I put this down to their de­creased abil­ity to ex­press nor­mal be­hav­iours like hunt­ing — with frus­tra­tion and bad be­hav­iour re­sult­ing from bore­dom. This can nor­mally be dealt with quite eas­ily by en­sur­ing you pro­vide en­vi­ron­men­tal en­rich­ment for your in­door cat.

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