KEEP KITTY FELINE FINE
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.