Opinion: Letting your cats outside is bad for them — and for the environment

An outdoor cat crouches, her eyes fixed on something around the corner.

Brennan Mumper, Staff Writer

Cats are great. They’re fuzzy, cute, and full of personality. They’re an excellent pet if you don’t have time to take a dog on a walk three times a day. After all, if you have a cat, you can just open the door and let it outside for a few hours, right?
Pet cats have been left to roam outdoors for most of history. They were primarily used as a pest control, after all, and a cat can’t get at the rats if it is lounging around inside all day.
Now, most cats in the United States are kept for companionship. Even so, many owners still let their feline friends roam freely. This seems like it would be a good thing. The cats are able to get exercise and socialize, and the owner doesn’t have to worry about them all the time. It’s a win-win.
Well, right up until Mittens doesn’t come home.
The dangers for a small cat alone in a modern world are numerous. Cats are frequently hit by cars. They can also get into fights with other cats or even animals like raccoons or foxes, which can result in injury and infection. Outdoor cats can also get parasites, like mange or fleas.
Additionally, animals that haven’t been spayed or neutered often end up contributing to the estimated 58 million stray cats that currently live in the U.S. These animals are homeless, are often feral, and outnumber the cats kept as pets in homes.
Cats are harmful to the environments they live in, too. The small predators are responsible for the deaths of between 1.3 and 4 billion birds and between 6.3 and 22.3 billion mammals every year. This often has devastating effects on local habitats, throwing them out of balance. It can also contribute to the extinction of local bird species.
So what’s the solution? Well, it’s as absurd as it is simple: leash-train your cat. If Spot can do it, Mittens can too.
Or, if that task sounds too daunting with your particular pet, you can just keep it inside. As long as the animal is getting plenty of exercise and play, it’ll be happier and healthier within the confines of your home, no matter how much it might meow and scratch at your door.