A relatively small number of domestic cats can survive in the wild. It could be for a reasonable length of time or, in rare cases, the rest of their lives. If a domestic cat moves out of its human home, its life is more likely to be curtailed. This is because human care is now absent, and the chances of surviving are dependent on how tough the cat is.
This article will respond to all questions related to domestic cats and their chances of survival in the wild. You will also get some vital information to have in mind when you decide to let your cat out of the house and into the wild. Let’s get wild and feline all the way to the end!
Home Cats And The Wild – Questions Answered
While some indoor cats may do well when let loose, most of them will die. This is because they are not used to fending for themselves – something that requires skills. Throughout their entire lives, indoor cats are fed by their human owners. Most of them do not engage in active hunting at any point in their lives. Also, the wild exposes them to new predators, and they may lack the skills to defend themselves. The best thing to say is that the odds of a domestic cat surviving in the wild are low, and the feline will not be alive for a long time.
Before you change your indoor cat to an outdoor one, you need to look at whether it will adapt to the environmental changes. Explore the answered questions to get the nitty-gritty details of the subject.
Can A Home Cat Live And Thrive In The Outdoors?
The best thing to do with a home cat is to let it stay at home. If you wish that it lives on the outside, it will help if you smoothened the transition. This will help you to reduce the chances of losing the cat to the uncertainties of the outside world.
While a cat can live and thrive in the outdoors, many dangers can cut short the cat’s life—this about poisoning, predation, fighting, and cat accidents. If the feline is not used to being outside, there are higher chances of being affected by a hazard.
Is My Feline A Pedigree Cat?
For your cat to survive, it needs survival instincts. When a cat is taken away from the wild and domesticated, the new human environment usually suppresses its wild instincts. Because of lack of activation, the instincts are suppressed. When the cat is thrown back into the wild, its instincts are usually too far to reach. When the cat is outside, it will show a lack of excellent hunting skills. Also, it will have zero traffic sense. A careless driver is likely to run it over.
The pedigree of a cat will come into play when it is in the wild. If the individual breed of your cat has advantageous characteristics, they will have a better shot at surviving. For example, if your cat is a Bengal cat, it would have no problem surviving in the outdoors. That specific breed is of aggressive and avid feline hunters. So, you need to know about the pedigree of your cat. Once you do, you will make a more confident and powerful conclusion about whether your feline can withstand the harshness of the outside.
Is Age An Important Factor?
Older cats are unlikely to survive in the outdoors, especially if it has been indoors for a long time of even its entire life. Young cats have particular agility that lacks in older cats. An older cat is also likely to adopt a bullish attitude when it steps out; it will push, shove, and fight other cats for food and territory. Also, it may not be the best hunter around.
Is The Personality Of My Cat Crucial To Its Outdoor Survival?
As you may already know, some cats act more aggressively as compared to others. Although aggression is something that would get the felines in trouble, it could work to the advantage of the cat involved. If the cat is nervous and stressed, it is unlikely to withstand the harshness of the outside. So, if your cat is an easy-going feline, it will not survive well.
However, you should know that the level of deception by cats can be high. While a cat may be warm, nervous, and easy-going with you, it may step out of that persona and survive on the outside impressively.
Will Claws Or Their Absence Affect The Way My Cat Will Behave In The Outdoors?
While declawing is an issue in some countries, it isn’t in others. For example, the UK does not allow you to declaw your cat as that is against the law. If your cat does not have claws, it has lost a significant part of its physical defense. This means that it may not survive a fight with a predator when it goes out to the wild. Also, it won’t be equipped to take down prey. This means that the cat may die because of predation or starvation.
How Can A Cat’s Hunting Levels Be Improved?
Naturally, the mother cat teaches her kittens everything they need to know when it comes to hunting. Many domestic cats – especially those taken as kittens – do not have time to bond with their mothers. They are removed a little too early and accommodated and appropriated in human homes.
A kitten starts its hunting lessons when it is about two months old. At that time, many kittens are already getting cozy in their cats under human roofs. So, most cats do not have the necessary training need for outdoor survival.
However, that does not mean that cats cannot learn to hunt. With the right education, an indoor cat can become a good hunter like any other. It is safe to conclude that a cat with poor hunting skills won’t last long in the wild. It may die of starvation.
What Kind Of Outdoor Environment Would The Cat Be Dealing With?
Is the cat going to a town or the countryside outdoors? While many people believe that the country is better, it poses a significant danger to cats. If you live in a countryside area where hunting is practiced, your cat may be at risk of getting poisoned, shot, or trapped. On the other side, it is likely to get more food in terms of birds and mice.
If the cat moves out of a home in a town, it can – like many feral cats – live on scraps. However, the feline is likely to be involved in car accidents and meet cruel people who may maul it to death.
Is My Cat Able To Comprehend The Rules In And Around Traffic?
Most of the cats killed due to little understanding of the traffic are younger cats. Ironically, the most dangerous traffic that poses the most danger to cats is the intermittent one. So, there is no guarantee that a cat won’t be injured even if the countryside is the context.
A cat that has spent almost all its entire life indoors is not any different that a young cat; both have no idea about cars and the damage they can cause. Sometimes, the cat may panic and throws itself in front of a vehicle. Because many cats will take most of the nighttime to hunt, there are more likely to get involved in accidents.
Is There Need For Me To Work On My Cat’s Inclination To Survive Outside?
You should take care that your cat does not slide out of your house and into the outdoors. When your cat feels inclined to become a feral cat and a domestic one no more, you need to keep an extra eye on it. It would be an excellent thing if you had it microchipped. Whenever it decides to shoot out through your door and rush outside, you will have a better chance to get it back. Also, if it gets stolen, you will have a chance – although a slim one – to get it back.
Unless you plan to breed your cat, be advised to get it neutered or spayed. When a cat is fixed, its sexual hormones will be suppressed, meaning it will be less aggressive to go for the outdoor life.
Also, be extra careful when you open doors. Your cat may decide to shoot out, which is something you don’t want to see. Many indoor cats usually get lost when doors are carelessly opened. When they shoot out, they go straight into the fast-moving traffic. If you want your cat to step out, you need to supervise it. If you can, put the cat on a leash. If you feel like the cat is persistent about going out, you can take it to a feline activity center. Ensure that you completely understand the temperament and personality of the feline before you make any outdoor move.
What To Be Aware Of When Letting A Cat Go Into The Wild
As implied throughout the previous section, a cat has an instinctual desire and drive to roam the wild. This instinct and inclination can be traced back to the cat’s distant ancestors. So, this phenomenon begs the question: how safe is your cat when it lounges on a roof, hunts for mice and birds, and strolls a fence line? Also, another question comes: is it a must-thing to keep a cat inside?
Cats love both indoor and outdoor environments. However, like many other creatures, they may develop particular boredom; they may want to see the world beyond the backyard. While that may be the case, the general advice is to keep cats at bay and inside at all times.
This section aims at opening you up to the possible risks that are likely to be faced by the cat when you let it go outside. The information should prompt you to find ways to keep the cat close to yourself.
The Risk Of Run-Ins And Threats From Others
While a cat is territorial and overly confident, they like getting into trouble. You will find it engaging in altercations with other animals – something that happens if they are intact. When it happens, the cats can get infections, bites, lacerations, and diseases. Also, if the cat involved is female, it may get involved with a male and get pregnant.
Although the discussion of this section will focus on the more common threats, it is crucial to know and note the predators who are not very famous. House cats can be preyed on by any of the following wild animals: owls, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes, and even mountain lions.
If your cat chooses to go outside and gets wounded, you need to contact a vet almost immediately. To stop an infection that may be building up, the pet cat needs to get some antibiotics. Those drugs will also help to expedite the process of healing. The infections are born of the bacteria left when the cat is bitten or scratched, and it does not matter if the wounds inflicted are mild or severe. If you fail to notice an injury on the cat and then it is left to fester, the feline may develop a grave illness. If the infection worsens, the symptoms likely to manifest include swelling, pain, lethargy, and constant licking of a particular place more than usual.
If your cat meets a large animal, it is likely to overpower him. Some wounds that a feline may sustain from an outdoor dispute have a touch of risk to them. FIV, the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, and the FeLV, the Feline Leukemia Virus, are diseases likely to be transmitted through bite wounds.
Well, Your Cat Caused An Attack
Victims of pet scratches and bites have gone to the extent of pressing charges not to the clueless animals but their owners. As a pet owner, you should know that the responsibility of your cat’s behavior is yours. If you let the cat go out, it may trigger frustration among the neighbors.
Sometimes, your cat may look away from your neighbors and instead decide to bring your gifts. Your cat will present a dead mouse or bird in your laps, bed, or doorstep. The feline will do that to thank them, but you may not always like it. At all times, refrain the cat from going outside.
Breeding With Others Of Its Kinds
If you let your cat – especially an unfixed one – outside, you could trigger unwanted pregnancies and animal overpopulation. When your female cat steps out and stays away for a long time, it may come back with fertilized eggs growing on the inside. If you think you are ready to take care of a litter of kittens, take a pause. Remember that taking care of even one cat needs an input of time and money. You may end up being forced to give up the cats. This implies that the already-overflowing shelters will be stuffed with cats, and more of them will be on the streets: the stray cats.
TheNest.com reports that a female cat – an intact one – can produce about 12 kittens every year. This means that, throughout her lifetime, she may deliver up to 180 kittens (depending on the span of her life). If the kittens thrive, survive, and breed, there could be a cat overpopulation over the years. This adds numbers to the already existing problem of pet overpopulation. It is said that the chances of getting the kittens homes are low. So, if you decide to leave your cat intact, ensure that they remain inside at all times.
Catching Diseases And Pest Problems
Although the outdoors are excellent places for the cat to explore, we have seen that they may expose the cat to threats. And here is another one – the cat is likely to pick diseases and bring them to you and the general public. Let’s talk about them at length.
Unpleasant Things And Diseases
Your cat can pick rabies from wildlife such as raccoons – this is an ever-present threat whenever the cat steps outside. Unless you keep a keen eye on every move the cat makes outside, you may never know all the animals they will come across, and for that matter, their health. If you want to let your feline loose and allow him to roam freely, you need to have all his vaccinations updated.
The CDC notes about 300 cases that involved humans who have come into contact with rabid cats. This means that humans may pick rabies from cats when the felines are done hugging and kissing every wild animal they come across. When cats are abandoned and are forced to fend for themselves, they are exposed to many dangers that include typhus, the bubonic plague, and rabies. On top of that, the fecal matter of the roaming cats – which the felines innocently drop and deposit near stream and creaks, in parks and gardens, and the sandboxes of children – carry parasites which may prove dangerous when they get human, livestock, and other pet hosts. The common parasites and diseases rampant in cat’s fecal matter include roundworms, hookworms, giardia, coccidia, and toxoplasmosis.
Although rare, have it in mind that your cat may cross paths with a skunk. This means that the skunk will have a good time spraying it. Although skunks are calm and don’t spray until they are triggered, the territorial nature of cats may lead them to pick a fight with the skunk.
If the skunk sprays the cat, the spray matter will get into the cat’s nose and eyes – this will happen since skunks have excellent accuracy. The spray has chemical secretion that may cause temporary blindness, anemia, or inflammation if the cat breathes or ingests it. If your feline is sprayed by a skunk on the face, get it to a vet. You will notice a lazy attitude, vomiting, and red eyes.
Although a tick is a tiny being, it can wreak a lot of havoc in your life and that of your cat. One of the particularly harmful tick-borne illnesses is Lyme disease. It can affect the following organs: liver, heart, eyes, and the following systems: the lymphatic, the neurological, and the musculoskeletal.
Animals, which include horses, dogs, and cats, can get affected by Lyme disease. Because the felines seldom develop clinical signs, it is a bit tricky to identify the disease in them. The condition is terrible for the feline’s health and will cause them a lot of discomforts. If you let your cat spend time outside, you need to check their coats daily to see if there are any ticks, more so during summer.
Fleas are tiny creatures that love two things: hopping and spreading disease. Like ticks, they are equally dangerous and will take an illness as far as they can get. Fleas will make your cat’s coat feel itchy, meaning that you will be dealing with an uncomfortable pet. On top of that, fleas cause infections, allergic reactions, and anemia, and they also carry tapeworm eggs.
If your feline friend spends a lot of time outside and ends up with a severe flea infestation, you should not hesitate to take it to the vet. The expert is likely to administer antibiotics or special treatments. The vet may also open you up to some preventative oral and topical medications to help keep the fleas at bay. To know if the feline has a problem with fleas, it may experience unusual hair loss. Also, the cat’s underneath will have scabs and will be crusty. Take your time and look keenly and closely at any signs of jumping bugs around the fur of your pet. To make the task easy, you can get a fine-toothed comb and use it to brush through the coat of your feline. That will help in removing the eggs of the fleas and the fleas themselves if any.
I’m Christopher Benjamin, a dedicated Animal Nutritionist at Ethos Veterinary Health with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science from Michigan State University. My lifelong passion for animals led me to establish AnimalsData.Com. Here, I share expert advice, educational resources, and inspiring stories to empower fellow pet lovers worldwide. Join our community as we celebrate the beauty and diversity of our beloved animal companions!